Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4 SU, 1-4 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2 SU, 2-3 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Week 6 NFL, Sunday, October 16, 2011, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa. TV: CBS
by Ryno, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
After a shaky start to the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers appear back on track with a dominating 38-17 win last week at home over the Tennessee Titans. Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes and the Steelers looked like a typical Steelers team, not the team that got out to a rocky 2-2 start. And the Steelers’ win came without the services of starting running back Rashard Mendenhall, who sat the game out with an injury but should be back for this weekend’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars are headed in the opposite direction. After starting the season with a 16-14 win over the Titans, they’ve went south ever since. After a loss in Week 2, they replaced starting quarterback Luke McCown with rookie Blaine Gabbert. Since then, the Jags have lost three more games, the last two at home, to the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals loss was particularly rough as the Jags had a 20-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter before blowing it in the final two minutes.
After an embarrassing 35-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, the Steelers rebounded with an emphatic 24-0 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Then, they squeaked by the Indianapolis Colts for a three-point victory before losing a close battle with the Houston Texans. Then, the Steelers blew out the Titans last week. The Steelers are 2-0 at home this season with their best two performances. At home once again this week, you have to like their chances to repeat what they did in Pittsburgh to the Seahawks and Titans.
Even without Mendenhall, the Steelers still managed to run the ball effectively for 174 yards on the ground with the likes of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. Those numbers are curious since Mendenhall has struggled in the first four games of the season with just 173 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Roethlisberger had been a bit erratic prior to Sunday’s game but he had his 2011 coming out party with five touchdown passes. He now has 1,376 passing yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Mike Wallace has been terrific as a receiver with 31 receptions for 536 yards and three touchdowns.
Gabbert has started the last three games and has a total of 608 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The Jags rely heavily on their run game with Maurice Jones-Drew, who has 476 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Gabbert’s top targets through the air are Mike Thomas and Jason Hill.
This game will be simple. If the Steelers stop the run and don’t turn the ball over, they win. It’s as simple as that. The Jags don’t win very often when Jones-Drew doesn’t run the ball effectively. The Steelers are a much better team overall than the Jags and are at home, so all they need to do is not make mistakes in order to win.
Jones-Drew has had at least 84 rushing yards and has averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in each of the Jaguars’ last nine wins, dating back to last season (all of their wins this year and last year). In those nine wins, he has 1,036 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown.
The Jaguars are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games against teams with a winning record, 0-4 ATS in their last four road games, 0-6 ATS in their last six games as an underdog, 0-4 ATS in their last four games as a road underdog, and 0-4 ATS in their last four games overall. The Steelers are 5-0 ATS in their last five home games, 5-0 ATS in their last five games as a home favorite, 6-1 ATS in their last seven games as a favorite, and 4-1 ATS in their last five games against teams with a losing record.
The over is 4-1 in the last five meetings between these two teams. The underdog is 7-0 ATS in the last seven meetings between the Jaguars and Steelers.
Ryno’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I don’t really understand this spread. I expect this game to be a complete blowout with Pittsburgh coming out on the good end of the stick. I’m not an advocate of laying double digits, but I’m betting the Steelers here.
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