Saturday, January 05, 2008

Steelers-Jaguars Preview

Welcome to Wild Card weekend! I am excited and nervous about tonight’s Steelers-Jaguars game, so I have been searching the web to see what the “experts” think.

The ESPN folks made the following predictions:
Salisbury – Jaguars
Hoge – Jaguars
Jaworski – Jaguars
Schlereth – Jaguars
Allen – Jaguars
Mortensen – Jaguars
Golic – Jaguars
Wickersham – Jaguars (who the heck is Wickersham?)

In addition, Hank Goldberg picked the Jaguars on Sportscenter this morning and Bill Simmons chose the Jaguars in his column yesterday.

Over at Deadspin, five of the seven picks went for the Jags:
Cool Standings – Steelers
Football Outsiders – Jaguars
Michael David Smith – Jaguars
Big Daddy Drew – Jaguars
Dan Shanoff – Jaguars
AJ Daulerio – Jaguars
Deadspin – Steelers

Cris Carter on Yahoo picked the Jaguars as did Peter King and Dr. Z (he’s probably as real of a doctor as McDreamy) at Sports Illustrated. On CBS Sports, Harmon, Prisco, Judge, Davis, Richard, and “Spin” also selected the Jaguars to win.

Based on my detailed statistical analysis, 29 experts chose the Jaguars to win tonight and only two feel that the Steelers will win. That seems like a clear majority for the Jaguars, so they shouldn’t even play the game tonight. I guess NFL rules, NBC and the Rooney family are the only reason why this game will be played.

Now I certainly understand why everyone is picking Jacksonville. They defeated the Steelers in Pittsburgh 29-22 just last month and the Steelers are playing without injured Marvel Smith, Aaron Smith, Max Starks and Willie Parker. However, the Steelers are playing at home where they had a 7-1 record this season. The team also has twenty players who have appeared in five or more playoff games. Something that has not been discussed (except for the Post-Gazette today) is the fact that this is Jacksonville QB David Garrard’s first playoff game. He’ll be playing in a difficult environment that will be much tougher than the game in Pittsburgh last month. Yes, he had a terrific season and the Jags rely heavily on the running game, but can he be mistake-free today and lead the Jags to victory? I say no.

Just as I was about to publish this story the ESPN NFL Countdown show aired the following statistic: Quarterbacks making their first playoff start since 2005 are 0-7 with a 55.7 QB rating. Apparently, these folks care little about these statistics as Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson, Emmitt Smith and Chris Berman all pick the Jaguars. Tom Jackson replies by saying that he is the only person in America picking the Steelers. You’re not alone Tom; Deadspin, Cool Standings and I are with you!

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