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Original post @ http://sportcrack.net
Well, here we are. The best time of the year: The NFL Playoffs. Over the next couple of days I will be previewing the AFC and NFC Wild Card games to get even more amped up. In typical Football Crack fashion, I will be previewing the games in a offense vs defense and vice versa, coaching match ups and when warranted, special teams. As well as anything else that comes to mind.
Next up: The Saturday night game -- Jaguars @ Steelers
Main storyline: This has to be that these two teams played each other less than 3 weeks ago. The Jaguars won the game, which was in Pittsburgh, 29-22.
When the Steelers have the ball
Steelers offense: Originally I thought the biggest problem for this unit would be the absence of Willie Parker. After interviewing a Steelers fan however, I am convinced it is the Steelers offensive line woes.
Left tackle Max Starx is out for the season, leaving many to call on Steely McBeam to jump into the mix and protect Big Ben. No matter who fills in for Starx though, they are going to need to protect Big Ben well because I don't see Najeh Davenport doing too much against the vaunted Jaguars 4-3 defense. Although it's not what it used to be, they are still ranked 11th against the rush this season.
Jaguars defense: While they only allowed 147 yards passing in the previous engagement, they did give up 3 TD's and an even 100 yards to Willie Parker. While I don't expect Davenport to put up nearly as much (I'm saying... ehh 60 yards) they do need to contain the pass since the Steelers most likely will be focusing a bit more on the pass in this matchup.
How well the Jaguars defend the pass is going to be key in this game, as well as how much they control the time of possession with there rushing offense.
When the Jaguars have the ball
Jaguars offense: While the Jaguars offense is clearly on fire (they scored the most points in the league for the second half of the season - even more than the Patriots) you have to wonder how much the field conditions are going to come into play here.
I'm expecting the Jaguars to run the ball straight at the Steelers with the Freddie T/Mojo combo and leave it to Garrard to minimize his mistakes and complete some passes when he needs to. With the field conditions though, will they have to pass more than they'd like? Again, how much they control the time of possession is key.
Steelers defense: What's there to say? The Steelers have the best defense in the league. However, that still doesn't explain the 421 yards the Steel Curtain let up in the last contest which was in the snow AND at home.
The Steelers D will need Polamalu at his best for this game and there are some concerns after he missed his second straight practice on Thursday. He is set to suit up for practice today but it's still a major issue.
Coaching: While Mike Tomlin's inexperience in the playoffs isn't a concern per se, Jack del Rio only has one playoff game under his belt (the loss to the Patriots back in 2005). It's a bit hard to compare coaches in this way but you have to give it to Del Rio due to his overall coaching experience.
On the special teams front, it appears Alan Rossum is out for this game and he returned one kick for a TD. Jones-Drew on the other hand returned one as well and he's always a threat to do so. I wouldn't say the Jaguars have an edge for this, but it's interesting to take into account none the less.
The Steelers home field advantage is obviously a factor, even though it was not in the previous match up. I don't expect the Steel Curtain to give up nearly as much yards as they did last time, but I don't think they'll come out of Heinz Field with a W, unfortunately.
Prediction: Jaguars 20 Steelers 17