The Jacksonville Jaguars have not been in the playoffs for ten years, and fans would need to look back to the Fred Taylor days to remember a successful Jacksonville team. That 2007 team finished the regular season 11-5 and accomplished a feat that this year’s Jaguars squad hopes to replicate. That 2007 Jaguars team won against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Pittsburgh during the regular season. Then, they played in Pittsburgh again for the Wild Card round and beat the Steelers to advance to the divisional round.
Unfortunately, that 2007 team was beaten by the New England Patriots in the divisional round. Led by the spectacular duo of Randy Moss and Tom Brady, that 2007 Patriots team, despite being undefeated in the regular season, eventually lost in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants. Ironically, the Giants were coached by Tom Coughlin, VP of Football Operations for the Jacksonville Jaguars. If the Jaguars make it to the conference championship, they will likely play the Patriots, who are heavily favored to beat the Tennessee Titans this weekend. If the Jaguars can win Sunday, a conference championship against the Patriots would be very likely.
Though a Patriots-Jaguars game would be a highly anticipated matchup, the Jaguars’ focus should first be on the Steelers. The last time the Jaguars played the Steelers twice in one season was 2007, and like 2017, the Jaguars faced the Steelers both times in Pittsburgh. The 2007 team won both games in Pittsburgh. The Jaguars could repeat that success from 2007 on Sunday. The Steelers, who enter the game as the favorite, had an awful game when they played the Jaguars in the regular season. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions, and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette carried the ball for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
Analysts do not expect similar performances from those two players in Sunday’s rematch, and the most important players for each team will likely be different. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will be the most important player for the Steelers, as his ability to run against a stout Jaguars defense will be important. Bell only had 47 rushing yards on 15 carries against the Jaguars earlier in the season, causing Pittsburgh to rely heavily on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who ended up having one of the worst games of his career with five interceptions. Roethlisberger will likely be challenged on Sunday as he will have to deal with A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey in coverage. Because of Jacksonville’s stout passing defense, Bell will need to step up and have a huge performance for the Steelers.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will be the most important player for the Jacksonville. Fournette has struggled to run the ball lately, and even though it would not be surprising for him to surpass 100 rushing yards on Sunday, he likely will not have the same level of success against the Steelers again. Bortles will need to be able to run the ball and find Fournette and his wide receivers in the passing game. Most importantly, Bortles will need to limit turnovers like he did against the Buffalo Bills for the Jaguars to win on Sunday.
This game pits two teams against each other that are very different in styles. Fans may see a high-scoring offensive showing or a grinding defensive battle, but it is difficult to predict which game will occur. Also, it is difficult to predict the outcome of this game because the best unit for the Steelers, their offense, is facing the Jaguars’ best unit, their defense. Neither team is outstanding on the other side of the ball, so this game will likely be full of surprises. Hopefully, the game does not end in disappointment for a Jacksonville franchise that is enjoying its first taste of success this decade.
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