I thought for sure this would be a cold weather war of conservative offense, where the teams just tried not to make a critical mistake and force the other team to make the mistake(s)…and have that as a path to victory. The next thing I knew it was 28-7 Jags’ offensive explosion with time still remaining before the half.
With a few minutes before the half, and a 21-point lead, I was ready to write this game off as a big Jags win…I was already counting my money from the Jags +the points wager. Surely, the Steelers wouldn’t convert a 1st-down on 4th & 11 at the Jags 36-yard line with 0:25 left ‘til halftime. They didn’t convert a first, I mean I guess they did…improbably hitting on a 36-yard bomb TD to a wide open Martavis Bryant. Are you serious? How could the Jags let that happen?
The next thing you know…the Steelers blow right out of the gates in the 2nd-half and cut the lead to 28-21. Now, we have a ball game. I think we all thought…damn, if the Steelers aren’t coming back from being down 21 points not too long ago. Suddenly, I go from my wager having a 28-point (21-point lead and getting +7) cushion to now only 14…and shrinking.
The Jags fired back…boosting up to a 35-21 lead. Sweet! No way the Steelers will push back against the Jags D…no more 4th-down luck could happen again, right? The next drive, the Steelers pop a 43-yard TD bomb to Antonio Brown on 4th & 5…down to 35-28 Jags.
The #2 and #7 defenses in the league during the regular-season…they couldn’t stop each other this day.
The Jags answer that score with another score…42-28 Jacksonville with 4:46 left. Surely, this game has to be in hand, now? Right before the two-minute warning…the Steelers score again. 42-35 Jags.
Jacksonville grabs a bad onside kick attempt by the Steelers and quickly get a long field goal to take a 45-35 lead. It has to be over now, right? Nope. The Steelers score again to cut the lead to 45-42, but they did so with only one second remaining so finally the pinball action ended with a failed onsides kick attempt.
In one of the most odd, entertaining, 38-points-scored-in-the-4th-quarter games you’ll ever see…the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Steelers for a second time this season, and advance to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship.
The Steelers likely botched their last/best chance at a Super Bowl title with their current star-studded lineup. Part of the issue is they lost Ryan Shazier. We’ve seen Dallas and Carolina’s defenses meltdown when their stud inside linebackers were hurt for games this season. You have to overcome injury in the NFL…and the Steelers could not overcome the loss of Shazier. The Jags have been relatively healthy all season…it’s just one of those seasons.
I suspect Ben Roethlisberger might hang them up in a few weeks, and if so…there’s no sense signing Le’Veon Bell to a massive deal if a reboot is underway. Pittsburgh could be a very different looking football team in 2018…or look the same exact way today going for one more ride with Ben. I think this was probably ‘it’. Everything sounds like he’s still playing…let’s see in a few weeks after he’s moved past the sting of this game.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- I don’t know what’s more stunning to me…
The fact that the Jaguars OFFENSE has scored 30+ points in a game in five of their last 7 games (including playoffs) or the fact that the Jaguars DEFENSE has allowed 30+ in two of their last 4 games, and have allowed 24 or more points in four of their last 8 games?
The Jags defense held opponents to 20 or fewer points (in regulation) in eight of their first 10 games. They were the #1 defense in the NFL with a bullet. But suddenly a theme is emerging…either they’ve been figured out and/or good/great QBs have no issues with them.
Ben just dropped 45 on them. Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers to 44 points against them in Week 16. Russell Wilson got Seattle to 24 points vs. the Jags a few weeks before that. Jared Goff breezed to 27 points on them earlier this season. Basically, the Jags have smoked bad QBs + Big Ben that one time in Week 5…and all hell has been breaking loose otherwise. They’ve squashed Tyrod, Mariota, Yates, Brissett, Kizer, Dalton, Brissett, Flacco, Savage this season….and Big Ben that one time.
I think the Jaguars defense has ‘jumped the shark’. They are probably going to give up 25-40 points to the Patriots. Oddly, the Jags are scoring points just as fast as their defense is giving them up. The Jags should score 25+ themselves as well if trending holds.
Up is down and left is right with the Jaguars…suddenly they are a team with a terrible defense giving up a ton of points with one of the highest scoring offenses in the league – scoring better than the Patriots! Yet, you watch them and marvel at their defensive talent and can’t believe Blake Bortles is allowed to play in the NFL? So how is the defense melting and offense thriving of late?
I’ll bet the Jaguars will be everyone’s top fantasy DST for 2018. I can already tell you…they’re not going to be ours. Not unless some radical changes occur this offseason. We called this current Jags defensive uprising in the summer of 2017 (our #2-3 DST projection for 2017)…and we used it for fantasy goodness all year. I think we might be first in…and first out on them. It may be time to ‘sell high’ on this DST. Not that they will be a bust, but they may have peaked/been figured out.
