Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) +3.5, 37 O/U at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-4) -3.5, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, 1.00pm EST Sunday
by The Crazy Snake of Predictem.com

Anthony Smith, if there was ever a time to shoot your mouth off and guarantee to knock off the 12-0 New England Patriots, then doing it while in hostile territory wasn’t exactly what anyone could call expert timing. I mean seriously! How good do the Steelers think they really are. Sure they have a 7-0 Heinz Field record heading into Sunday afternoon, but not all of those wins were of a high quality or against terribly strong opposition. In fact, only two of those wins were against teams bound for the playoffs (Seattle and Cleveland). This match up will test out the record. Other than New England, Pittsburgh hasn’t met a team well rounded enough to win past the first playoff week. They will do that here, however.

Anyone who reads my weekly posts will know I am a fan of Jacksonville. I feel they have slipped under the guard of many and have been underrated to a significant degree. If you take a form line through Indianapolis, this team is very close to having the necessary make up to go a long way. Indianapolis destroyed Baltimore last week coming off a narrow victory the previous week against Jacksonville. That sort of thing usually suggests to me that Indy found holes they hadn’t experienced the previous week and were able to exploit them. A break out win often indicates a significant reduction in the quality of opposition and a chance to be what I like to call a flat track bully. It has confirmed what I already suspected about Jacksonville, and to some degree Indianapolis. These are two very solid teams who could make some noise in the playoffs and trouble the might of New England. In the words of Mike Tomlin in referring to his own team, however, “if that (game against New England) is the measuring stick, we’re not close.”

The leveler is the home field advantage. On neutral ground I would back Jacksonville heavy and to win. But at Heinz Field I am more reluctant. That said, I do feel that +168 about Jacksonville represents some value straight up and 3.5 points at the spread is a gift. Garrard would still be pick free if not for a tip that helped to spoil that enviable record. Many rate Ben Roethlisberger much more highly than Garrard, and he certainly has the record. But he is also susceptible to periods where he goes missing mentally, and if he does that here he will find himself chasing tail. He was the major part of an offense that was shut out after half time last week, and New England had not been highly rated against Pittsburgh’s strength (the rush) on defense either.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville was doing exactly what good teams do to bad teams clobbering Carolina 37-6. Fred Taylor was running all over them with a cameo from Pocket Hercules for 11 carries and Garrard completed 20 of 36 for 230 yards, 2 touchdowns and NO INTERCEPTIONS!

We should get to see the reality of Pittsburgh’s top ranked defense again here. They are ranked 2nd against both rush and pass while Jacksonville is ranked 2nd in offensive rush yards per game. Something will give here and it looms likely to be a turning point. If Jacksonville can run the ball effectively I like them a lot here. They have been porous against the pass, but they have forced many teams to the air because of their miserly run defense (ranked 5th in yards per game). If they can force Ben to make a mistake or two they look the goods again.

The Snake’s Bite: I have not been a big fan of Pittsburgh against
quality opposition. They do the right thing against the lesser teams but
they seem to lack bite against the better ones, and Jacksonville is likely
to prove one of those here. I like the value straight up but I also like
the 3.5 points the Bookmaker is giving up. I will
be splitting my stake evenly between those two options and I suggest you
do the same. I hope I won’t be seen to have done an Anthony Smith by the
end of this one.