There’s a mystery show on TV in prime time Thursday night: Pittsburgh versus Minnesota.
There’s no way to figure out these two teams. The Vikings (5-7) go from on the rise in a victory over NFC power Green Bay to heading into the abyss after a loss to previously winless Detroit.
The Steelers (6-5-1) can’t get out of their own way on both sides of the ball at times, then knock off AFC North leader Baltimore.
Each of them remain in the playoff chase, though. Each needs a star player — Steelers linebacker/edge rusher T.J. Watt and Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson — to carry them.
“He’s a game wrecker,” Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick says of Watt, who was precisely that against the Ravens. “He’s a guy that’s going to go out there and cause havoc. Just the energy that he plays with, the passion he plays with. I wouldn’t call it the anger, but when he’s out there, he’s angry.”
Jefferson is more smooth. He’ll need to be particularly impactful this week with sidekick Adam Thielen hobbled by a sprained ankle.
“As long as we don’t get the ‘W,’ it doesn’t matter what type of game I have,” Jefferson said. “If I have a career game, record-setting game, it doesn’t matter. If we don’t come out with the ‘W,’ it’s pointless.”
According to FanDuel SportsBook, the Steelers, ranked 14th in the AP Pro32, are a 3-point underdog at the No. 22 ranked Vikings. Pro Picks expects a huge game from both Watt and Jefferson, but in the end …
KNOCKOUT POOL: The Chiefs kept folks alive with their win over Denver, and Pro Picks has three strong possibilities remaining for this week: Seattle, Green Bay and, with the Giants so underwhelming and banged up, the CHARGERS.
No. 27 (tie) New York Giants (plus 10 1/2) at No. 12 Los Angeles Chargers
New York has uncertainty at quarterback, and can’t score regardless.
BEST BET: CHARGERS, 24-9
No. 24 Atlanta (plus 2 1/2) at No. 26 Carolina
Somehow, both teams are on the fringes of the NFC playoffs. Atlanta will stay there.
UPSET SPECIAL: FALCONS, 23-21
No. 10 Los Angeles Rams (plus 2 1/2) at No. 1 Arizona , Monday night
Supremacy in the NFC West, with Arizona in position to clinch a playoff berth.
No. 27 (tie) Chicago (plus 12 1/2) at No. 2 Green Bay
The Packers, fresh from a bye, should have an easier time securing their postseason spot.
No. 9 Buffalo (plus 3) at No. 3 Tampa Bay
Coming off the ugliest of losses, can the Bills rebound? Not here.
No. 8 Dallas (minus 4) at No. 16 Washington
It’s difficult to fathom how well Washington’s D has played minus its best player, Chase Young.
No. 15 San Francisco (plus 1) at No. 13 Cincinnati
Both clubs need a turnaround from sloppy defeats. We think Cincinnati gets it.
No. 6 (tie) Baltimore (plus 3) at No. 17 Cleveland
Baltimore is banged up and Cleveland is rested. Still, the Ravens are better.
No. 18 Las Vegas (plus 9 1-2) at No. 5 Kansas City
While the Chiefs have resurrected their season, the Raiders are stumbling. But the spread is too high.
No. 31 Jacksonville (plus 8 1/2) at No. 6 (tie) Tennessee
We can’t see the Titans losing to yet another weak team, and they come off a bye.
No. 23 New Orleans (minus 5) at No. 29 New York Jets
Man, do the Saints miss Jameis Winston.
No. 30 Detroit (plus 8) at No. 20 Denver
Two wins in a row for the Lions? Not quite.
No. 25 Seattle (minus 7 1/2) at No. 32 Houston
Two wins in a row for the Seahawks? Definitely, and with ease.
Last Week: Straight up: 9-5. Against spread: 9-5.
Season: Straight up: 123-70-1. Against spread: 110-81-2.
Best Bet: Straight up: 7-5-1. Against spread: 9-4.
Upset Special: Straight up: 11-1. Against spread: 11-1.
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