The Jacksonville Jaguars host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a “must-win” situation for the home team on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field.
I know Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone hates to use the term “must-win” when talking about the team’s season and the fact they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Unfortunately, that is where this team sits right now.
As the fourth best team in the AFC South and 12th in the overall conference standings, a lot has to happen for this team to overcome some huge obstacles and make the playoffs. The first step in getting there is beating their rival on Sunday. Pittsburgh, a team that lost two games last season at home to Jacksonville, has revenge on its mind and is currently a 3.5-point favorite.
The Steelers are 6-2-1 and leading the AFC North with five consecutive victories.
"“They are playing good. They are having a good year this far and it’s a chance for us to get back on track,” quarterback Blake Bortles said when he met with the media on Wednesday."
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Bortles said in order for Jacksonville to beat their opponent the Jaguars have to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, something they did well last year in the 30-9 win in Week 5 last season and then in the AFC Divisional Game, a 45-42 win at Heinz Field.
The Jaguars got some good news prior to the team’s practice. Cornerback A.J. Bouye is expected to be a participant, although it was in a limited capacity. The All-Pro missed the last two games with a calf injury. The secondary could use his services this week as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had a solid season so far throwing for 21 touchdowns against only seven interceptions.
The Jaguars ran the football more than they had in weeks with the return of Leonard Fournette in the backfield. Using the run game more effectively against the Indianapolis Colts allowed Bortles to throw for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
The offensive line played better last week, keeping Bortles upright and did not allow a sack. The unit will have to contend with the Steelers pass rush. Losing center Brandon Linder to a knee injury last week is a big blow to the team, but Tyler Shatley will play in his place, the same as he did last season at Pittsburgh in the regular season game.
Bortles said having Fournette in the game created a feeling of what the Jaguars wanted to do all season long. Familiarity is something this team needs as injuries have decimated the offensive side of the ball this year.
"“It was good to have him back. It was good to have him in there,” said Bortles. “"
Fournette accounted for 109 yards of total offense and two touchdowns last week in the 29-26 loss.