Wednesday, January 02, 2008

NFL WildCard Playoffs Pre-Game Analysis: Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

Jacksonville Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do let your two headed running attack go buck wild on the Pittsburgh D. In game one Fred Taylor and Mo-Jo-Dro had 37 combined carries for 216 yards (5.84 yards per carry).

Do torment Big Ben. You sacked the wannabe golden boy 5 times in the first meeting, yet he still torched you for 3 TDs. Keep the pressure on him.

Don’t rely too much on the passing game. Yes, David Garrard has been key for you all season, but that’s due to the awesome running game. Don’t switch things up now.

Don’t let the Steelers’ long injury list fool you. The Steelers define the word “grit” and will come out swinging.

Don’t get cocky. Many writers, including one here on PHSports, have labeled you as a “hot” team entering the playoffs and Vegas has you as 1.5 point favorites. Don’t buy the hype … show up to play.

Pittsburgh Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do make use of your home-field edge. The condition of the turf is pathetically horrid, so practice on it all week long. That’s what makes it “home-field advantage” … you get to know the field (plus you have thousands of fans screaming for you).

Do stack 7 men in the box on defense. Take a page from the Washington/Minnesota week 16 game and make the Jags beat you through the air. It’s not a surefire strategy, but it’s easier to beat a one-dimensional team.

Don’t give up the running game. Najeh Davenport is a solid back and can pound away at that Jacksonville front 4. Even if you’re struggling to establish the run, keep with it.

Don’t underestimate David Garrard. While he probably can’t beat you entirely on his own, he also won’t lose the game for his team with stupid mistakes. Focus on your run D, not on hoping that Garrard makes errant throws.

Don’t let Big Ben ride a motorcycle. Sorry, had to.

Key Matchups:

When Jacksonville has the ball
Fred Taylor/Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Pittsburgh’s Front 7
The two RBs are Jacksonville’s bread and butter, in that order. Pittsburgh will need to stack the box and add Polumalu to the mix as well. If they don’t, then I wouldn’t be surprised with a 6-7 ypc average for the Jags’ duo.

When Pittsburgh has the ball
TE Heath Miller vs. FS Reggie Nelson
Roethlisberger will need to settle his nerves early and throughout this game, and he’ll need his TE to be reliable in order to do that. Reggie Nelson (and the rest of Jacksonville’s D) will have to rough Miller up regularly and keep him from making solid grabs. If they can do that, Big Ben might be feel pressured enough to make regular mistakes.


Like I referenced earlier, the Steelers are suffering from a long list of injuries. Those with minor bumps and bruises will need to step up and play like the blue-collar community they represent. And the second and third-stringers who will get to see solid playing time will need to drop the playoff jitters too, or else it’ll be a long day for the Steel crew.

Field Condition
Another earlier mentioned factor, field condition, will be a major issue as well. Fred Taylor has already expressed his concerns about the field, and based on earlier showings he’s got a point. If there’s any inclement weather, this will be a really, really ugly game.

Final Score Prediction:
Jacksonville wins, 27-17.

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