The NFL regular season takes us to a thrilling showdown between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams bring their A-game to the Acrisure Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Week 8 of the 2023 season. This game will serve as a test of mettle for the teams, a strength-on-strength classic clash.
As we approach the middle of the season, both teams' performances in this game could significantly impact their journey to the playoffs. The Jaguars, riding high on a four-game winning streak, would look to consolidate their position at the top of the AFC South. The Steelers, on the other hand, would aim to build on their winning momentum and improve their standing in the AFC North.
What makes this midseason battle interesting is the current playoff seeding. If the season were to end today, the Jaguars would enter the playoffs as the No.4 seed; the Steelers would be No.5, resulting in a first-round Wild Card matchup. The Jaguars need to treat it as such.
The Jaguars: Riding High on Momentum
The Jaguars are undeniably in their element, having strung together an impressive four-game winning streak. Their triumphant 31-24 win against the Saints in the previous week has been a morale booster, positioning them on top of the AFC South with a 5-2 record.
Their potent offense is a significant factor in the Jaguars' current success. They have consistently scored at least 23 points in their last four victories. This offensive prowess has been critical to their success and made them the second-most profitable team this season. Their average score per game stands at an impressive 24.7 points, with a heightened average of 31.0 points per game over the last three weeks.
The Jaguars also stand at an advantage with extended rest time after their Thursday night win over the Saints. This additional time off the field has allowed them to recuperate and strategize for their impending match against the Steelers.
The Steelers: Holding the Fort
Conversely, the Steelers have been excellent against AFC teams this season. Their 75 percent winning percentage in conference games is second only to the Jaguars. Returning from a BYE week, the Steelers pulled off a stunning 24-17 win against the LA Rams.
Historically known for their tenacious defense, the Steelers have maintained their reputation this season. Despite some struggles on the offensive front — with an average score of 17.1 points per game - their defense has been formidable, giving up an average of 21.1 points per game.
The game against the Jaguars will be played at the Acrisure Field, the Steelers' home ground. This could give the Steelers a psychological edge, as they stand at a 2-1 win-loss ratio at home this season.
Jaguars vs Steelers: Early Picks & Predictions
While it's too early to make definitive predictions, the game is expected to be close. The Jaguars will try to break through the Steelers' robust defense with their offensive might. On the other hand, the Steelers will aim to exploit their home-ground advantage and continue their winning streak.
The most intriguing match-up everyone is looking forward to is the Trevor Lawrence Vs TJ Watt. Lawrence is emerging as a top NFL quarterback at just 24 years old, but Watts is the best and most terrifying pass rusher Lawrence has faced this season.
The Jaguars Offensive line has allowed Lawrence to be sacked 16 times this year, while Watts has gotten to the quarterback eight times in 2023 for 55 yards lost. The Jaguars line has faced the 10th-fewest blitzes in 2023 (42) but giving up an outrageous 58 pressures and 16 sacks on 18 hits.
Watt has 20 total pressures on the season with eight sacks, and he will constantly threaten Trevor Lawrence. If Lawrence can neutralize Watt and get the ball out quickly, keeping Travis Etienne and Evan Engram's insight as safety valves, they should prevail.
If the Jacksonville Jaguars pull this one off, they'll be 6-2 going into their BYE and finally get the respect they are overdue. Good luck and Godspeed, Mr. Lawrence, all of Duval is with you.