Jaguars vs Steelers Odds – AFC Playoffs Preview

antonio-brown-jaguarsMost analysts have already penciled the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots into the AFC Championship game. Of course, there are still two divisional games that must be played before this happens.

And Pittsburgh’s opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, are no pushovers. They boast one of the toughest defenses in the NFL, ranking second in points allowed (16.8) and first in passing yards allowed (169.9).

The Jaguars can also look to their Week 5 dismantling of the Steelers as motivation. They beat Pittsburgh 30-9 and forced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to throw five interceptions. Of course, that was a long time ago, and the Steelers have only lost one game since.

“We’ve evolved since then,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the blowout loss.

The football world has also put the Week 5 loss behind them, given that Pittsburgh is currently a touchdown favorite. But will they come through against this nasty Jaguars’ defense?

Let’s discuss the matter by analyzing both teams and looking at the GTBets odds on this contest.

Odds for Jaguars Steelers 2018 AFC Divisional Playoffs Game (Jan 14 at 1:00pm ET)

Jacksonville vs Pittsburgh Point Spread
Jaguars -7 (-120)
Steelers +7 (+100)

Jacksonville vs Pittsburgh Moneyline
Jaguars +255
Steelers -310

Over 41 (-112)
Under 41 (-108)

Key Factors for Jacksonville (11-6)

We know that the Jacksonville defense is great. In fact, they stifled Buffalo in last week’s 10-3 Wild Card victory. That said, the key for the Jaguars will be how their offense performs on the road.

Much of this task will fall on quarterback Blake Bortles, who didn’t look very good against the Bills.

On the positive side, he rushed for 88 yards. But Bortles also threw for just 87 yards, becoming only the third quarterback to win a playoff game with more rushing than passing yards (Michael Vick & Bob Griese).

The problem for the fourth-year player is that Pittsburgh won’t score 3 points this week. That means Bortles is going to actually have to make some good throws and keep the Steelers from stacking the box.

If he can do this, it gives Jacksonville running backs Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon more room to operate.

Speaking of Fournette, the rookie has had a late-season slump, rushing for less than 70 yards in five of his last six contests. The LSU product really needs to get going in this one if Jacksonville is going to move the ball.

jaguars-bills-oddsIf nothing else, the Jaguars can at least bank on their strong defenseive core, which includes vicious defensive lineman in Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, and Dante Fowler. This quartet have combined for 42.5 sacks, 41 tackles for a loss, and 74 quarterback hits so far.

Another key defensive player will be cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The All-Pro is possibly the best corner in the league, and he’ll check Steelers All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown. Ramsey has allowed 30 receiving yards or less in 8 of his 17 games. If he can hold Brown under 50 yards, it would be a win for his team.

Jacksonville may be the underdog in a hostile environment. But if Bortles can move this team downfield and score a few times, it’ll put pressure on Pittsburgh to score against an elite defense.

Key Factors for Pittsburgh (13-3)

leveon-bellPittsburgh has a star-studded offense that can score points through both the air and on the ground. Beginning with the latter, Le’Veon Bell will lead the rushing charge against Jacksonville’s front seven.

Bell is arguably the NFL’s best all-around running back. And he’s gone over 100 rushing yards in all but one game since Week 7. As if this isn’t enough, he caught a league-leading and franchise record 85 passes.

He’ll be motivated by revenge since the Jaguars held him to just 47 rushing yards in the Week 5 loss. But exacting this revenge will be easier said than done, given that he’s only averaging 3.2 yards per carry over his last eight games. Bell needs better than this to consistently pick up yardage against Jacksonville.

Luckily for him, Pittsburgh has more than enough in the passing game to balance out the offense. Roehtlisberger has some fine options to throw to in Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Martavis Bryant.

Brown had a strong game against Ramsey last time out, catching four passes for 91 yards. But Roethlisberger also threw a couple of picks when aiming in his direction.

As long as Pittsburgh can avoid a turnover fest and open things up with Bell’s running ability, they should be able to win this game. And it doesn’t hurt that their talented squad will be playing in the friendly confines of Heinz Field.

Prediction on Jacksonville vs Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger, Pernell McPheeThis is by no means an easy game for Pittsburgh. Sure, they’re the more talented team on paper. But this is a tricky contest for a team that’s expected to move on.

Jacksonville, meanwhile, has the defensive talent to make this a tough game, even if Bortles and the offense don’t come through. The Jaguars will look to make this divisional matchup ugly and force Roethlisberger into more mistakes.

But the truth is that they’re probably going to need a defensive touchdown and a total Steelers meltdown to win. Look for this one to be close, but also for Pittsburgh to move on.

Final Score Prediction: Steelers 23, Jaguars 17 – Jacksonville covers -7 spread

Titans vs Patriots Odds – AFC Playoffs Preview

patriots-titans-oddsThere isn’t a more lopsided matchup in the 2017-18 NFL Playoffs than the one taking place in Foxborough this Saturday.

