Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Pick
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1 SU, 6-3 ATS) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6 SU, 3-5-1 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday November 19, 1:00 PM EST
Where: TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, Fl.
By Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Pit -6 / Jax +6
Over/Under Total: 47½
The Steelers head to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars in a week 11 AFC battle. The Steelers are short road favorites in this rematch from the 2017 playoffs, but the Steelers are the side to play in this one. Here are 3 reasons.
Pittsburgh Is On Fire
The Steelers arrive in Jacksonville riding a 5 game winning streak both straight up and against the spread, including dismantling the Panthers in their week 10 contest. They won those 5 games by a combined 84 points and thanks to the Patriots falling to the Titans last week Pittsburgh now holds the second seed in AFC Playoff standings. Big Ben has the Steeler offense are firing on all cylinders, averaging 35 points and well north of 400 yards during their 5 game winning streak. James Conner has enabled Pittsburgh fans to forget about Leveon Bell, averaging just under 130 scrimmage yards per game and reaching the endzone 11 times. Conner entered the concussion protocol program at the end of the Panther game but all signs point to him playing in week 11. Bell is sitting out the year, so if Conner can’t go it will be Stevan Ridley.
The passing game is as good as it has ever been, with Roethlisberger dealing to Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Conner and now tight end Vance McDonald is joining the party averaging 4 catches and 43 yards over the last 4 games. Big Ben has 10 touchdowns to only 1 interception over the last 4 games. The Steeler offense isn’t getting the recognition that other high powered offenses in the league such as the Rams, Saints and Chiefs are getting, but the Steelers are producing at the same level.
This Steeler D will not be mistaken for the Steel Curtain of years gone by, but they are slowly turning into a formidable stop unit, holding opposing offenses to under 19 points per game over the last 5 games. The D-line has led the been the defensive strength during this run, limiting opposing rushing attacks to just over 70 yards per game, and registering 18 sacks during that time. Pittsburgh’s defense is taking the run away from opponents, then turning their pass rush loose to wreak havoc in the passing game. This is the perfect formula to take to Jacksonville, where the Jaguars will try to lean on their running game and keep QB Blake Bortles in manageable situations. If the Steeler D can shut down the running game and the pass rush is unleashed, Bortles will have no chance.
Jacksonville Is Ready to Implode
The Jags opened 2018 with thoughts of being in Atlanta in February playing in the Super Bowl. Now they look at the standings and they are 3-6 with almost no hope of even getting in the playoffs. Nobody is surprised that the offense is 28th in points scored, 25th in yards per play and has suffered 19 turnovers. Blake Bortles and a sub-par receiving crew struggle to break 20 on the scoreboard, and there is no way they can deliver wins in shoot-outs. Last week Leonard Fournette came back after a prolonged injury with an expectation he could revive the run game but he was only able to gain 53 yards on 24 attempts. Now they have lost starting center Brandon Linder to a knee injury. It’s hard to see how Jacksonville has any success on the ground this week, leaving the offense to rely on Bortles.
However, the vaunted Jag defense that was expected to continue their 2017 league dominance has been a huge disappointment. Their season stats are reasonable except for being 25th in takeaways, but in the last 5 games they have given up 29 points per game, and have only 9 sacks over this stretch, including none last week against the Colts after Dante Fowler was traded to the Rams. Big Ben has only been sacked 12 times on the season and if the Jags can’t generate some pressure, they will not generate takeaways and will be lucky hold Pittsburgh to their recent average of 29 points.
The locker room has had multiple issues during the losing streak as the defense is growing impatient with the offense, even while the defense has been a sieve. They came out of their bye week last with a chance to get their season on track but couldn’t put it together against the 3-5 Colts. If Jacksonville falls behind this week against the potent Steeler offense, it could ugly on the Jags sideline.
Revenge is in the Air
There is always a chance with the Steelers when they are favorites – especially on the road – that they will lay an egg and outright lose a game they should win. But in this case, they have revenge on their minds. The Jags came into Steel City twice last year and beat the Steelers, including the playoff game that ended the Steeler season. The Jags had no hesitation about trash talking after both of those games, which should still be fresh in the Steelers minds. The Steelers shouldn’t have any trouble being focused for this one, and should be willing to keep their foot on the gas throughout the game.
Play the Road Chalk
Pittsburgh is a freight train, and Jacksonville is a falling knife. Don’t get in front of the freight train, and don’t try to catch the falling knife. 6 points is not enough to side with the Jags. Keep it simple and play the Steelers -6.