Neither team has quit on the season yet, but the loser of Monday night's clash of the 3-7 Pittsburgh Steelers and 4-6-1 Indianapolis Colts should start looking to 2023.
Mike Tomlin has never had a sub-.500 season in Pittsburgh, but his team will need to win seven of their last eight games to avoid posting the Steelers' first losing record since 2003.
They should gain more insight into whether rookie triggerman Kenny Pickett can be their long-term starter in the remainder of the season, while the Colts seem increasingly likely to look for a franchise quarterback in the next draft.
Indy have covered the spread in Jeff Saturday's first two career games as a head coach and could hold a psychological edge over a Steelers team that haven't beaten the Colts since 2008, when Peyton Manning was under center.
What: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Indianapolis Colts
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
When: 20:15 ET/ 17:15 PT Monday, November 28th 2022
How to watch: ESPN & stream via fuboTV
Odds: PIT Steelers +130, IND Colts -150
Both of these teams should have been running the ball more up to this point. It's bizarre to see the Colts in the NFL's bottom six for running play percentage given they have the 2021 rushing king Jonathan Taylor in the backfield.
In fairness, Indianapolis have gotten back to gashing opponents on the ground in recent weeks with Taylor finally healthy again.
He rushed for 84 yards and a score on 22 carries last week, and goes up against a Steelers defense allowing 103.4 rushing yards per game.
That sort of matchup will probably lead to plenty of action on Taylor's rushing yards prop, for which he is -220 to top 86.5 yards in the game.
But, although he rushed for over 45 yards and got the touchdown on the opening drive of the Colts' 17-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week, he was bottled up for most of the final three quarters.
The return of TJ Watt from seven games out with an injured pectoral muscle is already making a big impact on an inconsistent Steelers' D.
Watt recorded his sixth career INT in last week's 30-37 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and his record of causing chaos in the Colts backfield is scary.
The All-Pro outside linebacker had two sacks and a forced fumble in the last meeting and is looking to tally at least 1.5 sacks for the third game in a row against Indy.
The Steelers' 28th-ranked defense is statistically the worst in the NFL against the pass, but stacks up much better against the run - ranking seventh in the league right now.
Overall, the unit will benefit from having Minkah Fitzpatrick back for his second game after his appendix was removed during Week 10.
He and Watt are the stars of Pittsburgh's defense, but third-year OLB Alex Highsmith has contributed nine sacks while Myles Jack leads the team with 48 tackles in his first season in Black and Gold.
Indy's offense has had inconsistent production out of offseason pickup Matt Ryan, who completed 23 of 32 attempts for 213 yards against the Eagles last week.
He has fared better at Lucas Oil Stadium than on the road with the Colts, throwing for over 350 yards in two of his three home starts so far.
Like Pickett, who passed for 265 yards a TD with no interceptions last week, he is playing under the microscope as Indy's decision-makers come up with a long-term QB plan.
The Steelers nabbed their quarterback of the future with a middle-of-the-first-round selection, which could be where the Colts find themselves in 2023.
Pickett has been good, but not great so far - although he has thrown 25 or more completions in three of his past four starts and has done well in road games.
On offense, Pittsburgh need more from RB Najee Harris, who has not taken his game to the next level this year.
The Colts' 11th-ranked run defense ought to handle what the Steelers hit them with between the tackles and essentially force them to put the game in the hands of Pickett once more.
He has developed a nice connection with fellow rookie George Pickens, who has now become the team's No.2 wideout behind Diontae Johnson.
Indy's dynamic duo up front, DeForest Buckner and Yannick Ngakoue, have the ability to get in Pickett's face and make things really uncomfortable though.
If they do hurry him, it will be interesting to see if a secondary that made a bunch of plays last season to force turnovers can increase their dismal tally of just four INTs on the year.
This one could go the distance, but the Colts' stellar defense should provide the platform for a home win and Indy are worthy of support to cover the -2.5 point Spread at +120.
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