The Jaguars enter their week five matchup with the Steelers trying to erase the memory of an embarrassing loss to the Jets, while the Steelers are coming off a big win over division rival Baltimore. There are a number of intriguing matchups on both sides of the ball - in fact this might be one of the most enticing matchups, on paper, in the NFL this year. The Jaguars elite interior pass rushers vs the Steelers interior offensive lineman, who have yet to give up a sack in 2017; The Jaguars rag tag group of WRs vs the second highest rated secondary in football; The Jaguars offensive line vs the defense that's recorded the second most sacks in 2017; The Jaguars league worst run defense vs perhaps the best back in football, Le'Veon Bell; The list goes on and on, however there's one matchup that stands out above the rest.
The Jaguars CBs vs the Steelers WRs is what it's all about. In the modern NFL the passing game is the pièce de résistance - it's what we're all here to see. And in this contest we see the best group of lockdown corners against the most explosive group of receivers in football. The excitement extends well beyond just the marquee names - the Jaguars' Aaron Colvin is one of the best nickel cornerbacks in football and has a knack for getting after opposing QBs, while the Steelers will deploy a bevy of speed receivers including Darius Hayward-Bay, Eli Rodgers, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
But I'm going to take a look at the cream of the crop - Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant vs Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye.
The Steelers starting receivers may be the best duo in the league, if not the best they're likely the most talented. Antonio Brown has been an elite receiver for the last half decade and might be the most complete receiver in football. Despite standing only 5'10'' Brown beats corners, big and small, with ease. He's an expert route runner, possesses amazing hands and body control, and can leap with the best of them. On the other side Martavis Bryant is even more of a freak than his counterpart. Bryant, who missed all of 2016 due to suspension, has yet to make the huge impact expected from him in 2017, but the talent is still there. Drafted in 2014 out of Clemson, Bryant stands 6'4'' tall and weighs in at over 210 pounds. He might be the freakiest athlete at the WR position in all of football outside of Julio Jones. He has speed to burn and a ridiculous catch radius. Bryant has yet to complete a full season in the NFL, but there have been glimpses of just what he can be.
For the Jaguars, Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye have been a revelation at the CB position. After struggling to defend the pass for much of the last decade Ramsey and Bouye have entered the fold and completely changed the position in Jacksonville. Ramsey enters week five having only allowed seven catches on the season, and while Bouye has been targeted 24 times, he's only surrendered 11 completions and allowed a QB rating of under 40. They've combined for three interception so far, with Bouye hauling in two of them.
This is a matchup worthy of the Gods. But how will the Jaguars play it?
The Jags could have Ramsey shade Brown all day in an attempt to shut down the most productive receiver in football OR they could have Bouye cover Brown with a little help over the top or in the middle, leaving Ramsey to shut down the speedy Bryant.
However the Jaguars decide to deploy their two elite CBs, they'll be facing their biggest test of 2017. With Brown and Bryant the Jaguars can't make even the smallest of mistakes or it'll surely be six. But that can be said for Ramsey and Bouye too. If either receiver has a slip up either one of these ball hawking CBs can come down with a pick and they're always a threat to take it for six when they get their hands on the ball.
If the Jaguars CBs continue to shine in this one, there will be no debating their supremacy. But the Jaguars will also need to slow down Le'Veon Bell and the Steelers rushing attack in order to achieve victory over the Steelers. If they do, the Jaguars will find themselves 3-2 and either in sole possession or tied for the division lead. If the season ended today the Jaguars would be the AFC South division champs.
Which matchup are you most excited to watch this week? Let us know in the comments below.
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