Week 18 Saturday Recap

Written by: William Petersen

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Week 18 Win or Get In Saturday

The final week of the regular season in the NFL was first kicked off by a 17-10 win for the Pittsburgh Steelers who faced a Lamar Jackson-less Ravens squad on a rainy day in Baltimore. The Steelers now have the ability to make the playoffs after finishing the regular season 10-7 and can get in if the Dolphins beat the Bills, the Titans beat the Jaguars, or the Texans and Colts tie. The only two options remaining for the Steelers is the ladder after Houston came into Indianapolis and beat the Colts 23-19 to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2019. C.J. Stroud led a monster drive that would eventually turn out to be the deciding one, through finding his favorite target Nico Collins on two separate occasions to eventually see Devin Singletary score to give the Texans a late touchdown lead. Stroud finished 20/26 for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns and Collins finished with 9 receptions for 195 yards and a monster 75 yard touchdown catch on the first play of the game to set the tone for the Texans off the jump. The Colts will be disappointed to lose a close and pivotal division game that would have capped off an already impressive season for Gardner Minshew. Minshew became the Colts starter in week 5 after rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson went out for the season with an AC Joint injury. Minshew finished the season with 3,164 passing yards on a 63 completion percentage, 15 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. The Colts will now have to see how much they can get for Minshew in the offseason in hopes that Anthony Richardson will continue to have an upward trend in his development even after the rookie season setback.

The Houston Texans have shocked the league after making the playoffs for the first time in four years with a rookie head coach and quarterback. C.J. Stroud continues to look more like a five year veteran than a guy who was on campus a year ago after leading the Texans to a statement 23-19 win over a good Colts squad. Stroud will now look to make his playoff debut with an offense that looked to be severely wounded after losing wideout Tank Dell in week 13 against the Denver Broncos. Stroud has shown why he was the number two pick in last years draft after continuing to make the right throw at the right time for his receivers to do their job and make plays. Stroud looks like he has been leading an NFL offense for longer than 18 weeks but Demeco Ryans and the Texans front office have rallied a franchise through the draft and are finally seeing the fruits of their labor. I would not be surprised to see this Texans team make it out of the first round if they can find a way to face a Steelers or maybe even a Chiefs squad that might not have the firepower to match the budding Stroud. If the Titans can beat the Jaguars tomorrow, the Texans would then win the AFC South causing them to jump from the 7th seed to the 4th and would prevent them from playing either the Bills or Dolphins depending on who wins that game on Sunday. Either way the Texans have shattered expectations for Stroud and Ryans rookie season and can only go up from a season which many thought would be one of the worst teams in the NFL at the beginning of the campaign.

Gardner Minshew and the Indianapolis Colts will be losing sleep for at least a week after losing this win or go home after tying the game twice before falling short. The Colts will now have a major decision to make in regards to keeping Jonathan Taylor. Taylor finished with 30 carries for 188 yards and a touchdown, a performance that highlighted why he is one of many running backs that should be getting paid their legitimate worth. This is Taylor’s seventh career 150+ yard rushing game and is putting Jim Irsay in a better light than at the beginning of the season before Taylor signed his 3 year extension worth over 26 million dollars guaranteed. Indianapolis should be excited for the direction their franchise is heading after struggling to find a solid starting quarterback since Andrew Luck. Anthony Richardson will bring another facet to a Colts offense that is defined by their running game and can hopefully develop Richardson’s passing game to fully utilize wideouts like Michael Pittman, who finished with 5 receptions for 44 yards, and Josh Downs who finished with 4 receptions for 48 yards. Head coach Shane Steichen made waves in Indy during his debut season as an NFL head coach, and the Colts should leave the 2023 season with their heads held high after barely missing out on the playoffs.