Jaguars vs. Steelers Prediction
Will the Pittsburgh Steelers cover as home favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars today when the two teams meet at 1:05 p.m. ET in the NFL Divisional Round?
Who Oddsmakers Like: Pittsburgh. According to oddsmakers from online sports book Bovada.lv, the Steelers are 7-point home favorites to beat the Jaguars, who opened as 7-point underdogs. The line for this game was bet up to 7.5 during the week but dropped back down to the key number of 7 sometime on Friday. The total, meanwhile, hit the board at 41 and that's where it currently sits.
Who the Public Likes: Pittsburgh. As of Sunday morning, 63% of betting tickets were on the Steelers and 70% of the money was also on Pittsburgh to cover the spread. Meanwhile, 54% of the betting tickets are on the under and 66% of the money is on the under as well.
Who the Trends Like: Jacksonville. The road team is a perfect 4-0 against the spread in the last four meetings between these two teams while the underdog has cashed in nine of the last 10 meetings. The Jaguars are also 4-1 against the spread in their last five visits to Pittsburgh and are 12-5 at the betting window in their last 17 games versus the Steelers overall.
Who We Like: Pittsburgh. Too much is being made about that Week 5 beatdown that the Jaguars gave the Steelers at Heinz Field this season. Ben Roethlisberger threw a career-high five interceptions in that game, a feat that won't be matched again today by Jacksonville's defense. Blake Bortles was Blake Bortles in that 30-9 victory, as he threw for 95 yards on 8-of-14 passing and accounted for only 17 points.
The Jaguars got by all year on Bortles being simply "okay." Hell, that got away with it last week because their defense is disgusting and Bortles managed to extend drives with his legs (88 rushing yards in an otherwise abysmal performance). But here's the biggest difference between that Week 5 matchup and this one on Sunday: Leonard Forunette is not the same runner.
In that game, Fournette rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns. But 90 of those yards and one of those touchdowns came on one run with 1:47 remaining and the Jags attempting to run out the clock. Take away that one run and the Steelers held him to 3.3 yards on 27 rushing attempts.
Fournette was also a fresher back at that point. In Weeks 1 through 6, the rookie had 596 yards and six touchdowns on 130 carries, good for 4.6 yards-per-carry. Since Week 7, however, Fournette has just 501 yards and three scores on 159 yards, good for 3.1 yards-per-carry. He's hit the rookie wall.
Here's my prediction: Jacksonville keeps this game close in the first half. I could see a 10-3 or even a 10-10 score at halftime. But once Bortles starts making mistakes and that Jaguar offense hangs its defense out to dry, that's when Le'Veon Bell will take over and the Steelers will pull away. It won't be a blowout, but I like Pittsburgh to win by 7-10 points. Thus, make sure you buy that number down to 6.5 if you can.
NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND PREDICTIONS: PITTSBURGH STEELERS -6.5 (BUY THE HOOK)