The Tennessee Titans pulled off a surprise victory last week in Kansas City, albeit a controversial one. While the surprise Titans are thrilled to move on, they now face a nearly insurmountable task.

The New England Patriots come into this contest as the AFC’s top-seeded team. They’re also trying to defend their Super Bowl title from last year.

Few expect Tennessee to derail this mission, especially since they barely even made it into the playoffs. But do the Titans have a miracle up their sleeve?

Let’s discuss the matter by looking at the GTBets odds on this game along with who has the best chance to cover the spread.

Odds for Patriots Titans in AFC Divisional Round (Jan 13 at 8:15pm ET)

Tennessee vs New England Point Spread
Titans +13.5 (-115)
Patriots -13.5 (-105)

Tennessee vs New England Moneyline
Titans +650
Patriots -850

Over 48.5 (-107)
Under 48.5 (-113)

Key Factors for Tennessee (10-7)

patriots-titans-odds-1You have to give Tennessee credit for pulling off a 22-21 victory over the Cheifs in last weekend’s Wild Card round. After all, Arrowhead is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.

But it only gets worse as they prepare for their January contest in Foxbourgh. Things look more dismal when considering how inconsistent Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has been this season.

The third-year pro out of Oregon was above average against the Chiefs. He threw for 205 yards, rushed for another 46, and caught one of his own passes for a touchdown. But Mariota also threw an interception and didn’t have any spectacular throws.

The key for Mariota will be to turn in a solid game with no turnovers. Tennessee is already up against a wall. And they don’t need to give the ball away and make things any harder on themselves. Luckily for Mariota, New England has failed to force a turnover in three of its past four games.

Head coach Mike Mularkey will rely on running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to keep the pressure off his QB. The two combined for 1,403 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Murray added 39 catches for 266 yards and another TD.

titans-patriots-oddsTennessee has an underrated defense, namely due to a lack of big-name stars. But this isn’t to say that the Titans don’t have some good talent. LB Wesley Woodard racked up 124 tackles, while Kevin Byard intercepted eight passes en route to first-team All-Pro honors.

The Titans have held six of their last eight opponents under 100 rushing yards. They also limited opponents to less than 200 passing yards during this span too.

Nobody expects the Titans to shut down the Patriots. But their defense could at least make things tougher on New England. The key is that they must be able to stick with tight end Rob Gronkwoski, who has the ability to dominate the middle of the field when covered by average linebackers.

The ideal scenario for Tennessee would be to make this an ugly defensive contest, while controlling the clock with a strong run game. If they can enforce their tempo, then perhaps they pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent playoffs history.

Key Factors for New England (13-3)

Tom Brady has proven himself to be the greatest quarterback of all time with five Super Bowl championships. And he has a good chance to add a sixth if everything goes right over the next few weeks.

But this isn’t the same Brady who has routinely torn up defenses in seasons’ past. Instead, he’s a 40-year-old who’s been showing his age in the second half of the season.

Brady has now thrown an interception in each of his last five game. He’s taken a lot of hits in the pocket and is having a tougher time than ever completing passes.

Will we see the typical Brady who’s always able to find a soft spot in the defense? Or will he continue to make us realize that father time gets every player, even the best of the best?

Another key for New England is how well they run against the Titans’ front seven. As mentioned before, Tennessee has done a good job of holding opponents under triple-digit rushing yards.

Indianapolis Colts v New England PatriotsThis makes it imperative that the Patriots’ deep backfield of Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White pick up yardage against one of the leagues tougher front seven.

But even if Tennessee does succeed in slowing the run game, they also have to watch out for these running backs catching passes. New England led the league in receiving yards by running backs (957), while the Titans are the worst at defending this category (967). Don’t be surprised if Brady finds his running backs again and again for short, but effective gains.

Odds are that coach Bill Belichick will find out exactly where Tennessee’s defense is vulnerable. And with the home field advantage also in their back pocket, New England shouldn’t have much trouble advancing in this one.

Prediction on Tennessee vs New England

The Titan beating New England would be an incredible story. After all, this team snuck into the postseason with a 9-7 record, then got a surprise victory against the Chiefs.

Unfortunately for Tennessee, this story is very unlikely to play out at Gillette Stadium. New England may show a little bit of rest in the first quarter since they didn’t play last week. But there’s no way that the Titans outplay this team for four quarters.

The only suspense will be in which team covers the spread. The Patriots have a tall task in trying to win by almost two touchdowns. This is an incredibly hard thing to do in playoff football, even when you’re favored and playing at home.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the motivated Titans keep this one within 10 points.

Final Score Prediction: New England 27, Tennessee 16 – Titans cover +13.5 spread