Today's Free Picks for
Posted Friday at 2:15 PM EST.
1:05 PM EST. Seriously, other than just being the Steelers, what has Pittsburgh done to be getting this kind of respect? As one of the NFL's blue blood's you are going to pay a premium to back the Black and Yellow, and that is especially true come playoff time. The Steelers played one of the weakest schedules in the league according to Football Outsiders (23rd), and a closer look at their opponents down the stretch does not impress. Since Week 7, the Steelers have played just two playoff teams in New England and Tennessee. Winning 10-of-11 to close out the season makes a great headline, but wins over Cincinnati (x2), Detroit, Green Bay (minus #12), Baltimore, Houston, and Cleveland are nothing to write home about. In fact, their Week 15 loss to the Patriots wasn't the biggest one suffered by the Steelers, as defensive leader Ryan Shazier is on the shelf after Week 13's fistfight with the Bengals. Since Shazier has been out of action, the Steelers defense has not been the same, giving up more than 24-points in three of the last four weeks, including 39 to a Ravens offense that was lifeless for most of the season.
The clock has struck midnight, and Blake Bortles is back to being a pedestrian quarterback. When asked about his critics following the Jaguars less than stellar 10-3 Wild Card win over the Bills last Sunday, Bortles quipped, "There's people who think Lebron James sucks. I'm sure there will always be people who always think I suck". That single statement was not only brilliant, but it has totally taken away all of the negative attention from his teammates. Bortles has been the brunt of many jokes this week, with most pointing out that he's is not in the same league as LeBron. You don't say. Hot takes aside, while the Jaguars' offense did nothing to gain favor in the market, their defense may have put on the most impressive performance of the weekend. The Bills were only able to make it to the red zone one time, and they were denied.
The "revenge" angle is one we leave to the pick seller and pundits, as it is a lazy talking point, but we are always mindful when it comes into play because it influences the market. The 87-yard passing day from Bortles has also poisoned the mind of anybody that tuned into that low scoring affair. There was a good reason for Bortles' limited opportunities, as news came out that the Jags asked him not to blow the game and only let him throw the ball 23 times. That tidbit did nothing but further deflate the value of the Jags offense in the market. After posting that poor stat line, Bortles is a punchline. He was called "trash" on Fox Sports' "Undisputed", but the reality is he was asked to contribute to a run-heavy game plan, and he did so by adding 88-yards on 10 attempts with his underrated giddy-up sticks. If you’re curious, Bortles posted just 95 passing yards in that dominant 30-9 Week 5 win at Heinz Field.
Jacksonville's beatdown of the Steelers in Pittsburgh was the game that put the Jags on the map, but that impressive performance has been written off by many this week as a fluke, after Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. While it's not likely that happens again, we're also not looking for the Jaguars to win this game by three touchdowns. Just a week ago Jacksonville was spotting 8½, and this week they are taking back a similar price. That is a huge swing and a complete overreaction to the Jags' low scoring performance on Sunday. This line is inflated and in a cold day in Pittsburgh with a low total of 41, these points being offered are right in our wheelhouse.
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Jacksonville +7 +100 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.00)