Game Predictions & Player Projections - JAC vs. PIT

David Dorey, @DMDorey

Prediction: JAC 13, PIT 24

(Line: PIT by 7.5, O/U = 41)

UPDATE #2: Brown is now reported to be a game-time decision.I have lowered his projections because of the risk. It is a bad matchup to be sure though he was still productive in the first matchup.

UPDATE: The only notable player on the injury report is Antonio Brown who is questionable because of his calf and illness. He underwent full practices all week before taking Friday off. He was sent home sick on Friday but is expected to play.

This is the second meeting for these teams. The Jaguars pulled the shocking upset when they won 30-9 in Pittsburgh in Week 5. The Steelers were 6-1 at home otherwise - losing only to the visiting Patriots by three points a few weeks back. The Jaguars were 4-4 on the road and were limited to only ten points in each of their last two games. The Steelers may have been caught napping in Week 5 since they had just come off a big road win over the Ravens while the Jags had just lost in overtime to the Jets.

The weather is currently expected to be around 15 degrees for this game but with no wind.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1 @HOU 29-7 10 LAC 20-17 OT
2 TEN 16-37 11 @CLE 19-7
3 BAL 44-7 12 @ARI 24-27
4 @NYJ 20-23 OT 13 IND 30-10
5 @PIT 30-9 14 SEA 30-24
6 LAR 17-27 15 HOU 45-7
7 @IND 27-0 16 @SF 33-44
8 BYE xxx 17 @TEN 10-15
9 CIN 23-7 18 BUF 10-3
News | Statistics | Roster
JAC at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Blake Bortles 40   190
RB Leonard Fournette 80,1 3-20
RB T.J. Yeldon 10 4-20
WR Marqise Lee   2-30
WR Dede Westbrook   3-50
WR Allen Hurns   2-30
WR Keelan Cole   2-20  
TE Marcedes Lewis   1-10
PK Josh Lambo 2 FG 1 XP

Pregame Notes: The defense has to come to the rescue this time. Again. That 30-9 win in Week 5 was all about the rushing of Leonard Fournette and the defense that collected five interceptions. It was a great effort by the secondary even though they allowed 312 passing yards. These last two weeks, the Jaguars offense fell apart with minimal passing and a major slowdown by Fournette who seems gassed after playing the entire NFL season. The offense had surprised with more than 30 points for four straight games but now struggles to score even one touchdown. Facing two playoff teams likely had much to do with it.

QUARTERBACK: Blake Bortles only completed eight of 14 passes for 95 yards and one interception in the first meeting. That spawned a QB rating of 48.2. Last week versus the visiting Bills, he only completed 12 of 23 for 87 yards and one score to Ben Koyak on his sixth catch of the year. Bortles was also limited to 158 yards and two interceptions versus the Titans in his most recent road game. Bortles made the difference last week because he ran for 88 yards on ten carries for a career best. He has not rushed for more than 34 yards in any road game this year.

RUNNING BACK: Leonard Fournette enjoyed his career-best season in Week 5 when he ran for 181 yards and two scores on 28 carries. He hasn't broken 70 rush yards in a road game since Week 11 but usually adds three catches per game. He was held to only 57 yards on 21 runs by the Bills last week and 69 yards on 19 runs by the Titans in Week 16.

WIDE RECEIVER: Marqise Lee led all receivers in Week 5 with two catches for 49 yards. No other wideout gained more than 21 yards. All the wide receivers are healthy again - Lee, Allen Hurns, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook. That's far more talent than there are accurate passes. No Jaguars wideout caught a touchdown in any road game this other than Jalen Strong in Week 16 in San Francisco. This unit has offered at least occasional fantasy value this year but these last two weeks the passing stats are minimal with no signs of improvement.

TIGHT END: No fantasy value. Marcedes Lewis only caught one pass for 14 yards in the first meeting.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: Bortles was terrible passing in Week 5, terrible in the last two games, and will play in 15-degree weather without the advantage of surprising anyone with his rushing ability. There is no reason to expect a turnaround here in a bad matchup on the road in cold weather. And his failures translate into poor showings for all receivers which is exactly what happened in Week 5. And last week. And Week 17. The Steelers biggest weakness is against the run which Fournette already exploited last time.

