2017 AFC Playoff Odds and Betting Preview of the Sunday early game where the Jaguars visit the Steelers.
2017 AFC Playoff Game Odds – The Case for the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers had a successful enough season that they came to the finish line with a 13-3 straight-up record (7-9 ATS), and captured the #2 seed in the AFC, but there was a major embarrassment that took place during the schedule that has bothered them. That was a 30-9 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who once again invade Heinz Field, this time with a trip to the conference title game on the line, as action begins on Sunday at 1:05 PM ET on CBS. VietBet customers have an opportunity to get reduced juice before the game, and after the opening kickoff, they can stay in the action with Live Betting Ultra.
Jaguars vs Steelers – 2017 AFC Playoff Game Odds:
In the AFC playoff betting odds posted on this game by the folks at VietBet, Pittsburgh is a solid favorite at home:
Pittsburgh Steelers -7 (-115)
Jacksonville Jaguars +7 (-105)
Over 41 points -110
Under 41 points -110
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Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted five times by the Jaguars in the earlier meeting, and two of those interceptions were run back for touchdowns. Yes, in a sense there was an aberration, as two of those INT’s came as a result of tipped passes, but suffice it to say that Big Ben did not have his best outing, and it was not necessarily an accident. And the Jaguars dominated things on the ground, with 231 rushing yards. Without linebacker Ryan Shazier (out with a spinal injury), defending the run will be a challenge for the Steelers, but it is safe to say that this team came on strong after that defeat, as they have gone 10-1 since.
There is some good news in the Pittsburgh camp this week, as Antonio Brown, who sat out the last two games of the season with a calf injury, will be back in action. Brown not only had 1533 receiving yards, he got 157 of those against Jacksonville, which might have the best tandem of cornerbacks in the league.
The point has been made that the absence of right tackle Marcus Gilbert in that first encounter with Jacksonville was something of a difference-maker, because it altered the way the Steelers did pass protection, particularly in the backfield, and limited what Le’Veon Bell could do. But Gilbert is back in action for this one. Bell, by the way, had more touches than anyone in the league, so he is dangerous not only on the ground (1291 yards) but in the passing attack as well (85 receptions). Roethlisberger has developed some real chemistry with rookie Juju Smith-Schuster, who is averaging 15.8 yards per catch (917 yards total), and this is important, because they need to attract attention away from Brown.
There is no doubt that the Steelers know how to move the chains; they punted on only 15.6% of their drives this season. And since that catastrophe against the Jags, Roethlisberger has thrown only seven interceptions in 11 games.
Defensively, the presence of cornerback Joe Haden has been a very big factor, and we look back on the 2017 season, his acquisition might be considered one of the more critical of the year. When he was out with an injury, Pittsburgh became much more permissive in the secondary. This is a team that knows how to finish well, allowing an average only 3.9 points in the fourth quarter. And they are catching Jacksonville at a time when the Jaguars’ offense may be slumping. Blake Bortles had only 88 passing yards last week and continually misfired, and Leonard Fournette has averaged 3.1 yards per carry in the last five games. This is good supporting evidence that the Steelers have the ability to win and cover.
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2017 AFC Playoff Game Odds – The Case for the Jacksonville Jaguars
If it is true that defense wins championships, as many people say, the Jacksonville Jaguars have to be in pretty good shape. This is a team that would have to be considered neck-and-neck with the Minnesota Vikings when it comes to who has the best overall stop unit, and they really put that on display when they played the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier in the season. They will now return to Heinz Field with higher stakes, as the winner earns a trip into the AFC title game, which puts them one step from the Super Bowl. This one kicks off at 1:05 PM EDT on Sunday, and while CBS’s televising it, VietBet customers will have the opportunity to place wagers in real time using the mechanism provided through Live Betting Ultra.
Jacksonville finished second in the league in sacks this season (ironically, Pittsburgh had one more), and they were also second-best when it came to defending in the red zone. This is of particular interest, as Pittsburgh ranks only 22nd in touchdown percentage on their red zone trips. Clearly the Jags have to look toward their defense in order to advance, because it’s not likely they are going to get an offensive explosion. Well, at least if last week’s wild-card round game against the Buffalo Bills was any indication.
Blake Bortles, their enigmatic quarterback, actually ran for more yards than he passed for, although you have to admit that some of his runs made a difference. However, he is going to have to stay relatively mistake-free to give the Jaguars their best chance.
There is no doubt about the fact that Jacksonville has what it takes to chew up clock. They led the NFL in rushing yards with 141 per game, and that’s part of their philosophy. It’s why they drafted Leonard Fournette out of LSU in the first round, and the rookie has done a really nice job of battling through injuries to top the 1000-yard mark. The wide receiver group has been banged up a little, which is why it’s been a nice thing that a couple of rookies have emerged – Keelan Cole, out of obscure Kentucky Wesleyan, and Dede Westbrook, who was part of that Oklahoma scoring machine last year. The only question is whether Bortles can find them; it was windy in Jacksonville last week, and he was badly misfiring on his passes. The wind in Heinz Field doesn’t do quarterbacks any favors.
But as VietBet patrons might recall, the Jags did have 231 rushing yards in their 30-9 victory over the Steelers back on October 8. They also intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times, bringing two of those back for touchdowns. They have the best cornerback combination in the league in Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye, and nine different times they held their opponent to 10 points or less. They were also able to bottle up Pittsburgh when it came to performing in the red zone, as the Steelers got no touchdowns out of those trips.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s offensive unit has averaged more points per red zone appearance than any other team in the NFL. And out of the eight remaining playoff teams, their turnover margin is the best (+12). Here’s a surprise – they have actually scored more touchdowns from scrimmage than have the Steelers. Maybe there is enough evidence to indicate that the Jaguars can take this one right down to the wire.
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By Charles Jay
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