Super Bowl 50, Broncos and Panthers Interesting Football Facts

February 3, 2016

Super Bowl 50, Broncos and Panthers Interesting Football Facts

The Carolina Panthers will try to get their first football franchise championship title against the Denver Broncos this weekend, as they play in the Super Bowl 50. Each team brings their own strengths that could help them overcome and win the game, but there are certain interesting facts that may work in their favor when being pressured by their opponents. We all know that the Panthers have an amazing overall team, with the offense led by Cam Newton; who has scored 45 touchdowns (35 passing, 10 rushing). Their defense is also in the top tier of the league, however, the Broncos defense is on a whole other level. They have been able to keep teams from scoring too much, being fourth in point allowed per game. Their offense is not doing as well, but hopefully Peyton Manning can rally his strength and talent for one more game.

Broncos Interesting Facts

  1. The Broncos defense have only allowed opposing offenses to get more than 30-points just once this season. It happened during Week 15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was one of their only losses during the regular season. They have kept teams to an average 18.5 points per game, ranking fourth in the league.
  2. The defense generated pressure on opposing quarterbacks 35% of defensive snaps; this makes them the highest in the NFL in terms of pressure. This is thanks to their front four, including linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
  3. They went 11-3 this season in games that had a margin on 7 points or less, making them the team with most close wins in league history. With a close score during the Super Bowl would mean they have great odds of winning.
  4. Their quarterback, Manning, will have appeared in four Super Bowls. It was done under four different head coaches, but he has completed 90 out of 132 passes (68.2%), making him the second-best quarterback in NFL history who have played in multiple Bowls.
  5. Last time they faced each other, the Broncos beat the Panthers 36-14. It was between Manning and Newton in 2012, where they sacked Newton seven times and intercepted twice.

Panthers Interesting Facts

  1. Newton accounts for the majority of their offensive touchdowns this season (79.3%). He has run the ball for 10 touchdowns himself, making him a dangerous and mobile quarterback; almost on the same level as the top running backs of the league.
  2. Offensive line allowed Newton get hit only 61 times, the third lowest in the league. He was only hit three time in two playoff games.
  3. The Panthers have gotten big leads in the first half of the game. The offense has been able to post huge scores in the first half of each game, giving them an average 13-points per game margin.
  4. Their rushing has gotten 100 yards or more in 31 consecutive games. They tied one game, and lost six during this period, but it still gives them a 22-9 record. However, the Broncos have only allowed seven games with 100 or more rushing yards this season.
  5. Ron Rivera, current head coach for the Panthers, faced Manning and the Colts when he was coach of the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, and lost. He may have learned from his mistakes and is ready to play proper football.

Football Conference Playoff Predictions

January 20, 2016

football playoff games

The upcoming football conference playoff games promise to be thrilling, as some top teams in the league face-off this week, it would almost seem like the Super Bowl was being played twice. We have the rivalry of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, and two heavy hitters with the Cardinals at Panthers. Fans and sportsbooks have been trying to determine just which team will win straight-up, as well as against the spread.

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

With the way the Patriots played last week, it is no wonder they are the road favorites; however, the Broncos do have the home advantage. The Patriots have an incredible offensive line-up, starting with their quarterback, Tom Brady. The reason Brady has been so successful this season, and playoffs, is thanks to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Gronkowski is his go-to guy, as he has been just phenomenal, already catching for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns. Edelman is his other go-to receiver, catching for 100 yards. They may not have much of a rushing game, but with the options Brady has to throw to outweigh that.

The Broncos on the other hand will most likely be relying on their defense. Even with Manning as QB, their offense hasn’t been shinning as bright as their defense has, and Manning himself has said it best,

“I think our defense is guiding us, let’s make that clear. I am honored to be a part of it and looking forward to playing next week in the AFC Championship Game.”

All-in-all, it will be a tough match for both teams.

Pick: New England Patriots (-3.5)

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

This will also be a big game between powerhouse quarterbacks Cam Newton and Carson Palmer; both of which may end up getting voted as NFL MVP this season. Both QB’s are former Heisman Trophy winners, marking the first time in history that this will happen. The Panthers offensive line has been paramount for their victories this season, and tied in with their defense, they will give the Cardinals a run for their money.

