It is Week 1 the NFL Preseason and with the Hall of Fame game completed, those placing football picks are excited to have a greater variety to choose from over the next several days.
For a number of years the Steelers and Jaguars was a very heated rivalry which was on par in terms of physical play with any Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh battle. Those days have passed as Jacksonville slipped to the lowest depths of the NFL, while the Steelers remain a model franchise and are respected by NFL football handicappers everywhere.
Pittsburgh already has a game under their belt from Sunday's contest which gives them a bit of an edge, but coach Mike Tomlin is not expected to treat this as true Week 2 of the preseason, though his main players might be a little more action, which would be cause of rethinking the Steelers odds.
Pittsburgh Report -
Most sportsbooks futures NFL odds have the Steelers at O/U 9 wins for the season and they are either the fourth of fifth choice presently to emerge as the AFC champion.
Though Pittsburgh won the AFC North last year with an 11-5 (7-9 ATS) record, they got hot late, winning and covering their final four games. They were quickly dismissed in the playoffs by Baltimore at home 30-17 as a field goal favorite.
The offense we will see during the regular season will not resemble what we be shown on Friday night. Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley might not agree on everything but their combined production is hard to ignore. If this group can put up similar numbers to last season, watch out.
The larger concern for the Steelers is a revamped defense which finished just 18th in total defense last season, transitioning away from an elder group to much younger. In the opener, you could not help but be impressed with inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier and Sean Spence. They set an aggressive stance and with second-year defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt showing more effort, this defensive looks on the rise.
The greatest concern about Pittsburgh at this time is the loss of kicker Shaun Suisham to a torn ACL. No team likes to audition kickers, but Tomlin has to now and one has to wonder early in the season about this for sports picks.
Jacksonville Report -
The last three years the Jaguars have won nine total games out of 48 (18-28-2 ATS) and with head coach Gus Bradley in his third season, hard to imagine anything less the seven wins might mean a third new coach in five years.
Expectations start to emerge for quarterback Blake Bortles to come through in his second year and a thoroughly rebuilt offensive line is presumed (wishful thinking?) to help the passing and running games. The additions of rookie running back T.J. Yeldon and free agent TE Julius Thomas should make Jacksonville much stronger in the red zone.
The Jags defense can improve, but only if the defensive line return to 2013 form. Jacksonville is at best average in the back seven, which is why coach Bradley and his defensive coaches are really placing an emphasis on forcing turnovers.
Wagerweb has Jacksonville set at six for win total and it is hard to imagine they will surpass that figure.
Pittsburgh - Roethlisberger - Bruce Gradkowski -Landry Jones
Jacksonville - Bortles - Chad Henne - Stephen Morris
Odds and What to Look For
After learning Suisham was officially out, the released betting odds were a Pick with a total of 36.5. Because Pittsburgh is farther along in their development and has a deeper more skilled roster, with this game listed as a Pick, the Steelers look like the right choice and win this AFC affair by three to six points.
NFL Pick: Pittsburgh at Pick