In a rematch of last season’s epic playoff game, the Jacksonville Jaguars will play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11 action. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST on Sunday, November 18, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Fans in local markets can find the game on CBS.
The Steelers opened the week as 5-point road favorites. However, betting in Pittsburgh’s favor has pushed the line -6 in favor of the Steelers. The over/under is set at 47.5 points. Click here to check out betting odds and game previews for every Week 11 NFL game.
Do you remember Pittsburgh’s sluggish start to the season? Well, neither do the Steelers. They have won five games in a row to catapult themselves to the top spot in the AFC North at 6-2-1. The Steelers played their best game of the season last time out against the Panthers, ripping them apart 52-21 on a Thursday night at home.
Of course, Pittsburgh’s work is far from over. If the season ended today, they wouldn’t have a first-round bye in the playoffs, so they have some catching up to do in that respect. The Steelers should also be a little worried about the Bengals right behind them. This week also begin’s a stretch of three road games in the next four weeks. In fact, Pittsburgh’s schedule from here on out is no cakewalk, so they need to stay sharp and focused if they want to hold onto their lead atop the division.
Jacksonville, on the other hand, is about to see their playoff hopes fall by the waist side. The Jags have lost five games in a row after falling a field goal short against the Colts last week. They now sit at 3-6 and at the bottom of the AFC South standings, a stunning fall from grace for a team that nearly reached the Super Bowl last season.
For what it’s worth, the Jaguars have a late-season schedule that does leave the door slightly ajar for them to turn things around and make a playoff push. Even at 3-6, they are not that far from a wild-card spot. However, Jacksonville’s sense of urgency couldn’t be any higher. The Jags need to start winning games and they need to start now.
Of course, the last time these two teams met, the Jaguars knocked off the Steelers 45-42 in the Division Round of the playoffs. Jacksonville also humiliated the Steelers 30-9 last October. Needless to say, those two losses drove Pittsburgh’s players crazy during the offseason, so they’ll be eager to get some redemption this week.
For the record, I wouldn’t count out the Jaguars entirely in this game. However, there’s no reason to trust them at this point, even as home underdogs. Meanwhile, the Steelers look like a buzzsaw right now, and they’ve actually had a little extra time off after playing on Thursday last week. I’ll swallow the points and lean toward Pittsburgh to win by at least a touchdown.
If there’s a silver lining for the Jags, it’s that Leonard Fournette finally returned from injury last week. However, he was held in check against the Colts and his presence wasn’t enough to carry Jacksonville to a win. On the bright side, Blake Bortles actually had one of his better games of the season last week, throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over. But that performance was an aberration from the rest of the season.
Jacksonville’s biggest problem this year has been their turnovers. They are near the bottom of the league in giveaways with Bortles responsible for eight interceptions and two fumbles and the rest of the team losing seven fumbles. Even with Fournette at full strength, the Jaguars aren’t good enough offensively to overcome that many turnovers. They will have to play turnover-free football to have any chance against the Steelers.
On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars aren’t creating nearly as many takeaways as last year. To be fair, the Jacksonville defense is still top-10 in points allowed. However, they’ve been vulnerable at times this year, especially against the run. Without the takeaways not coming at the rate they did last year, the Jags can no longer overcome such an inconsistent offense and find ways to win games.
There’s also little chance of things getting any better this week against the Steelers. Running back James Conner figures to be the player to watch on Pittsburgh’s offense. A concussion limited him to 13 carries last week against Carolina. But he had four straight games with over 100 yards rushing prior to that.
More importantly, Conner is back at practice and should be ready to take advantage of Jacksonville’s speedy but undersized linebackers. Of course, Conner just sets up Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game. Roethlisberger has 13 touchdown passes to just two interceptions during the team’s five-game winning streak. It’s no coincidence that he and Conner are both putting up big numbers at the same time, as Pittsburgh’s offense can be next to impossible to defend at times.
Unless the 2017 version of the Jaguars shows up, this could be a long day for the home team. Again, the Steelers have won five in a row and all five have been by at least a touchdown. The Jaguars haven’t shown anything over the last month to indicate that this week will be any different. Even with Pittsburgh being the road favorite, this is a heavy lean toward the Steelers.