However, the Cardinals defense can hold their own as well. Being ranked in the top of the league in pass and rush defense, as well as being great as blitzing. This will prove useful against the heavy rushing team that is the Panthers. It will still be difficult, as the Panthers did overcome the Seahawks number one rush defense.

Pick: Arizona Cardinals (+3)

Checking Out Cortana’s NFL Week 3 Football Picks

September 25, 2015

Cortana football predictions NFL Week 3

As most football fans should know now, the Microsoft virtual assistant Cortana is a genius at picking the winners of the NFL games. During the first week of games, she was able to predict with an accuracy of 13-3, which rivaled and beat many other professional sports handicappers. During Week 2, everyone took a hard hit, and yet Cortana was still able to get a 6-10 accuracy; most fans will agree that Week 2 was full of surprises, injuries, and comebacks.

For Week 3, she has already predicted the straight-up outcomes of all of the games, which are:

Game Pick Chance Of Winning
Redskins at Giants Giants 65.9%
Falcons at Cowboys Falcons 55%
Colts at Titans Colts 53.3%
Raiders at Browns Browns 53.3%
Bengals at Ravens Ravens 55%
Jaguars at Patriots Patriots 80%
Saints at Panthers Panthers 76.7%
Eagles at Jets Jets 61.4%
Buccaneers at Texans Texans 70.2%
Chargers at Vikings Vikings 52%
Steelers at Rams Rams 53.3%
49ers at Cardinals Cardinals 68.6%
Bills at Dolphins Dolphins 59.8%
Bears at Seahawks Seahawks 75.4%
Broncos at Lions Broncos 65.9%
Chiefs at Packers Packers 76.7%

Some of these games look like they will be very close, like the San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings or Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Louis Rams. Be cautious when looking at these predictions, as there is a human element involved in each NFL game. I would, personally, put money on the Chargers and Steelers winning their games, despite being the underdogs. The Steelers in particular have proven to be top contenders, fearless on the field, and very smart in their plays; you should watch Week 2 game highlights against the 49ers.

So, use some of your own research if you plan on betting with your friends or at sportsbooks, as it could either confirm that Cortana’s predictions are right, or something could give the underdog the bump needed to win the football game.

New York Giants (10-6) at Tampa Bay (9-7)

January 3, 2008

New York Giants Defense
8th Ranked against the Run
11th Ranked against the Pass
New York Giants Offense
4th Ranked in Rushing
21st Ranked in Passing

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense
17th Ranked against the Run
1st Ranked against the Pass
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense
11th Ranked in Rushing
16th Ranked in Passing

The Giants have played the Buccaneers sixteen times in the regular season and have won ten of those contests, nine of them by seven points or less. But although New York has never met Tampa Bay in the playoffs, they are well acquainted with Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia in post season games. Over the last six years the Giants have made it to the post season four times on a wild card berth including their entry as the fifth seed this year. And of their three previous wild card games, Garcia was the opposing quarterback in two of them.

In 2002 Garcia and a brash young wide receiver named Terrell Owens led the 49ers back from 38-14 deficit late in the third quarter to beat the Giants 39-38 in the second greatest comeback in pro football playoff history. It was a game marked by controversy after which the NFL’s director of officiating Mike Pereira made a rare public statement that a blown call by the officials with no time left on the clock wrongfully deprived the Giants of a shot at a game winning field goal. San Francisco went on to lose their divisional playoff game to Tampa Bay by a 24 point margin.

In 2006, after struggling just to reach a 5-5 record the Eagles lost their five time pro-bowl quarterback to a season ending knee injury. A journeyman backup quarterback came in to pick up the pieces and won four of his next five games including huge wins in three consecutive weeks against their division rivals the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys, to bring the Eagles an NFC East championship. The veteran quarterback continued on to beat the Giants in the first NFC wild card game, which ended after he pulled the Eagles into position to score a game winning field goal with no time left on the clock. His name was Jeff Garcia.

Now for the third time, the Giants will face Jeff Garcia in a wild card game against a team which Garcia has led to a division title. New York comes into this game with a 10-6 record, the same mark they owned when they squared off against Garcia and the 49ers in 2002, the only other wild card game in which Garcia came in having started every game for his team. But Garcia may not have as much momentum as he did when he faced the Giants as the Eagles quarterback last year. At 9-7 his Bucs have the worst record of any division champion in the conference and they are coming into the playoffs on a two game skid.

