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One matchup that is going to be a huge impact on the race for the AFC playoffs in week seven of the 2023 NFL Season is going to be between the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-2) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2). These two teams while having their flaws are serious contenders for the playoffs and have legitimate hopes for a Super Bowl title. This game is one of only two games and the entire week seven slate of the season that will feature a matchup between two winning teams.
The Jacksonville Jaguars started the season with a 31-21 win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars went on to lose the next two games of their season, including a brutal 37-17 loss at home to the Houston Texans, who are in rebuild mode. Jacksonville was able to rebound with two big wins over the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills, both in London. The Jaguars are currently on a four-game winning streak.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost in week one to the San Francisco 49ers 30-7. They were able to win two games after the brutal week one loss with winds over the Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Raiders. Like the Jaguars, the Steelers suffered a brutal loss on the road to the Houston Texans. The Steelers have since rebounded by winning a key divisional matchup over the Baltimore Ravens and a big road game against the Los Angeles Rams.
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One player who does not get enough credit for the Jacksonville Jaguars' rise to becoming one of the top offenses in the AFC is running back Travis Etienne Jr. In seven games played, Etienne has rushed for 504 yards and seven touchdowns on 127 carries. He is averaging 72 yards per game on the ground. Ordinarily, it will be difficult for any running back to have a solid performance against Pittsburgh, the Steelers this year are not as efficient on the audience side of the ball as several of the past few seasons. Pittsburgh is ranked 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (142.3). If there is one game that can be a big shock to Steelers nation to pay attention to the problems on the defensive side of the ball instead of the offense, it would be this game with ET and as a big-time contributor.
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The Steelers’ offense deserves all the criticism possible for the terrible performances week in and week out. Many Steelers fans blame second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett while other fans say that running back Najee Harris is overrated. The biggest factor that all Pittsburgh fans can agree on is that offensive coordinator Matt Canada is ruining the offense and slowing down productivity. Players like Pickett and Harris are too talented to be held back by the terrible development and play-calling of Canada. Pickett will have a chance to account for a big game on Sunday against the Jaguars. The Jaguars are ranked 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game (273.9). Pickett has thrown for at least 220 yards and each of the games for Pittsburgh except the brutal 30-6 loss to the Houston Texans where Canada was atrocious. If there is any hope for progress after Canada is eventually let go, look no further than Pickett having a good game against Jacksonville.
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While rookie offensive tackle Broderick Jones has been a highly efficient player for Pittsburgh in his first year, there are still serious holes with the Steelers offensive line. This could be a game where Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen could have a potentially huge game and account for a sack or two. Allen has counted for seven sacks this season as he is on his way to becoming a serious contender for the Pro Bowl and defensive player of the year. In a game that features multiple Defensive Player of the Year winner in Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, it would be Allen who will have the big game on Sunday.
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Michael Hanich is a sports journalist/analyst with a wide variety of experience in the newspaper and digital field. He has a love for all sports. The leagues that he covers are College Football, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, College Basketball (men’s and women’s), the MLB, Lacrosse, Volleyball, and the WNBA.More info on Michael Hanich
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