4u Steelers to win & Under 48.5 points @ $1.81 (Sportsbet)
3u Titans 2nd Half Team Points – Over 7.5 @ $1.99 (Sportsbet)
1u Steelers to win both halves @ $2.37 (Bet365)
Titans @ Patriots
The Pick: Titans 2nd Half Team Points – Over 7.5 @ $1.99 (Sportsbet)
Last week’s 18-point comeback win against the Chiefs in the Wildcard Weekend typifies just exactly what the Tennessee Titans are – inconsistent.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy playing in a no-huddle spread offense at Oregon, and there have previously been calls for the Titans to deviate from their “Exotic Smashmouth” offence that heavily relies on the quarterback playing under Center, to a similar scheme that Mariota played in in college.
If there was one game to be used to validate this argument, it was last week. The Titans were down 21-3 at half time, accumulating only 127 total yards and a depressing total of 5 first downs. Then, as we’ve seen before with this team, the Titans put a heavier reliance on the Quarterback in a more comfortable and familiar offence and it paid dividends. In the second half alone, the Titans gained 272 yards, 18(!) first downs, and went an amazing 7/7 on 3rd down conversions – scoring 3 touchdowns. Here’s the bad news for the Titans: expect them to come out with their stubborn “Exotic Smashmouth” against the Patriots, as they have done all season, and find it hard to spread out the opponent’s defence… also like they have done all season.
The Titans are ranked 25th in points scored in the first half on the road this season, averaging a dismal 6.9 points. Once the offence inevitably resolves to more of a “hurry up” offence when they are behind, the Titans average a more respectable 10.8 points in the second half – ranking them 15th in the league. The change of style heavily favours Mariota as he has thrown for only 3 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the first half, compared to 12 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in the second.
I can’t confidently bet either side of the 13.5 line that the bookmakers are offering as I see the Patriots coming hard out of the gates early, potentially setting up a minor comeback for the Titans to sneak through the backdoor of the line. But that is exactly why I like the Titans to score more than a touchdown in the second half.
Jaguars @ Steelers
Steelers to win & Under 48.5 points @ $1.81 (Sportsbet)
Steelers to win both halves @ $2.37 (Bet365)
Last week, Big Ben Roethlisberger publicly stated that he wanted to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs, and his dreams have come true.
The Jaguars absolutely embarrassed the Steelers on their home field the last time they played – winning 30-9 – so there is very little wonder as to why Roethlisberger wants redemption when the lights are a little brighter. In that game, the Steelers threw 5 interceptions (including 4 in the first half) and there were major questions asked of Offensive Coodinator Todd Haley as to why they threw the ball 55 times when they undoubtedly have the best Running Back in the league – LeVeon Bell.
I strongly believe Pittsburgh will overcorrect this mistake and run the ball for the majority of the day, opting not to overuse the passing game against the best passing defence in the league. Todd Haley should be targeting the Jags’ run defence as they concede the 8th most yards per carry with 4.3 yards on average. Running the ball equates to a large chunk of time coming off the clock, which means there is less time to score points, thus making the “under 48.5” very favourable.
The Jaguars advanced to the Divisional weekend with a very ugly 10-3 win at home against the Bills, and if they play anything like they did in that game, they are absolutely no chance to win this weekend against the Steelers. One of the reason as to why the win was so ugly was the play of their Quarterback, Blake Bortles, throwing for 12/23, 87 yards, and 1 touchdown. If I’m being honest, these stats actually don’t tell the whole story as Bortles was a lot worse than what these stats suggest. Bortles was missing wide open receivers on all types of routes, even on screens and dump passes. This is a great concern as Bortles has played very well at home this season, averaging 268 yards and a season TD-INT ratio of 15:5. There is little doubt that the tension and the tighter windows that are present in the playoffs got the better of Bortles, and I do not expect that to change this week at the Steelers as his TD:INT ratio drops drastically to 6:8 on the road this season.
I have brought up the theory before that the Jaguars are probably the best team in the league with a lead, and probably the worst team in the league when trailing. This comes down to the fact that although Blake Bortles can find an open receiver against defences that stack the box and anticipate the run due to the lead, he is incapable of playing well against teams that are anticipating a pass. This is evident in the fact that Bortles’ passer rating with the lead is 103.8, where as his passer rating is a miserable 66.1 when the Jaguars are trailing. This notion forces me to think that the Steelers will increase their half time lead.