Momentum is something the Giants have in abundance however. Even though they lost their season finale 38-35 to the undefeated Patriots they showed the league and themselves that they have a lot of guts and determination. New England had to claw their way back from the greatest deficit they had faced at any time during the entire season, and but for a few mistakes the Giants know they could have knocked Goliath out; that will give them a huge dose of confidence going into the playoffs. If New York’s defense can play with the same intensity as they showed against New England and if Giants running back Brandon Jacobs can take time off the clock by pounding out some good yardage on the ground then the Giants ought to able to make the third time the charm and break the Garcia spell finally.

Jacksonville (11-5) at Pittsburgh (10-6)

January 1, 2008

Jacksonville Jaguars Defense
11th Ranked against the Run
15th Ranked against the Pass
Jacksonville Jaguars Offense
2nd Ranked in Rushing
17th Ranked in Passing

Pittsburgh Steelers Defense
3rd Ranked against the Run
3rd Ranked against the Pass
Pittsburgh Steelers Offense
3rd Ranked in Rushing
22nd Ranked in Passing

In one of two AFC wild card games that are rematches of late regular season contests, Jacksonville will come to Pittsburgh for the first round of playoffs this Saturday. Unlike the Titans meeting with San Diego on Sunday however, the Steelers – Jaguars game really is a virtual repeat of their previous meeting since it takes place on Pittsburgh’s home turf again. Jacksonville came away with the victory in Week 15 on a messy playing field after the Steelers had tied the game late in the fourth quarter.

No opponent has ever beaten the Steelers at home in the post season as well as in a home regular season game in the same year during Pittsburgh’s entire 75 year history. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Jacksonville has not had much respect for Pittsburgh traditions. The Jaguars win three weeks ago broke a seven game home winning streak by the Steelers, and Jags running back Fred Taylor rushed for 147 yards; previous to that the Pittsburgh defense had not allowed any single player to rush for over 100 yards against them in more than three years.

One would fully expect that whatever happened the last time these two met that allowed the Jaguars to run for better than 200 yards on the number one ranked defense in the NFL will have been corrected if it’s possible to do so. What the Steelers will probably be concerned about is whether the problem presented by Jacksonville’s offense is one that can even be solved. It may well be that the Jaguars simply have a big, physical offensive front who are powerful enough to push the Pittsburgh front seven out of the way to make room for the ground attack and that they have enough endurance to keep doing it for the entire game.

What was made clear during their last visit is that the Jaguars aren’t put off by the kind of miserable weather that is often present in the Steelers home venue. Since Pittsburgh apparently won’t have any advantage in case of cold rainy conditions it will probably be better for the Steelers if the conditions are dry even if the temperature drops well below the 62 degree average that Jacksonville is used to playing in.

The reason for that is that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will probably have to throw the ball a lot against the Jaguars. Willie Parker, the fourth ranked rusher in the NFL is out for the season with a broken leg sustained in the Steelers Week 16 win over the Rams. Pittsburgh backup running back Najeh Davenport filled in nicely to finish that game but whether Davenport can have the same success against a better Jaguars run defense remains to be seen.

Another problem the Steelers need to correct, especially if they plan to attack Jacksonville’s somewhat vulnerable secondary, is the breakdown of the Pittsburgh offensive line under the pressure of the Jaguars pass rush. Roethlisberger was sacked five times by Jacksonville last time they played, while the Steelers didn’t drop Jags QB David Garrard for a loss even once.

This one is there for Pittsburgh to win or lose, but Ben will likely need to hook up with wide receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes and with tight end Heath Miller for some touchdowns. If the Steelers defense, which has been slumbering over the last several games lives up to it’s reputation and comes alive again in the playoffs, and if the front four can open some gaps for Davenport and can protect Roethlisberger then Pittsburgh could outscore the Jaguars.

Tennessee (9-6) at Indianapolis (13-2)

January 1, 2008

Tennessee Titans Defense
6th Ranked against the Run
11th Ranked against the Pass
Tennessee Titans Offense
5th Ranked in Rushing
27th Ranked in Passing

Indianapolis Colts Defense
17th Ranked against the Run
1st Ranked against the Pass
Indianapolis Colts Offense
16th Ranked in Rushing
5th Ranked in Passing

“This is a playoff game for us, and that’s how we have to play,” says Titans running back LenDale White. True enough, since a loss would make it their last game of the season and give Cleveland the sixth seed and a wild card berth in the playoffs. How difficult a task it will be for Tennessee is anyone’s guess at this point however because the game is certainly not a playoff game or even anything close to it for the Colts. Because of that, Indianapolis will likely be giving some of their better players a lot more time on the sideline than they otherwise would expect to get.

