This week's Sunday Night Football matchup is between the 6-5 Indianapolis Colts and 6-5 Pittsburgh Steelers, with each trying to bounce back from repeated quarterback injuries. The Colts enter Week 13 tied with the Texans for the AFC South and the Steelers are hoping to close in on the Bengals in the AFC East. This would be a big win for either team's playoff hopes.
The Colts have been without Andrew Luck for the past two games as he tries to recover from a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle. Backup Matt Hasselbeck has managed to lead the Colts to a win every time he's started this season. Having bested the Bucs just a week after their near-30 point win over the Eagles, the Colts are starting to fire on all cylinders.
After firing offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton in early November, the Indianapolis offense has seen a boost in recent weeks. Wide receiver Donte Moncrief had a breakout performance last Sunday against the Bucs while T.Y. Hilton caught two touchdown receptions. The rushing attack is one of the most veteran in the league, led by Frank Gore. Ahmad Bradshaw also chipped in before suffering a wrist injury last Sunday that landed him on season-ending IR. Gore will be joined by preseason teammate Boom Herron, who was re-signed on Thanksgiving.
The run game will need to step up for Hasselbeck, who isn't the most mobile quarterback. The 40-year-old has rushed for only 8 total yards on 12 carries in his four starts. A limited run game would be good news for the Steelers' defense, which succeeds most against the pass.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been in and out all season with varying injuries of his own, the latest of which was a self-reported concussion late in Sunday's game. He was still able to pull off his best performance of the season with 456 passing yards and two touchdowns on the day. He returned to practice during the week and should be good to go Sunday night against the Colts.
The offense took a major hit when running back Le'Veon Bell was lost for the season, but DeAngelo Williams has performed admirably as a weapon on the ground and in the passing game. So far this season, he's rushed for 563 yards and six touchdowns to go with 20 catches for 225 yards.
This SNF matchup will be the 11th time these teams have met since 1994, with the Steelers leading the series 8-2. Five of the 10 games have been decided by fewer than five points, with the largest margin of victory coming when the Steelers won 42-14 in 1996. Turnovers have always been a big factor in the series -- the Steelers have turned the ball over 23 times in the 10 games, including six times in just one game back in 1997. The Colts, on the other hand, have only 11 total turnovers against the Steelers since 1996.
That number for the Colts won't likely go up by much with Matt Hasselbeck under center. In his four games as Luck's replacement, he's amassed just over 1,000 yards, seven touchdowns and only two interceptions -- both against the Falcons in Week 11. Hasselbeck had his first 300-plus yard passing game last Sunday since 2011, aided in large part by both T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief abusing the Bucs secondary.
Despite missing four games earlier in the season, and coming in as a backup in Week 9, Roethlisberger has still thrown 2,343 yards for 11 touchdowns and 10 turnovers. He led the league in the team's loss to the Seahawks, throwing 36 completions for 456 yards. Roethlisberger's favorite target, Antonio Brown, is always happy to see him back under center, but wideout Markus Wheaton was the star in Week 12 with a career-high 201 receiving yards.
Who to Watch
The Colts added Dan "Boom" Herron to the roster after he was released by the Bills earlier in the week. The team needed to bring in someone to help with the rushing attack, and with the news of Bradshaw being out the rest of the year, Indianapolis could use Herron's familiarity with the offensive schemes for an immediate impact. Herron peaked in the postseason last year, and could be coming back at the perfect time to finish the season strong. He'll be in as the second back behind Frank Gore.
Receiver Markus Wheaton was the only wideout in the league to put up more than 200 receiving yards in Week 12. Now In his third year in the league, Wheaton has started just a handful of times this season but has still appeared in all 11 games. His 201 yards in one game was a stark difference to the 273 yards he totaled for the first 10 games of the year. He's only recorded two touchdowns so far, but is on track to finish the season strong, and is a great alternative to an oft-covered Antonio Brown.
How to Watch
When: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Online: NBC Sports Live Extra
The Steelers are 7-point favorites and the over/under is 48, according to OddsShark.com.
Among the experts, most are expecting the Steelers to bounce back after their Week 12 loss and best the Colts. The team at CBS Sports is mostly in agreement. All but one analyst think that Pittsburgh comes away with the win, while 11 of 13 panelists at ESPN are taking the Steelers as well. Here at SB Nation, our experts are unanimous in picking the Black and Gold for the win in Week 13.