NFL playoffs: Colts stun Texans, Steelers edge Ravens to clinch wild card spots

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The final week of the 2023 NFL regular season was full of drama and suspense, as several teams battled for the last remaining playoff spots in both conferences. The Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers emerged victorious in their respective games, securing the final wild-card berths in the AFC. Here is a recap of how they did it and what it means for the playoff picture.

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Colts rally from a 14-point deficit to beat Texans 27-24

The Colts faced a must-win situation against their division rivals, the Houston Texans, who had already clinched the AFC South title. The Texans jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from Deshaun Watson to Brandin Cooks and Jordan Akins. The Colts responded with a field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship, but the Texans added another touchdown before halftime, making it 21-3.

The second half was a different story, as the Colts mounted a furious comeback behind their veteran quarterback, Philip Rivers. Rivers threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter, two to T.Y. Hilton and one to Zach Pascal, to tie the game at 21-21. The Texans regained the lead with a field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn early in the fourth quarter, but the Colts answered with another field goal by Blankenship to make it 24-24.

The game came down to the final drive, as the Colts got the ball back with 1:48 left on the clock. Rivers led them to the Texans’ 25-yard line, where Blankenship nailed a 43-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Colts a thrilling 27-24 win. Rivers finished with 309 passing yards and three touchdowns, while Hilton had 121 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Watson had 287 passing yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions, one of them by Darius Leonard, who also had 13 tackles and a sack.

The Colts improved to 9-7 and clinched the seventh seed in the AFC, while the Texans fell to 9-7 and settled for the sixth seed. The Colts will face the second-seeded Miami Dolphins in the wild card round, while the Texans will take on the third-seeded Kansas City Chiefs.

Steelers hold off Ravens 23-20 to secure playoff spot

The Steelers had a simpler scenario than the Colts: win and they’re in. They faced the Baltimore Ravens, who had already locked up the top seed in the AFC, and rested several of their starters, including MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Steelers took advantage of the situation, as Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes in the first half, one to JuJu Smith-Schuster and one to Eric Ebron, to give them a 17-3 lead.

The Ravens, however, did not give up easily, as backup quarterback Robert Griffin III led them to a touchdown drive in the third quarter, capped by a 1-yard run by Gus Edwards. The Steelers answered with a field goal by Chris Boswell, but the Ravens came back with another touchdown drive, this time finished by a 4-yard pass from Griffin to Miles Boykin. The Ravens went for a two-point conversion, but Griffin’s pass was incomplete, leaving the score at 20-16.

The Steelers extended their lead to 23-16 with another field goal by Boswell, but the Ravens had one last chance to tie the game. Griffin drove them to the Steelers’ 23-yard line, where he faced a fourth-and-12 with 14 seconds left. He threw a pass to the end zone, but it was intercepted by Minkah Fitzpatrick, sealing the win for the Steelers. Roethlisberger had 256 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Smith-Schuster had 97 receiving yards and a touchdown. Griffin had 195 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception, while Edwards had 85 rushing yards and a touchdown.

The Steelers improved to 9-7 and clinched the fifth seed in the AFC, while the Ravens dropped to 13-3 and remained the first seed. The Steelers will face the fourth-seeded Jacksonville Jaguars in the wild-card round, while the Ravens will have a bye week and await the lowest-seeded survivor.

Playoff pictures and matchups

With the regular season over, the playoff picture is now clear. Here are the final standings and matchups for both conferences:

AFC NFC
1. Baltimore Ravens (13-3) 1. San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
2. Miami Dolphins (11-5) 2. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) 3. Detroit Lions (11-5)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7) 4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) 5. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
6. Houston Texans (9-7) 6. Los Angeles Rams (9-7)
7. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) 7. Green Bay Packers (8-8)

The wild card round will take place on January 6 and 7, 2024. Here are the matchups and schedules:

AFC NFC
Colts at Dolphins, Jan. 6, 1:05 p.m. ET Packers at Cowboys, Jan. 6, 4:40 p.m. ET
Texans at Chiefs, Jan. 6, 8:15 p.m. ET Rams at Lions, Jan. 7, 1:05 p.m. ET
Steelers at Jaguars, Jan. 7, 4:40 p.m. ET Eagles at Buccaneers, Jan. 7, 8:15 p.m. ET

The divisional round will take place on January 13 and 14, 2024. The Ravens and the 49ers will host the lowest-seeded winners from the wild card round, while the highest-seeded winners will face the second seeds in their respective conferences.

The conference championships will take place on January 21, 2024. The winners will advance to Super Bowl LVI, which will be held on February 4, 2024, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

By Kane Wilson

Kane Wilson, founder of this news website, is a seasoned news editor renowned for his analytical skills and meticulous approach to storytelling. His journey in journalism began as a local reporter, and he quickly climbed the ranks due to his talent for unearthing compelling stories. Kane completed his Master’s degree in Media Studies from Northwestern University and spent several years in broadcast journalism prior to co-founding this platform. His dedication to delivering unbiased news and ability to present complex issues in an easily digestible format make him an influential voice in the industry.

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