The most obvious candidates for down time are quarterback Peyton Manning who is still very healthy and star wide receiver Marvin Harrison who is just this week beginning to feel strong enough to play. “I think we make a big mistake by thinking we’re going to go in there and beat up on some backups,” according to Titans defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch, who is one of the league leaders with twelve sacks this season. “Indy’s the defending world champs. That says a lot about their depth. They’ve been banged up for a good part of the year, playing with some backup guys.”

One could guess that the Colts having a number one rated pass defense is simply a function of the fact that they have less work to do because their opponents are concentrating on running the football instead. There may be a bit of truth to that however slight, but a few things make that analysis somewhat less solid. For one thing the Colts defense are among the league leaders in keeping others out of the end zone. That usually doesn’t happen to a team that can’t stop the run because red zone incursions by the opposing offense most often end in a touchdown. The second chink in that theory is that the Colts are tied for second in the league with 22 interceptions this year, and they have run back those pickoffs for more yardage than only three other teams in the NFL.

The topic of the Colts run defense holds a great deal of interest for the Titans because Tennessee desperately needs to have success running the football if they hope to get past Indianapolis. Titans quarterback Vince Young has thrown only 9 touchdowns this year, fewer than any other starting quarterback in the league who has played at least thirteen games. At the same time he has been picked off 17 times, and while some other QB’s in the league have been intercepted more, they have also thrown a lot more touchdowns and don’t have a ratio of TD’s to INT’s anywhere near as poor as Young’s.

Luckily for Tennessee they haven’t depended on having an all-pro passer for their recent success. They have won their last two games with a solid running attack and a stiff defense. Behind both White and Young they have picked up no less than 127 yards rushing in every one of their four most recent games, and they have held opposing offenses to about 16 points per game. Tennessee is no slouch at pass defense either – they are the team that the Colts are tied with for second place in interceptions this season, and the Titans have been +6 in the turnover category during the aforementioned four game period.

Although Tennessee hasn’t won in Indianapolis since 2002 they have consistently given the Colts problems whenever the two have played. Without key starters on the field for Indy the Titans should have a decent chance to overcome the advantage that the Colts would normally hold and boost themselves into the playoffs.

Dallas (13-2) at Washington (8-7)

December 25, 2007

Dallas Cowboys Defense
4th Ranked against the Run
13th Ranked against the Pass
Dallas Cowboys Offense
12th Ranked in Rushing
4th Ranked in Passing

Washington Redskins Defense
8th Ranked against the Run
17th Ranked against the Pass
Washington Redskins Offense
13th Ranked in Rushing
14th Ranked in Passing

The last time the Redskins faced off against Cowboys QB Tony Romo, he threw 4 touchdown passes to wide receiver Terrell Owens for all of the points scored by Dallas that afternoon. And for Washington, 3rd year quarterback Jason Campbell completed 33 of 54 passes for 348 yards. In all three statistics – completions, attempts and passing yardage – it was by far the best performance of Campbell’s young career. Washington actually led 10-7 at halftime but could not contain Owens later in the game.

Some things haven’t changed since then. The Cowboys were playing .900 ball at that time while the Redskins were just barely keeping their heads above the .500 mark, and both teams are roughly at the same winning percentages coming into this Sunday’s game. Other things will be quite different however. Neither Campbell nor Owens, the two most prolific forces during their last meeting will be playing this week. Campbell’s season ended in Chicago earlier this month when just before halftime Bears defensive end Mark Anderson hit Campbell in the middle of his throwing motion and then fell across the back of his left leg driving Campbell’s kneecap into the ground and dislocating it. And Owens is listed as inactive against Washington owing to a high ankle sprain that, according to Owens is nowhere near as serious as his previous ankle injury.

But each side has fielded new talent to replace the old. At quarterback for Washington is the veteran Todd Collins who replaced Campbell in Chicago and passed for 200 yards in just two quarters of football. Collins has provided a spark that has lifted the Redskins to three straight wins, and if you take the passing that Collins has accomplished on a per quarter basis it would yield an average that would be good for 2nd place in the league for yardage alongside Tony Romo, and would have a touchdown count that would put Collins in the top ten QB’s in the NFL.

