My New Years resolution for 2018 was to simplify everything. I want to take “I am right” out of my thinking process and replace it with “How do I know I am right?”
The goal of doing so is to be more consistent in decision making and filter out poor snap second, emotional decisions. I have always admired chess players and their ability to stop, think and plan out what is going to happen in the future. The same for elite stock investors in their ability to balance between acting on a market and reacting to one.
This Sunday is the first bet of the year where I have deliberately carried out the thought process.
I have been waiting for the right time to fade Jacksonville. It has been interesting watching their market support swing drastically week to week since October.
I think the Jaguars are the best example of “fooled by randomness” the NFL has had in a long time. For every positive note bettors eat up, there is an underlying negative narrative.
Jacksonville has exceeded market expectation and covered point spreads at a high rate – but done so against the easiest schedule.
Blake Bortles stats are significantly better than years past ranking in the top half of the league – but he has scored just one touchdown in thirty fourth-quarter drives.
Jacksonville finished the season with a +149 point differential – but, they scored the first touchdown in their 11 wins (including playoffs) and gave up the first touchdown in their 6 losses.
Simply put, the team has not been tested and folds at the first sight of adversity.
There is only one type of game in which the Jaguars can have success. They need to score early, get a lead, lean on their rushing attack to drive the offense and permit their defense to be aggressive outside and pressure at the line. Pittsburgh is a team that can control the clock on the ground, provide good support in the pocket and takes advantage of small openings across the middle.
The current Steelers team is exactly what Jacksonville will have difficulty preparing for and defending.
An obvious point I need to address is the early September loss Pittsburgh had vs. Jacksonville.
To me the loss is a positive. The game in September followed an emotional win over rival Baltimore and it was evident that Mike Tomlin did little to game-plan. Ben Roethlisberger dropped back and attempted more passes than any other game this season. Everything Jacksonville wanted Pittsburgh to do – they did.
I have said many times, Tomlin is a terrible coach, but, he has proven this season in games that matter that he is very good at executing on the easiest game plan possible.
The formula for Pittsburgh success against Jacksonville is elementary. Give Bell more than thirty touches and take advantage of short passes in tight windows. Success on Sunday is learning from recent mistakes. He can’t screw this up.
The early season loss to Jacksonville is arguably the low point of the Steelers season – even more embarrassing than their late loss to New England. How much does it ignite the revenge angle? This Steelers team is full of emotional veterans who do not forget.
Getting another shot at the very vocal and chippy Jacksonville defense could provide Pittsburgh with the little something extra to come out and make a statement at home.
The betting market on this game is equally interesting to me as the in-game situation. The look-ahead line on this game at low limits was Pittsburgh -4 1/2. Bookmakers moved it a full three points after Jacksonville beat Buffalo in their wildcard game. The key number of 7 was disregarded in the process. Bookmakers are very confident in the Steelers and are willing to take a stand and not give in to the number of bettors backing Jacksonville. In fact, they are encouraging a liability. Anti-bookmaking at its finest.
Anytime Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense has been forced to make a decision this season, they have crumbled.
When Pittsburgh takes the opening drive down the field and scores a touchdown, the Jaguars are immediately on the breaking point. Bortles accuracy issues were evident against Buffalo. This week in the cold against a relentless Steelers defense and home crowd, passing mistakes can pile up in a hurry. As long as Tomlin stays committed to Bell, Roethlisberger can be patient and take four to seven yards at a time against this stout Jaguars defense.
I think this game gets ugly in a hurry. I have waited a long time for this one.
Pittsburgh by double digits. Make it count.