Posted on January 9, 2018, by Travis Pulver

During Sunday’s AFC Wildcard Game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills, it didn’t look pretty. Neither team’s offense looked great. That could be because their respective defenses played well. Or it could be because neither offense is very good. Whatever the reason, someone had to come out on top and win the right to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs.

Thanks to one 15-play drive that ate up most of the third quarter, the honor goes to the Jaguars.


Buffalo had better luck moving the ball in the first half but was not able to capitalize on their limited success with more than a field goal. Jacksonville was able to tack on a field goal before the end of the first half to tie the game up at three.

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After both teams punted to start the second half, the Jaguars went on a 15-play drive that took 8:52 off the clock to score the game’s only touchdown. They only recorded a couple of first downs for the rest of the game, but the defense held the Bills to seven spread across four possessions.

Blake Bortles ran for more yards (88) than he passed for (87). It was ugly—but this isn’t college football where the quality of a win can mean something. In the NFL, the ugly ones are valued just like the pretty ones.

A win is a win is a win. But when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday (at 1 PM ET), they will have to look a whole lot better if they want to move onto the AFC Championship Game. The Steelers, of course, will not make it easy.

Several Steelers have made it no secret that they want revenge against the Jaguars for the loss Jacksonville handed them back in Week Five. So—who’s going to win this one?

The Debate

The Steelers have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Ben Roethlisberger. They have arguably the best running backs in the NFL in Le’Veon Bell and expect the league’s top wide receiver, Antonio Brown, to make his return after missing the last few weeks with an injury.

But if he doesn’t or becomes a non-factor, the Steelers passing game should be in good shape. Since the last time these two teams met, rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster has developed into quite a weapon. Martavis Bryant has made some big plays since then as well.

The Steelers finished the season with the third-best passing game and 20th ranked run game in the league, but in recent weeks have been averaging over 30+ points/game. Jacksonville’s defense will have their work cut out for them if they are going to stop them.

Jacksonville has the best pass defense in the NFL; a fact Ben Roethlisberger knows all too well after being intercepted by them five times in Week Five. But Jacksonville is not great against the run. Buffalo ended up gaining 130 on the Jags Sunday. Tennessee gained 100+ in their regular season finale as did the 49ers the week before.

But in Week Five, they held Bell to just 47 yards on 15 carries.


The Prediction

Jacksonville’s defense made the job easy for Blake Bortles last time. They gifted him with two pick-6’s and a short field that led to their first touchdown. But it is unlikely Roethlisberger makes as many mistakes this time as he did in that game.

If the Jaguars are going to win, they will need to generate some offense against one of the better defenses in the league. However, ever since Ryan Shazier was lost, the Steelers defense has been susceptible to runs up the middle.

This one could turn into a dogfight not too unlike Sunday’s Bills/Jags game. Both teams have defenses capable of shutting down the other team’s offense. If the Jags defense can bring its ‘A’ game and Blake Bortles can play a clean game, the Jags could pull off the upset.

Pittsburgh is a 7.5 point favorite. But don’t expect the game to be won by more than a touchdown. Take the Jaguars and the points

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