Dallas for their part has a good tight end in Jason Witten who is 4th in the league with 94 catches this year, and Patrick Crayton at the wide receiver slot has one of the better averages this year at more than 14 yards per catch. Should the Cowboys get any significant lead however the Redskins will probably get a steady diet of Dallas’ power running back Marion Barber.

The Redskins did some tough running inside themselves with running back Ladell Betts against the Giants a couple of weeks ago and Clinton Portis, Washington’s primary weapon in the ground attack has 10 rushing touchdowns this season. The Cowboys may well attempt to shut down the Redskins ground game with their highly ranked run defense and force Collins to throw by stacking up the defensive tackles, but if they do they will have to make sure that Washington tight ends Chris Cooley and Todd Yoder don’t sneak in behind the linebackers and burn Dallas in the secondary.

The game is of little consequence to Dallas as far as the playoff picture is concerned. They are division champs and have already locked up the top seed which includes a bye week, and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Redskins meanwhile have very few outs left if they lose this game. Only a Vikings loss to Denver, a game which will be played at the same time that Washington has their hands full of Cowboys would offset a loss to Dallas and get the Redskins into the playoffs.

New York Giants (9-5) at Buffalo (7-7)

December 22, 2007

New York Giants Defense
12th Ranked against the Run
11th Ranked against the Pass
New York Giants Offense
6th Ranked in Rushing
17th Ranked in Passing

Buffalo Bills Defense
22nd Ranked against the Run
28th Ranked against the Pass
Buffalo Bills Offense
16th Ranked in Rushing
29th Ranked in Passing

The Giants have won six straight games on the road this year; only the Patriots and the Cowboys have a better record when playing away games. Unlike New England and Dallas however, the Giants can’t wait to pack up and leave the Meadowlands. They are an unimpressive 4-3 at home this year, but whether playing for the New York crowd or visiting their opponents the bigger problem for the Giants this year is their lack of execution on offense.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been hard pressed to connect with his receivers, and after starting the season as one of the top rated quarterbacks in the league for passing yardage and touchdown throws he has since sunk far down the performance charts. The Bills have struggled over the last six games, posting 17 points or more only once, and that was when they scored 38 while rolling over the winless Dolphins. But a similar cloud has hung over the Giants; in their last seven games they have managed to put more than 17 points on the board only twice.

The key for the Giants will be to stop Bills rookie running back Marshawn Lynch and to put pressure on Buffalo’s rookie QB Trent Edwards. Lynch is one of the top ten running backs in the league in yardage, gaining better than 85 yards per game, and he is also one of the more dangerous outlet receivers for his young quarterback. Edwards started the season with 5 interceptions and 1 touchdown, but over the past three games he had 4 TD’s with no interceptions. Edwards is a sharp, quick passer, and with nothing to lose he may well open up the field against New York and start throwing some touchdowns.

The Giants defense has been putting adequate pressure on their opponents quarterback lately, but Manning and the offense have failed miserably to take advantage of it. With Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey now out with a broken leg and WR Plaxico Burress already hobbled by a sore ankle and a sure candidate for the double team, the Giants will need WR Amani Toomer to have a very good day. A big game is also needed from running back Brandon Jacobs, who has averaged almost 89 yards a game, good for 4th best in the NFL. Without good numbers from Toomer and Jacobs, the Giants are likely to lose at Buffalo.

Cleveland (9-5) at Cincinnati (5-9)

December 22, 2007

Cleveland Browns Defense
28th Ranked against the Run
29th Ranked against the Pass
Cleveland Browns Offense
14th Ranked in Rushing
11th Ranked in Passing

Cincinnati Bengals Defense
24th Ranked against the Run
25th Ranked against the Pass
Cincinnati Bengals Offense
23rd Ranked in Rushing
5th Ranked in Passing

The Browns game in Cincinnati this Sunday is a pivotal game in the race for the only division in pro football that has not yet been clinched. By losing to the Jaguars at home last week, Pittsburgh has opened the door for Cleveland to snatch the division crown in the final two weeks of the season. Of course in order to do that, Cleveland will need to win it’s last two games against the Bengals and the 49ers, and the Steelers would have to lose their only remaining game at Baltimore. If Cleveland were only to tie Pittsburgh with an 11-5 or a 10-6 record, the Steelers 5-0 division record would give them the AFC North.

