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Jaguars v. Steelers: Wednesday News and Notes, Injury and Stats edtion

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Injury Report:

Let's start our preparations for Saturday's Playoff Game with a look at some potential injury situations on both teams.  At least as much as we can ascertain from the limited information that us mere mortals on the internet can acquire.

Our favorite Middle Linebacker, Mike Peterson, is already ruled "out" for this week's game with the Steelers.  Team Doctors have not cleared him to play because he's still in a cast and Del Rio won't let him rejoin the team till he's out of the plaster.

For the Jaguars, this really isn't a big deal.  The only real "news" here is that Peterson has not been placed on the Injured Reserve list, so he'll be available for future games, at least in theory.

Of course, I also speculate that perhaps Peterson has a contract thing that if he's placed on the IR list he might be financially hurt or lose an incentive that he's secured, and maybe the team is rewarding him by not deactivating him for the season, but that's is a complete and total guess.

But the combination of Daryl Smith, Justin Durant and Clint Ingram is doing just fine without Peterson.  They're 4-1 in "real games", with Peterson out, so no need to panic.  And to be honest, it's not like there's much of a running game for Peterson to stuff this week.

Other Injuries of Note

Backup Running Back LaBrandon Toefield missed practice on Tuesday with an ankle injury, as well as backup Cornerback Aaron Glenn.  

The Pittsburgh Steelers had to place Lineman Max Starks on the Injured Reserve with a Knee Injury sustained in their final game against the Baltimore Ravens.  Starks played in all 16 games this season, often at left tackle.   The Steelers continued their bad habit of getting injured late in the season.  They've lost their best running back, defensive tackle, and a full time starter in Starks in the last three weeks.  Un-lucky, that's what they are.

NFL.com explains some of the Steelers Injury woes, and boy is it scary:

At left tackle, there's Trai Essex, then no one. At fullback, there's Carey Davis, then no one. At right tackle, there's Willie Colon, then no one...Strong safety Troy Polamalu made the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive season but, bothered by knee and shoulder injuries, has only infrequently been the player he was in the past. Wide receiver Hines Ward (knee), Cornerbacks Deshea Townsend (foot) and Bryant McFadden (ankle), kick returner Allen Rossum (hamstring) and Roethlisberger (sprained ankle) also aren't 100 percent healthy.

Predictions and Miscellany:

Stats!!!

One of my favorite writers out there is Brian Burke of NFL Stats  He's primarily focused on win/loss predictions, and he's got a pretty strong record of 73% accurate.  To our right is his mathematical predictions for "wild card weekend", with Jacksonville having a 55% probability of victory.  Other things, as I'll illustrate below, give similar "odds".  The only thing I'd take from this is that no matter what happens, the outcome on Saturday is by no means a sure thing.  Jacksonville still has to defeat a team twice while on the road, which is never an easy thing.

ESPN, in all their infinite wisdom, decided to "rank" all the playoff coaches.  Here's what they say about Jack Del Rio:

7. Jacksonville Jaguars
From changing QBs prior to the start of the season to on-field coaching decisions, Jack Del Rio has been outstanding this season. Del Rio has matured as a coach this season and is now one of the best head coaches in the NFL. The addition of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter benefited QB David Garrard and the rest of the offense. The staff as a whole has matured and changed, but the philosophies have remained the same. The Jaguars are not a fancy team and the players know what is expected of them every week, which is to be physical on both sides of the ball.
 I know that 7th sounds a bit underwhelming, but my only beef would be putting the 2007 incarnation of Joe Gibbs at 4th higher than Del Rio, I'll let him sit behind Gruden, Fisher, Holmgren, Dungy and Belichick, but not Gibbs.  Jack is used to only using one time out at a time, not two.  (Cheap Shot, I know, the Redskins have done a great job in the last few weeks)

Continuing my ESPN Linking, let's take a look at their "statistical breakdown" of the matchup.  A bunch of this stuff is insider only, so pay no mind to the links.

First off, their "accuscore game forecast", explained here uses some sort of amalgamation of 10,000 game simulations to determine the most likely outcome.  They are accurate about 55% of the time, so keep that in mind .

On Offense, they have this to say:

If both teams play to their potential the Jaguars will win. In average simulations David Garrard turns the ball over half as much as Ben Roethlisberger and Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew run for over 4 ypc vs just 3.5 for the Willie Parker-less Steelers. With these teams an advantage in the running game and turnover margin translates into a win. For Pittsburgh to win they will have to go against their traditional game plan and let Ben Roethlisberger try to win the game through the air. In simulation victories, Roethlisberger completes 66 percent of his passes for 1.7 TDs per sim and just 0.8 INTs. In losses he averages just 230 yards and more INTs than TD passes. This pass heavy strategy results in a higher percentage of Jaguars blowouts, but it also gives the Steelers a better chance of winning.

Their simulation produces an average score of Jacksonville 21, Steelers 19, with the Jaguars winning 54% of the time to the Steelers 45%.  Vegas, on the other hand,  puts the Jaguars as 2 point underdogs or coin flips across the board.  At one point, according to Pro Football Talk the Jags were one point favorites, but with the ten billion Steelers fans laying down money, the line shifted.  

So there you go, a slightly esoteric look at what we've got ahead of us on Saturday.

I'll be back in a bit, I'm still down in Miami, so I'm slightly distracted...

-Chris