AFC PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Jaguars Face Stiff Test in Trying to Beat Steelers Twice in Same Season
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Assistant Editor // January 14, 2018
Jaguars Beat Pittsburgh 30-9 Back In Week 5
ABOVE VIDEO: The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in an AFC Divisional matchup today at 1:05 p.m. at Heinz Field.
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA — The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in an AFC Divisional matchup today at 1:05 p.m. (CBS) at Heinz Field.
Playing in their first postseason game since 2008 and their first home playoff game since 2000, the Jaguars held the Buffalo Bills to a single field goal and won, 10-3, in the AFC Wild Card round.
The Jaguars will appear in the AFC Divisional round for the fifth time in franchise history (currently 2-2) and are 6-6 in the postseason entering Sunday’s game.
In their only previous postseason matchup with Pittsburgh, the Jaguars defeated the Steelers, 31-29, in an AFC Wild Card game on Jan. 5, 2008. Including the regular season and postseason, the Jaguars have faced Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger eight times since he was drafted in 2004, and have a 4-4 record in such games, including a 3-1 record in Pittsburgh.
The Jaguars are the only team to defeat the Steelers in Pittsburgh twice in the same season (2007) and have the chance to repeat the act, as they took down the Steelers, 30-9, in Week 5 this season.
In that game, the Jaguars intercepted Roethlisberger five times, including two that were returned for touchdowns. With a win on Sunday, the Jaguars would advance to the AFC Championship game for the first time since the 1999 season (Jan. 23, 2000).
A win today over Pittsburgh would mark the second time in franchise history that the Jaguars have won multiple postseason games in the same season and the first time since 1996 when they won a Wild Card and Divisional game before losing in the conference championship.
With a win over the Steelers, the Jaguars would advance to their third AFC Championship Game and first since the 1999 season when they lost to the Tennessee Titans 33-14 on Jan 23, 2000. Jacksonville also lost at New England, 20-6 on Jan. 12, 1997.
The Steel City:
ABOVE VIDEO: The vaunted Jaguars defense tries to replicate the five interceptions they snagged off Big Ben earlier this season when they travel to Pittsburgh for the Divisional Round.
Including the regular season and playoffs, the Jaguars actually lead the all-time series against Pittsburgh, 13-11. Jacksonville and Pittsburgh faced off one time before in the postseason back in 2008.
The Jags defeated Pittsburgh, 31-29, in the AFC Wild Card game that year.
A win on Sunday would mark the Jaguars’ seventh all-time road victory in Pittsburgh, which would be tied for the second-most of any opponent in franchise history. In case you were wondering, the all-time record is currently nine road wins against the Titans/Oilers, followed by seven road wins against Cleveland.
If this seems like an unusual number of games against teams currently in the AFC North it is important to remember the Jaguars, Steelers, Titans, Browns, Ravens, and Bengals used to make up the AFC Central for three seasons from 1999 through 2001.
A win on Sunday would move the Jaguars’ all-time win pct. in Pittsburgh to .538 (7-6), which would be the second-highest winning pct. on the road against any opponent in franchise history
The Jaguars defense is a big reason why they are making a mid-January trip to the Steel City.
Ranked second in the NFL during the regular season, Jacksonville held the Bills to just three points and allowed 263 total net yards (133 passing; 130 rushing) in Sunday’s AFC Wild Card victory over Buffalo.
The Jaguars’ three points allowed were their fewest in a postseason game in franchise history and the fewest in an NFL postseason game since Kansas City shut out Houston on Jan. 9, 2016.
The final score of 10-3 marked the first “10-3” score in an NFL postseason game since the Houston Oilers defeated the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 24, 1961.
