Saturday football, and not the college variety! The NFL is playing games on the first day of the weekend again, meaning that the playoffs are nigh! While the first game on the docket is likely only going to be exciting to a subset of fans who are strongly invested in the playoff hopes of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the latter game is expected to be a hot contest between two AFC South teams with playoff aspirations of their own. So who is in, who is out, and who will sweat it out until the final whistles sound on Sunday? Let’s find out!
Steelers @ Ravens — 1:30pm — ABC/ESPN — O/U 35
The Baltimore Ravens are arguably the class of the NFL this year, and almost assuredly of the AFC. This is probably why they are actually the underdogs this week, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Since Lamar Jackson and co. have locked up the top overall seed in the AFC, they will be resting a number of starters with their eyes already set on the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Steelers are favored by slightly over a field goal in this one, as they actually have a lot to play for; while they aren’t exactly in a “win-and-in” or “lose-and-done” scenario, a win would give them a very solid shot to make it, and a loss would almost certainly knock them out. Since their game is the first on the slate this week, they won’t have the benefit of knowing the outcomes of any of the other contests that could impact their playoff positioning, so expect the Steelers to be giving it their all.
The pick: Over 35 points, Steelers win straight up and cover the spread.
Texans @ Colts — 5:15pm — ABC/ESPN — O/U 47.5
Later in the day, we will get to see a higher stakes game. The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts; now here is a matchup to get excited for! Not only is the winner of this game guaranteed a playoff spot, both of these squads have a chance at locking up the fourth seed in the AFC with a win. The latter part would require some assistance from the Tennessee Titans, but that game is set for Sunday, so expect both teams to come out swinging here. DraftKings Sportsbook is projecting a close one here, with the traveling Texans listed as favorites by barely more than a single point. C.J. Stroud is having a monster of a first season with Houston, while the Colts are woefully trotting out Gardner Minshew in lieu of their talented rookie QB Anthony Richardson, who we hardly got the chance to see before his season ended. Still, they have actually outscored the Texans on the season — albeit with one of the league’s worst scoring defenses. Houston, on the other hand, has been relatively pedestrian at putting points on the board, but they have had an above-average scoring defense. Call me unimpressed by the Colts, and you would be correct. Also, call me skeptical, but I think the over/under on this one is a bit lofty.