We’re a quarter of the way into the season, and thanks to last week’s Eagles at Chargers (Over 46) triumph, we remain undefeated on the campaign.
There’s only one perfect NFL team left as well, that of course being the Chiefs, so which will blink first and will it be this weekend? I’m feeling confident so let’s strive for five in Week 5.
Matt Zylbert’s 2017 NFL Over/Under Betting Record: 4-0, +400
Week 1: ARI/DET O48 (WIN)
Week 2: SF/SEA U42 (WIN)
Week 3: CIN/GB O44 (WIN)
Week 4: PHI/LAC O46 (WIN)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 100 dollars/units
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers
OVER 42 (-110)
Yes, with an undefeated record on the line, we’re partially putting our trust in the hands of the maddeningly inconsistent Blake Bortles. However, this over bet has more to do with the other side of the equation.
The Jaguars have looked great defensively in the early going, but they’re about to square off with one of the league’s most explosive offenses over the past several years. Interestingly, this potent unit anchored by stars like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell has seen the under go 4-0 in its first four games, but Week 5 is where that streak comes to an end.
First off, this is Pittsburgh’s second home game of the year, and bettors might want to be prepared for an outburst. Last season, the Steelers averaged 28.4 points per game in front of the hometown faithful at Heinz Field (including playoffs), easily besting their road average of 20.8.
Thus far in 2017, the Steelers’ lone home game has resulted in their highest scoring output — a mere 26 points in Week 2 versus the Vikings — which should mean an offensive scoring bump is due for the Black and Yellow boys.
For instance, Brown, arguably the best wide receiver in the league, has scored just one touchdown, which puts him on a pace for four. Four. Remember, this is a guy who has reached double digits in touchdowns in each of the past three years, totaling a whopping 35 scores over that span.
Roethlisberger is also on pace for his fewest touchdowns in a full season since 2011. But surely, these two star players should start producing closer to their norm as we go deeper into the campaign.
The key to Pittsburgh’s offensive attack on Sunday, however, could come down to the performance of Bell. As good as their defense has been, the Jaguars have actually surrendered the most rushing yards in the league (165.5 per game), and as a result, look for the Steelers to exploit that and have their way with their talented bell cow.
Ironically, the Jags are at the other end of the spectrum in pass defense, ranking first in passing yards allowed (147.0 per game), but don’t expect that average to hold up in this meeting between AFC clubs. Once the Steelers establish their running game, Roethlisberger will be in position to take advantage and contribute some useful numbers for over bettors. His supporting cast is just too talented to not break through.
Even if the Steelers strike for 30-plus points, we’re still going to need something from Jacksonville. Looking at the two likely scenarios in which this game will unfold, we should get what we’re looking for from that offense.
Think of it this way: if the Jaguars hang in there — or even miraculously pull off the upset — it will be because Bortles is on his game, which means his squad is putting some points on the board.
But in the more realistic scenario, which involves the Steelers winning this game decisively, it means the Jags will be trailing often, and who better in garbage time than Mr. Garbage Time himself?
According to analysis conducted by fivethirtyeight.com, Bortles has produced the NFL’s best QB Rating in “garbage time” scenarios over the past two seasons, defined as being in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter with the trailing team down multiple scores. Of course, in most cases, that’s the Jags.
Well, in such instances, Bortles has an incredible 111.0 QB Rating, completing 78 of 118 passes for 964 yards and 12 touchdowns while also only having four interceptions. Unsurprisingly, that trend has spilled over into 2017, and although the former No. 3 overall draft pick has only had one blowout loss up to this point, he still delivered in that scenario, leading Jacksonville to two garbage-time touchdowns in Week 2.
Bortles’ skill players around him certainly haven’t been bad. Leonard Fournette, of course, has been one of the standout rookies while looking like an early contender for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. After all, he’s scored in each of Jacksonville’s games while posting respectable numbers, too. Allen Hurns has also been solid, helping pick up the slack after fellow wideout Allen Robinson went down with a season-ending injury in the opener.
At the end of the day, this is an over bet that will rely a lot on how Big Ben and Co. fare following a somewhat lackluster start to their season. However, that’s something that Zylbert’s Law of Averages can help bring back to earth, and if we can get something as simple as a 31-13ish type outcome, that will be enough to propel this over wager and stay perfect.