With that said, the Steelers third-ranked offense has a few more weapons than do the Bills. However, during a week five 30-9 win over these same Steelers, Jacksonville intercepted QB BenRoethlisberger five times, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
- The Jaguars are 5-0 in the postseason when they register a positive turnover margin
- The Jaguars are 5-0 in the postseason when they lead after three quarters (led the Bills, 10-3, entering the fourth quarter)
- The Jaguars are 4-0 in the postseason in games decided by seven or fewer points
- The franchise record for sacks in a postseason game is six, which occurred in the team’s 31-29 victory over Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, 2008
Matchups to Watch:
ABOVE VIDEO: Check out Leonard Fournette discuss his performance and the Jacksonville Jaguars win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-9.
CB Jalen Ramsey vs. WR Antonio Brown:
This is a classic. All-Pro vs All-Pro, Trash Talker vs Trash Talker and playmaker vs playmaker. Two of the best at what they do and it’s likely they won’t leave anything behind when the final gun sounds.
In the first meeting, Ramsey has to be credited with the victory. Although Brown had 10 catches for 157 yards he didn’t score but Telvin Smith and Barry Church did from the Jags defense. If Ramsey keeps Brown out of the end zone again and the Jags can force a few mistakes (doesn’t have to be 5), they have a good chance to beat Pittsburgh.
Jaguars Rushing attack Vs. Steelers 10th Ranked Run Defense:
Last week, fourth-year QB Blake Bortles completed 12 of 23 passes for 87 yards and rushed 10 times for 88 yards (8.8 rush avg.). Bortles’ 88 rushing yards were the most by any player in Sunday’s game, and the most by a Jaguars QB in a regular season or postseason game in franchise history.
In the first matchup between these two, Bortles passed for just 95- yards but his team rushed for 231 yards with rookie Leonard Fournette responsible for 181 of them, including a 90-yard touchdown run late in the game. Another rookie, Steelers OLB T.J. Watt, said his team was embarrassed and were bitter about what Jacksonville did on the ground in week 5 to their defense.
The Jaguars need to try to work every second of the play clock. Owning the time of possession advantage on the road in a playoff game is huge and the even though the Jags “D” is pretty stout, the best defense any team can play is to not have to play any defense at all.
Jacksonville must convert third down and manageable (four yards or less) yard distances into first downs at least 50 percent of the time. More importantly, their offense must come away with touchdowns, not field goals after sustaining long drives.
Stat to Impress Your Friends: (Pro Football Focus)
Team Stat: The Jaguars’ defensive line has produced a cumulative pass-rush productivity of 9.3 – the best mark among the league’s 32 defensive fronts.
Elite Stat: Edge defender Calais Campbell has churned out 81 pressures so far this season, which is the most among all 4-3 defensive ends through 17 games.
Prediction: Defense Wins Championships (Or gives you a shot to play for one)
Unfortunately, weather could be a factor. The forecast for today’s game at Heinz Field is for a high temperature of 18 degrees with a low of 7. Wind chill factors could drive the feel-like temperature downward. The only game the Jaguars played where the temperature was below freezing came on New Year’s Eve in Nashville, Tenn. It was 23 degrees at kickoff, and the Tennessee Titans won, 15-10.
Jacksonville is 1-8 in games, regular season and playoffs, in which the temperature is 25 degrees or lower. Consequently, the Steelers are 7-1 in home postseason games in those temperatures.
It’s hard to imagine the Jags getting the best of Pittsburgh twice in the same year but the Jaguars possess two things successful playoff teams need, a great defense and running game. Despite the fact I’m not getting a good vibe from Jacksonville’s offense at the moment, defense wins games this time of the year and Jacksonville may not realize how good they are on that side of the ball.
Jacksonville’s defense won’t allow for them to be blown out. The Jags may even steal this one and they will prove that Week 5 wasn’t a fluke.
Just ask the rest of the big bad AFC North quarterbacks if the Jags defense is for real.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said he was hoping his team would get another at Jacksonville. Big Ben should be careful what he wishes for. I would not be true to what I preach when I say great defenses win championships, especially in January.
Maybe the Jags aren’t quite ready for the bright lights of the Super Bowl but they will get a shot for the right to play in the “Big Game” next week at New England after beating the Steelers for the second time this season in Pittsburgh.
Jacksonville 17 Pittsburgh 13
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