by Will Strome, NFLWeather.com | 01-14-2018 08:00
In the Jags five coldest games in franchise history, the team posts a 1-4 record with the lone win coming against the Black and Gold. The only team to beat the Steelers twice in Pittsburgh in the same season was Jacksonville, and that second win was a frigid January playoff win. This game seems like a slam dunk win for the Steelers but if weather-related history between these former division rivals has taught us anything, it’s that the Jaguars have Pittsburgh’s number.
According to NFLWeather.com, game time temps for the 1:05pm EST kickoff will be in the 18-20 range but will feel more like a shivering ten given the light wind. In the days leading up to the rematch from the regular season, Pittsburgh is going to experience a heavy dose of a wintery mix with rain and snow to open the weekend. With horrendous weather on Friday and into Saturday, once temperatures plummet (as they’re expected to do), there’s a chance for icy conditions on Sunday. Since temps will be so low and precipitation still very much a possibility, snow could also sneak its way into the game day forecast.
In early October, the Jags ripped through the Steelers with a shocking 30-9 road win at Heinz Field which was the victory that solidified the team as a legit contender this season. Jacksonville pulled off the win by pounding the ball between the tackles with Leonard Fournette who finished the afternoon with two touchdowns and 181 yards from 28 touches. Quarterback Blake Bortles didn’t need to be a hero that afternoon with the former first-rounder finishing the day completing 8-of-14 attempts for only 85 yards and an interception. Nothing needs to change from the team’s previous game plan and Fournette should see another massive workload against a defense that allows on average over 105 rushing yards per game and terrible winter weather is expected in the weekend forecast.
In the Jags’ last two road games featuring below freezing temps, the team was 0-2 including a Week 17 15-10 loss at Tennessee (most starters were rested). Pittsburgh in sub 32-degree weather on the other hand, according to the NFLWeather.com Historical Analytics, is 16-4 in the cold since 2009 and 10-3 at home. Having won nine straight in frigid conditions, it seems nearly impossible to lose this week, but if Antonio Brown is a no-go, the Steelers could be in trouble against one of the league’s top defenses.
If AB can’t shake his illness and lingering calf injury, Juju Smit-Schuster and Martavis Bryant will be Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to targets and both speedsters have made plenty of big plays this season. USA Today’s Steve Gardner even included Smith-Schuster in his All-Waiver Wire Team. “There were several times fantasy owners could have grabbed the rookie wideout off waivers, but a touchdown catch in Week 4 signaled his arrival,” Gardner wrote in his most recent article. “Smith-Schuster caught seven passes for 193 yards and a score in Week 8 – and he dominated over the final two weeks of the season (218 yards, 2 TD’s, plus a kick return TD) with Antonio Brown sidelined by injury.”
With or without AB, the passing game anchored by Big Ben will have to find a way to flourish. Thankfully Roethlisberger is the ideal QB to have under center is a game featuring crummy weather conditions, but with a running back like Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers’ offense instantly becomes one of the most high-octane offenses in the league. Bell, who didn’t dress Week 17, has also become the most dynamic running back in football and his weekly fantasy numbers in Draft Kings back it up. In his last five starts, Bell has averaged an impressive 30.44 points per week, making him worth every penny.
Three months after pulling off a remarkable upset, the AFC South champion Jacksonville Jaguars are headed back to Pittsburgh to do something they’ve done before... beat the Steelers in the Burgh in the postseason. With New England the destination for the victor, if Jacksonville can hold off Mother Nature and the Steelers constricting defense, we could see the upset of the postseason thus far.
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