Only five teams have averaged fewer points per game than the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. Yet, as we head into week eight, Pittsburgh is sporting a 4-2 matchup heading into their meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars. With both teams on winning streaks, I’ll delineate why the Jaguars' winning streak is more sustainable and will continue past this weekend.
When the Jaguars lost in week three to the Texans, they were staring at a 1-2 record and facing a lot of questions about their offense. Instead of leaning into their struggles, Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars made some quick adjustments that have led to a four-game winning streak in which they are averaging 29 points per game.
Not only do they have the momentum of a winning streak, but Jacksonville also got a few extra days of rest since their last game was a 31-24 win over the Saints on Thursday Night Football.
Jacksonville’s offensive performance was vital since the Saints continued the trend of teams trying to exploit the Jaguars secondary. No team in the league is seeing more passing attempts against them than the Jaguars, which has resulted in them allowing an average of 273.9 passing yards per game, the second-highest average in the league. One of the intriguing storylines heading into this weekend is whether or not the Steelers will try the same approach despite ranking 26th in pass attempts per game.
Pittsburgh might be 4-2 this season, but it’s hard to credit that record to the offense since they rank 27th in points and 31st in yards per game. Over their last three games, Pittsburgh has managed just one passing touchdown, and all season, they have relied on their defense's ability to force turnovers to give them good field position instead of sustaining drives.
After only scoring three points in the first half last weekend against the Rams, the Steelers used a TJ Watt interception to score their first touchdown of the game and swing the momentum. Two weeks prior against the Ravens, the Steelers forced three more turnovers to get the win despite scoring just one offensive touchdown.
Playing in their second straight road game, the Jaguars are currently listed as (-2.5) point favorites, and I’ll be taking them for my pick. Pittsburgh using their defense or special teams to bail out their offense is not sustainable, especially against a team like the Jaguars.
Pittsburgh has not put up an offensive EPA better than (5.43) this season, and they don’t seem to be making any changes to fix that. There is an overwhelming lack of explosiveness in the Steelers' offense, which plays into the hands of the Jaguars' defense since they have allowed the third most deep passing yards, per FantasyPros. If Pittsburgh can’t attack the weaknesses of the Jacksonville defense, I don’t see how they can stay in the game.
Trevor Lawrence has the Jags' offense playing at a high level at the moment, but I think Travis Etienne Jr. will be the key for Jacksonville this weekend. Pittsburgh is 28th in rushing yards allowed per game and has allowed the 4th highest yards after contact per attempt, per FantasyPros. As long as Jacksonville limits turnovers, I think they can put an end to the Steelers two game winning streak.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5)