After a week off for the Wild Card games, the Pittsburgh Steelers look to advance to the AFC Conference Championship game with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. These two teams faced-off against each other back on October 8 in Pittsburgh and the Steelers will be looking to get revenge for the loss they suffered. Jacksonville won the previous meeting, 30-9, handing the Steelers their second loss on the season, putting them at 3-2 on the year. That loss was sparked an eight-game winning streak by Pittsburgh, a feat that played a huge factor in obtaining the AFC North crown.
Ranking sixth in team total offense, the Jaguars don’t seem to have many issues with offensive production. Jacksonville may only rank at 17 in passing yards, but they hold on to the top spot for rushing yards thanks to the addition of their fourth overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, Leonard Fournette. In just his rookie year, Fournette has chalked up 1,040 yards on 268 attempts while scoring nine touchdowns. Fournette also had 28 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the previous meeting with Pittsburgh.
The most efficient pass-blocking offensive lines for each playoff team pic.twitter.com/t0ifg5AyrP
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 9, 2018
Fourth-year quarterback Blake Bortles will look to continue to finish his season strong. While it may be his second worst season in the NFL from a statistical standpoint, Bortles has already made 315 completions on 523 attempts, accruing 3,687 yards through the air and accounting for 21 passing touchdowns. While those numbers may all see down from Bortles’ previous seasons in the league, his completion percentage for the season is currently the best out of his four years at 60.2, while his QBR rating for the season is also the highest season in his career at 55.5. In the October 8 meeting with Pittsburgh, Bortles went 8-14 passing for 95 yards and one interception.
With the weather being much different this time around in Pittsburgh, Bortles will most likely be glad to work the ground game against the always strong Steelers defense. The lack of a play-making receiver will also contribute to the reliance on the running game. Luckily for Pittsburgh, they have one of the stingiest total yards defenses in the NFL, allowing only 4910 total yards on the season, ranking them at fifth in the league. While the stats might show that the Steelers defend the pass better than the run, knowing that running the ball seems to be Jacksonville’s bread and butter should help in the game plan for this one. That doesn’t mean things will be a cake-walk for Pittsburgh in this game, but game planning should be fairly straightforward.