-- What Ben Roethlisberger (37-58 for 469 yards, 5 TDs/1 INT) did in this game, against a team that crushed him last outing…the 4th-down on the money throws – Ben put on a clinic. Ben looks better now, still viable to play more than Tom Brady does…and that’s not a slam at Tom. It’s like Ben got better as this season went on.
Ben seems older than he is…just 36.5 years old to start next season if he returns. About 4 years younger than Brady. 21 TD passes in his last 7 games, including this playoff.
These ‘old’ QBs just keep chugging. Ben-Brady-Brees will likely all be top 10 fantasy projections for 2018 preseason/redraft…but maybe none of them in the top five? (in no particular order) Rodgers-Jimmy G.-Wilson-Dak-Wentz-Watson-Goff-Cam will all be contending for the top five next year, you’d think.
The value of the fantasy QB is declining as the supply is rising.
-- Some of the plays Antonio Brown (7-132-2/11) made in this game were unreal, especially considering the quality of talent he had covering him on his big plays.
I watch Antonio Brown here and after seeing another round of Julio Jones this weekend and watching Michael Thomas later the same day…it’s not even close how good Antonio is compared to the rest of the field as pure WR talents. Not a full slam on everyone else just praise for Brown.
It’s nice to say all that but what if Ben is not back next year? Would you rank Antonio as your #1 fantasy WR with Sam Bradford or Tyrod Taylor or Josh Dobbs or any rookie in this draft class at QB in 2018? This could very well be the dilemma fantasy GMs face in a few weeks/months.
-- I finally get my long-time, long suffering breakout Vance McDonald (10-112-0/16) in the playoffs? Come on! I’ve been ‘too early’ on VMD since he entered the league with the 49ers. Too early and ranked too high every preseason.
I liked Vance a lot on the move to Pittsburgh…but then he got hurt every other series it seemed and never gained any traction. Finally, a full game and featuring in the pass game as a weapon here -- and we get the 10-112-0 on 16 targets. I’ve been waiting for several years for this type of action to happen. And it arrives when I can’t use it for regular season fantasy football.
I want to believe in VMD next year, but I’ve been burned by love so often here. He has top 10 fantasy TE scoring ability, possible top 5…but can he stay healthy and will Ben be back? I’m not sure and I’m not sure.
-- Somehow the Jaguars scored 45 points and beat the Steelers at Pittsburgh with Blake Bortles completing 14 passes, 53.9% of his attempts for a flimsy 214 yards and 1 TD.
In two playoff games, Bortles is averaging 53.1% completion percentage and 150.5 yards a game passing.
I’m delighted by this Jaguars uprising, in general, but I think I’ve had enough of it now. If this team wins the Super Bowl…they have to bring back Bortles, and other teams will be emboldened to keep playing dull, between-the-tackles running games, and winning via tough guy contests over who can stop who’s running game. I want the new-style, wide-open offenses…not a trip back to the 1970s. If the Jags win it, people will copy them and set back NFL offensive progress for another few years.
Why would Allen Robinson come back to this? Why would the Jags need him to?
-- Keelan Cole (1-45-0/2) getting forced out of snaps by Dede Westbrook (1-8-0/3) makes me want the Jags to lose even more. A star was being born and then the Jags did what NFL teams always do…push down the UDFA player and push the D1 school, draft status name.
At least, Cole made a monster catch on a Bortles wounded duck going to the end zone on a deep pattern between two defenders where Cole adjusted and the defenders couldn’t keep up. It was a big play in the game. Meanwhile, Westbrook couldn’t get open and dropped a key pass over the middle.
I love Cole as a talent, and have since I first laid eyes on him this preseason -- but I know he’s all but screwed with a team like the Jags. Only injury to others can save his career from being wasted the next 2-3-4 years. It’s the only ay he’ll get a shot…like this season.
-- The Steelers had two no-contest games at the end of the season (Weeks 16-17 with HOU and CLE), before that they had two huge games with BAL-NE…and IDP Sean Davis (12 tackles) registered 12 and 10 tackles in those two games and led all Steelers with 12 tackles this game. Davis was playing well before…but when Ryan Shazier went down, Davis picked up a lot of slack.
Davis has a chance to be a top 5-10 IDP scorer at safety and should be a Pro Bowl’er as well in 2018.
Snap Counts of Interest…
42 = Westbrook
39 = M Lee
23 = Keelan Cole
17 = Hurns
68 = Vance McDonald
17 = Jesse James
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