He won't likely blow up again but he should still maintain at least moderate yardage and a strong shot at one score. He is the only Jaguars player (aside from "team defense") that offers reasonable fantasy prospects this week.

The Steelers only allowed 11 touchdowns to visiting passers this year. It would be a surprise if Bortles can notch even one. His confidence appears shot and his passing is becoming more inaccurate. What makes it even more difficult to forecast is that there are now four different wideouts that will play and take a measurable role. And none of them are any more likely to outperform the others.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points JAC 19 3 18 28 12 1
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 8 17 8 4 2 7

Pittsburgh Steelers

1 @CLE 21-18 10 @IND 20-17
2 MIN 26-9 11 TEN 40-17
3 @CHI 17-23 OT 12 GB 31-28
4 @BAL 26-9 13 @CIN 23-20
5 JAC 9-30 14 BAL 39-38
6 @KC 19-13 15 NE 24-27
7 CIN 29-14 16 @HOU 34-6
8 @DET 20-15 17 CLE 28-24
9 BYE xxx      
News | Statistics | Roster
PIT vs. JAC Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     230,2
RB Le'Veon Bell 70,1 7-60
WR Antonio Brown   5-60,1
WR Juju Smith-Schuster   4-50,1
WR Martavis Bryant   2-20
TE Jesse James   3-30
PK Chris Boswell 3 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Steelers come off their bye with the best of news - Antonio Brown is back to being a full participant in practice. The main starters took off Week 17, so they will be rested and ready to take the Jaguars more seriously than they apparently did earlier this year. Brown's health is critical to the offense but they won both games without him - albeit with incredibly well-timed matches against the Texans and Browns. The cold weather could help but regardless, the Steelers just have to slow down Fournette (which seems to have already happened) and not turn the ball over five times again.

QUARTERBACK: Ben Roethlisberger passed for 312 yards against the Jaguars in Week 5 but threw a career-worst five interceptions. He threw just three picks over the next six home games. Roethlisberger also never scored fewer than twice in every other home game while averaging 317 passing yards. This is a chance for Big Ben to make up for his historically bad Week 5.

RUNNING BACK: Le'Veon Bell ran for 47 yards on 15 carries in Week 5 and added ten receptions for 46 yards. He's totaled 11 touchdowns on the season and scored four times over his last two home stands. He's already turned in four different weeks when he caught at least nine passes and all were at home. He's become a lock for 100 total yards when playing in Pittsburgh.

WIDE RECEIVER: Antonio Brown is a full participant at practice after a partial tear of his calf in Week 15 that ended his stellar season early. Brown at home has been a revelation this year. He was on a three-game streak of 140+ yards when he injured himself in the loss to the Patriots. Up until that point, he had averaged 135 yards in home games and turned in 10 catches for 157 yards against the Jaguars No.1 pass defense.

Juju Smith-Schuster (4-58) and Martavis Bryant (5-21) were less productive that week (and pretty much every other). Smith-Schuster is on a two-game streak with over 100 yards when at home. Bryant rarely gains more than around 60 yards but scored in two of his last four home venues.

TIGHT END: No fantasy value. Jesse James only caught three passes for 24 yards in the first meeting.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: : The Jaguars had Ben Roethlisberger's number last time with five interceptions but he still managed to throw for 312 yards. The Jaguars allowed at least one score in each of their last four road games along with decent yardage. Roethlisberger's 312 yards was the highest allowed this year. No other quarterback managed more than 271 yards (Russell Wilson). This is the second meeting and the Steelers know what they are getting into this time.

Roethlisberger should still throw for healthy yardage though not as much as the desperation spawned in Week 5. He should be good for at least one score if not two. Bell was held to 93 total yards in the first meeting but should push that up over 100 as he always does in recent games. He is also a decent shot for a touchdown as the Jaguars gave up a rushing score in each of their last two road games (SF and TEN).

The Jaguars have shut down corners in Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye but Brown turned in the only 100+ yard game against this secondary. He is reportedly over his injury but these are the playoffs and nothing is ever certain until it is already proven. The Seahawks managed to score using three wideouts in Week 14 versus this defense. The Steelers already know what to expect this time.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 9 11 1 23 5 12
Preventing Fantasy Points JAC 2 10 1 10 4 10

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