Sunday, January 14, 2018
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) - 1:05 PM EST Premium Pick
Pick: Money Line: -290 Pittsburgh Steelers Pick Title: 12 Star NFL Post-Season Game Of The Year (LOSS)
Yes, there's no question that the Jaguars own the better defense that's already intercepted Ben Roethlisberger 5 times in their previous 30-9 win during a Week 5 meeting. But what have the Steelers done since then? I still feel that they actually won 11 games in a row since that moronic TD reversal call @ the end of a Week 15 game with New England which should note a true final score of Pittsburgh 31, Patriots 27. However, that's where today's officiating has taken us. They need to review what ACTUALLY is good enough to constitute a catch (yes guys, you should be permitted to gain possession but shift the ball after you make a forward move & be credited with a CATCH) & concentrate more on bang-bang trap calls against the ground NOT being a catch which is what the rule originally intended. The BIG thing going for the Steelers today is BIG Ben having a healthy (off torn calf injury) WR in Antonio Brown (101 catches for 1,533 yards, 15.2 YPC & 9 TD's) who led the NFL in receptions/yards despite missing 3 games. Making things much more different than their 1st meeting is the emergence & maturity of rookie WR Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster whose 917 receiving yards (2nd on team) & 15.8 YPC (leads team) improves by the week. Remember, getting both 2 weeks to prepare for these Jags (this time) AND having a warm-weather team playing in temps below 20 is bigger than the mushes think. Now it's time to talk NUMBERS! Taking into account playing a meaningless game with Cleveland & giving Pittsburgh 31 points versus NE, the Steelers averaged around 34 PPG for 5 home games during the months of November & December. On the flip side of that coin, Jacksonville has played ONE (yes, ONE) game in remotely-cold weather in Tennessee (Titans ranked 25th versus the pass) & put up a putrid 10 points. When they played Buffalo last week (Bills rank a near-last 30th versus the run), QB Blake Bortles was their leading rusher with 88 yards & couldn't throw for triple-digits versus Buffalo's 26th-ranked overall "D". Speaking of Bortles, how is he going to fare versus Pittsburgh's "D" (ranks 1st in sacks, has 16 INT's) off 2 weeks rest & prep? The answer is "not good" since his TD/INT ratio sits @ an worst-in-the-league 1/5 over the past 3 games. even though he's played well @ home the last 3 regular season games, missing wideouts on touch passes & looking tight & shaky overall is NOT a recipe for playoff success in this type of environment. DC Keith Butler will employ a suffocating 3-4 alignment, load the box & force Bortles into a bunch of 3rd-and-longs that forces his hand to throw mid-range or longer passes to keep the sticks moving. This will be a recipe for disaster as even though ILB Ryan Shazier was lost for the season, playmakers like CB Joe Haden (back off injury) S Sean Davis (leads team with 92 tackles & 3 INT's) & DE Cameron Heyward (team-leading 12 sacks) should be able to contain injured WR Marqise Lee, rookie wideout from Oklahoma Dede Westbrook & their 1st round draft pick out of L.S.U. RB Leonard Fournette (averaging 3.1 YPC his past 5 games). My bottom line says Pittsburgh will settle down & rule the 2nd half here with Roethlisberger adjusting his WR's passing routes to take less risks than their 1st meeting. There's no denying us on the Steelers since road teams in this round who score 14 or less are on a current ticket-ripping 1-17-1 SU & 3-14-1 ATS! When we look @ No. 2 seeds in this round, we find that over the last 13 years, they are a window-cashing 18-8 SU but only 14-12 ATS. Also in the numbers, we have to unveil Big Ben's 6-1 post-season home record ATS proving he's executed BIG @ Heinz Field. The dagger for us has to zero in on Game 2 road underdog teams who come in off "1-win exact" SU home win. Going against these teams the past 24 post-seasons has proven sheer dominance with a 23-2-1 ATS record but a more-important 25-1 SU record. Tightening this points out that recent Wild-Card SU winners who've scored less than 14 points have come back to go a perfect 0-4 SU & ATS. Look for Pittsburgh's all-purpose RB Le'Veon Bell (1,291 yards rushing, 4.0 YPR, 9 TD's, 655 receiving yards, 7.7 YPC, 2 TD's) will be out to prove why he's NOT deserving a probable 2nd-straight franchise tag by Steelers' brass. In addition, the Jaguars 2nd-ranked "D" will play tough with DE Calais Campbell (14 1/2 sacks) & CB's A.J. Bouye (6 INT's) & Jalen Ramsey early on. But after Pittsburgh executes some time-consuming drives, expect the Jaguars to tire in the 2nd half giving the Steelers their 2nd chance versus NE in Foxborough in the AFC Championship next Sunday. Remember, the blueprints versus the Jacksonville "D" has been laid just 3 weeks ago when upstart QB Jimmy Garoppolo & the Niners put up 44 on them. Let's concentrate on the ML here as the Jags could get meaningless points in the end. Trekking to Heinz Field for a divisional round game, we'll pound the PITTSBURGH STEELERS as my 12 Star NFL Post-Season Game Of The Year!
NOTES: It's always disappointing to lose a GOY (only loss in 4-75% in all football). But how it all went down was at the least quite befuddling. After the game, could you hear what Steelers' founder (1933) Art Rooney (if alive today) would be saying to his grandson, Art Rooney II (current owner & related to the Mara family of NYG's fame) about the fate of some of the Pittsburgh coaching staff? I somehow doubt very much that it would be to fire OC Todd Haley (too many spats & disagreements with QB Ben Roethlisberger) alone. There's was no doubt that Haley's play-calling versus Jacksonville on 4th downs & crucial situations leaves one scratching his head. Pittsburgh's usually NEVER afraid of calling a QB sneak with Big Ben behind a decent O-Line. Where does the blame actually lie upon the most? I feel without question it has to be HC Mike Tomlin! First, how do you NOT get your team sky-high (they were clearly not) for a game who humiliated you 30-9 previously? Second, considering many called Tomlin a defensive guru in the past, how does he allow marginal QB Blake Bortles to repeated pick apart his secondary in the middle of the field throughout? Lastly, how did the game plan of zeroing in on RB Leonard Fournette (stuffed by Buffalo & injuring his ankle in the 2nd Qtr. in Pitt) fail BADLY from the start as the Jags built an early 21-0 lead? These unexplained questions (if I was owner) would have to be legitimately answered in a private meeting between Steelers' top brass & the coaching staff this week. We have to give Jacksonville credit for not backing down & winning for a 2nd time @ Heinz Field. What still has me scratching is there were MORE than a few teams (even the Bills last week) that laid excellent defensive scheme blueprints for the Pittsburgh "D" to follow in containing Fournette & thus forcing them into becoming one-dimensional. They obviously failed badly especially after Big Ben & the Pittsburgh "O" drew within 7 late (Jax still came back with a FG). I feel the key play that heavily contributed to this outcome had to be the Roethlisberger strip-sack fumble that somehow rolled several yards away from him toward the sidelines where 4th-year vet out of Florida State OLB Telvin Smith picked it up & rambled 50 yards for a defensive TD giving them a 28-7 lead (14-point swing). At any rate, this weekend games are a lot clearer than this past week & I'm leaning to have both conference championship ATS selections. Let's bag them both!
My NFL 2017-18 Record Since November 6th: 30-9 ----- 77% -----
My NFL 2017-18 Record Last 15: 12-3 -----80% -----
My 2017-18 Overall Seasonal Record: 54-35 -----61% -----