Tennessee Titans fans can have a sigh of relief, but Pittsburgh Steelers fans are going to have to stress it out.
In a game that holds playoff implications, the Houston Texans will reportedly sit quarterback Deshaun Watson and start A.J. McCarron. They’ll also use wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins sparingly, per ESPN’s Dianna Russini.
As we get ready for Titans and Texans, I’m told QB Deshaun Watson is expected to be the back up QB behind A.J. McCarron. WR DeAndre Hopkins will be active but isn’t expected to play much. Texans well aware the postseason doesn’t actually start until next weekend.— Dianna (@diannaESPN) December 29, 2019
The Texans already clinched the AFC South and hold the No. 4 seed. While they could move into the three seed, it would take upset losses by the Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Los Angeles Chargers) or New England Patriots (vs. Miami Dolphins). And it wouldn’t give them a bye, so it’s a net zero.
The final spot in the AFC is still up for grabs, which is where the Titans and Steelers come in. The Titans can clinch the spot with a win, which just jumped in probability given the Texans news. Tennessee can also clinch with losses by the Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.
The Steelers, who made their own quarterback change, need a Titans loss to have a chance. So fans will be cheering for their old Cincinnati Bengals foe in McCarron, who backed up Andy Dalton there. He’s thrown one pass in relief of Watson this season and will make his first NFL start since 2015, when he played a three-game stretch for the Bengals.
Coupled with that, the easiest path for the Steelers is with a win against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are also sitting most of their starters, including MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson, with the No. 1 seed locked in.
Pittsburgh could also get in with a Titans loss, Colts win and Oakland Raiders loss or tie. Or they could even make it with a Titans loss and Colts win, along with the Steelers tying the Raiders on the strength of victory tiebreaker. That would entail the Vikings, Packers, Chiefs and Dolphins all notching a win. Again, highly improbable.
Both Titans-Texans and Steelers-Ravens kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET.
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