But before they can mount any serious challenge for the division, Cleveland’s first and foremost focus is on getting to the playoffs. They can clinch a wild card with a win at Cincinnati because at worst it would give them a season record of 10-6, and a strength of victory rating which the Titans could not match even if they closed out the season with three wins.

In the second week of the season, the Browns and Bengals combined to put up 96 total points on the scoreboard with Cleveland barely getting the better of the exchange and a 51-45 win. It’s true that the Bengals have scored remarkably few points recently; over the last three weeks they’ve averaged only 14 points per game, this after starting the season by scoring an average of better than 25 points in their first eleven games. And yet, this weeks matchup might still figure to be another high scoring shootout. Here’s why;

Defense; Neither team has one. The Bengals are fifth worst in the league and the Browns are dead last. Cleveland’s defense has allowed a league high 27 touchdown passes this year while 26 have been tossed against the Bengals. Each has allowed their opponents to score an average of 25 points per game.

Offensive Line; These are two units that protect their quarterback extraordinarily well, in fact they are tied with each other for second place in the league in fewest sacks by their opponents. Moreover, neither team ranks higher than 27th in sacks, so they haven’t had much luck pressuring their opponents passer either.

Quarterbacks; Browns Derek Anderson and Bengals Carson Palmer are among the top nine QB’s in the NFL for both yardage and for touchdowns, although Anderson has a slight edge with more touchdowns and fewer INT’s than Palmer.

Receivers; These two teams each have a pair of receivers that have combined for over 2000 yards on the season. The Browns WR/TE combo of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow have caught 140 passes for 2141 yards while Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson and tight end T.J. Houshmandzadeh have 2293 yards and 186 catches between them. Only New England and Dallas have receiver tandems that have reached that mark, and only four other receiving duos in the league have as many touchdowns as Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Running Backs; Browns running back Jamal Lewis is the 7th leading rusher in the NFL, already having gained over 1000 yards this season. He’s also 5th in the league with 9 rushing touchdowns. The Bengals spread the running responsibilities between Kenny Watson and Rudi Johnson, who between them have combined for 8 touchdown runs and over 1000 yards.

But whether it’s a pair of monster offensive performances or a blowout, you have to believe that Cleveland is going to pull off the win. They have the momentum, a better balanced offense to handle any weather concerns and with the AFC North title still on the table they just have a lot more to play for.

Jacksonville (9-4) at Pittsburgh (9-4)

December 15, 2007

Jacksonville Jaguars Defense
5th Ranked against the Run
27th Ranked against the Pass
Jacksonville Jaguars Offense
2nd Ranked in Rushing
20th Ranked in Passing

Pittsburgh Steelers Defense
2nd Ranked against the Run
2nd Ranked against the Pass
Pittsburgh Steelers Offense
3rd Ranked in Rushing
24th Ranked in Passing

This week’s contest between the Steelers and the Jaguars is a pivotal game for both teams but also for the Cleveland Browns who trail Pittsburgh by only one game in the AFC North. Of the three teams that the pro football schedule has served up to Cleveland coming down the stretch, only one of them (Buffalo) has a winning record, and even the Bills have just barely gotten their noses above the .500 mark with a 7-6 record. A win by the Steelers would clinch a playoff berth and keep them in control of their division, while eroding the Jags status as frontrunner for the first AFC wild card. A win by Jacksonville however could leave the Steelers and Browns tied for first place in the AFC North if Cleveland also beats Buffalo.

Though the Steelers have put together a strong running game this year they face a Jacksonville line that hasn’t allowed any single player to gain more than 100 yards on the ground this season since Tennessee running back Chris Brown did it in the season opener. And no team has broken the 100 yard rushing mark against the Jags for the past five weeks. But Pittsburgh does have some advantages including a strong showing at home where they are 7-0 this year, and a highly rated quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger going up against a Jaguars squad that has not stopped their opponents passing game very well this season.

Expect the Steelers quality linebackers to keep Jaguars running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew in check long enough for Pittsburgh to put some points on the board by mixing up the solid running of Willie Parker with some passing plays to wide receiver Hines Ward and tight end Heath Miller. Prediction – Steelers just squeeze past the Jags to keep their home record perfect.

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