Steelers To Battle Past Jags In Divisional Round

Roethlisberger needs to rise to the challenge

We’re down to the eight elite teams in the NFL as we’ve reached the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The four teams on Sunday will know their potential Championship game opponents. However, they have to battle through a tough fixture before they can turn attention to the penultimate match of the NFL campaign.

The Jacksonville Jaguars edged out the Buffalo Bills in their Wildcard Round clash last week. It was not a thrilling contest as both defenses dominated, although Blake Bortles was able to put just enough points on the board to see his side through.

Doug Marrone’s men reached the post-season on the strength of their defense. Jalen Ramsey iced the game for the Jaguars against the Bills with a late interception. The AFC South outfit will need him at the peak of his powers to advance further.

The Steelers attempted to get healthy in the bye week. Antonio Brown is reportedly recovered from his calf injury sustained against the New England Patriots. However, Artie Burns and Stephon Tuitt were injured in practice, which could be a blow for Pittsburgh’s defense.

Mike Tomlin’s men were thoroughly outplayed by the Jaguars in their week five game at Heinz Field. Jacksonville dominated on defense, intercepting Ben Roethlisberger five times. The Steelers did recover from the loss by winning their next eight matches.

However, the prospect of facing arguably the strongest defense in the NFL will be a concern to Roethlisberger even with Brown back in the ranks. Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette had a strong outing in his side’s victory and he will be the man to stop for the home side.

We’ll now breakdown the contest using the latest betting odds.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Roethlisberger needs to rise to the challenge

The Steelers have a hard task ahead of them on Sunday. The Jaguars are not the team they would have wanted to see entering Heinz Field in the Divisional Round. They were crushed by Marrone’s men in their early-season matchup, losing the contest 30-9 on home soil. Roethlisberger had a shocking performance, throwing five interceptions, while Fournette ran their defense ragged.

Had Pittsburgh beaten the New England Patriots in week 15 they would have welcomed the Tennessee Titans, who they hammered in their clash at Heinz Field. However, Jesse James’ failed touchdown has come back to haunt Tomlin and his team. They cannot let it affect them or their play in order to reach the AFC Championship game for the second season on the bounce.

Brown’s return to fitness is huge for the Steelers. The All-Pro appeared to be done for the season when he went down against the Patriots. However, he has battled back and although he might not be 100%, his presence on the field is still a major boost. Pittsburgh will need him close to his peak as they face two shutdown corners in the form of AJ Bouye and Ramsey.

The duo were successful in limiting Roethlisberger and company in their earlier meeting. Ramsey notched an interception along with Telvin Smith and Barry Church. Roethlisberger has to be safer with his passes on this occasion, and will need Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant to get open quickly off their men.

Le’Veon Bell can ease the pressure on his quarterback with yards on the ground. He has carried the ball a lot this season and will be feeling the effects. However, the 26-year-old needs to put his team first and battle through the issues to make the plays to reach the AFC title game.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars' defense holds the key

The Jaguars played to form last week to beat the Bills to advance. Bortles was poor, but his side were able to secure the victory despite his performance. That has been the case for the team throughout the campaign. The 25-year-old has had moments, but for the majority of the season he has been limited in his throws downfield.

Bortles threw for just 87 yards, although he did connect with tight end Ben Koyack for a touchdown. He has to minimise his mistakes against the Steelers and allow his defense to control the game. There will be times when Bortles has to make throws to keep the chains moving – therefore he must ensure that he at least gives his receivers an opportunity to make a play or two.

Fournette is a player on the rise and has had an impressive rookie season. He put the Steelers to the sword with a 181-yard rushing performance along with two touchdowns. His team need the same level of production from the running back this time around. The 22-year-old hit the rookie wall towards the end of the campaign and struggled to get going against the Bills. Without the presence of Ryan Shazier in the middle of Pittsburgh’s defense, he may get the opportunity to break free. It may only take one run to produce the decisive score.

Jacksonville’s defense will be the foundation of any push to the AFC Championship game. Their secondary tormented Roethlisberger in their match-up earlier in the term. They have to perform to the same level otherwise the Steelers will blow them away. Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus have to dominate the line of scrimmage to stop Roethlisberger getting comfortable in the pocket and Bell using the running game to ease the pressure.

Betting Options

The Steelers have the talent to overcome the stoic Jaguars’ defense, but will need to play at their best. Roethlisberger cannot be as bad as he was against Marrone’s men earlier in the campaign. He should be able to make enough throws and use Bell to put enough points on the board. Bortles cannot go score-for-score against the veteran – therefore Pittsburgh will advance. Back Tomlin’s side at odds of -313   with BetOnline to secure the win.

However, if Brown is not at 100%, the Steelers will not be able to pull away comfortably. As a result, take the Jaguars on the +7 spread at -110   with BetVictor. Pittsburgh had issues putting points on the board at times this term – the Jags’ defense will make life tough on Sunday. Take the Steelers to score under 23.5 points at -104   with 888Sport. Smith-Schuster has impressed as a rookie this term. In his first playoff match back him to find the endzone at odds of +200   with 888Sport.

Tips Summary

Pittsburgh Steelers To Beat Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday 14th January 2018 13:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
Odds: -313

Take +7 Spread Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday 14th January 2018 13:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
Odds: -110

Pittsburgh Steelers To Score Under 23.5 Points
Sunday 14th January 2018 13:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
Odds: -104

Juju Smith-Schuster To Score Touchdown Anytime
Sunday 14th January 2018 13:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
Odds: +200