The Pittsburgh Steelers kick off their 2018 playoff run on Sunday, January 14th at 1 p.m. Eastern against the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to OddsShark, the Steelers open as a seven-point favorite over the Jaguars. According to Trib Live, the Pittsburgh Penguins changed their January 14 game time to 7:30 p.m. Eastern to avoid conflicting with the Steelers.
Pittsburgh heads into the postseason at 13-3, but have not been as solid in Vegas. The Steelers are 7-9 against the spread this season, and 10 out of 16 of the Steelers matchups have gone under the point total. The Steelers have wins over the Vikings, Chiefs and Titans this season.
Jacksonville went 10-6 during the regular season, and a respectable 9-7 against the spread. They are 4-4 against the spread on the road, and 3-2 against the spread as an underdog. The Jaguars contests were split evenly between the over and under during the regular season.
The Steelers will lean on a top 10 ranked offense that puts up 25.4 points per game. Ben Roethlisberger leads a No. 3 ranked passing offense that averages 274 yards each contest. Pittsburgh also has the No. 5 ranked defense allowing just 19.3 yards per game. The Steelers 56 sacks led the league during the regular season.
The Steelers had played both the Titans and Jaguars, both of their potential opponents heading into the final day of Wild Card weekend. Pittsburgh was blown out 30-9 by Jacksonville in Week 5. The Steelers fared much better against the Titans in Week 11 with a 40-17 victory.
How do the Jaguars match up with the Steelers in the Divisional Round? Jacksonville might hold up better than fans may think as the Jaguars have two key elements that will give them a chance in any playoff game. The Jaguars lead the league in rushing yards with 2,262 yards, and rushing attacks have historically been a good predictor of success in the postseason. The addition of rookie Leonard Fournette has taken the pressure off Blake Bortles leading to a much more balanced offensive attack. Fournette had 1,342 total yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season.
Secondly, the Jaguars defense ranks No. 2 in points allowed at 16.8 points per game. The defense earned the nickname “Sacksonville” thanks to their 55 sacks during the season ranking them No. 2 in the league. The Steelers do own the edge in experience with the majority of their key players making deep playoff runs in past seasons. Bortles inconsistent play makes it difficult to know how he will perform in the postseason.
Pittsburgh fans received good news as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Antonio Brown will be at full strength in the Divisional Round. Brown was injured at the end of the regular season, and there was some fear he could be sidelined during the playoffs.
Jacksonville did not play the prettiest game against the Bills, but their defense did enough to push the team through to the next round. Bortles struggled for most of their Wild Card playoff game, but was effective with his legs to lead the offense to a few nice second half drives. Bortles threw for just 87 yards completing about 50 percent of his passes. He did manage to run for an additional 88 yards. Fournette struggled against the Bills with 21 carries for just 57 yards.