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Game Predictions

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Game Predictions | Bills vs. Steelers | NFL playoffs


The Buffalo Bills (11-6) are 9.5-point favorites heading into Sunday's Super Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7) at Highmark Stadium. The game will air on Monday at 4:30 p.m. on CBS.

For the latest point spreads, check FanDuel.

The Bills are the No. 2 seed in the AFC while the Steelers are the No. 7 seed. This will mark the first time the two franchises have met in a postseason game in Buffalo.

Here's a list of additional postseason notes ...

  • Buffalo is 4-1 at home in the postseason under head coach Sean McDermott
  • The Steelers are 0-3 in the playoffs since 2017
  • The Bills are 23-5 including playoffs in December/January games since 2020 - the best record in the NFL during that span
  • Bills are 10-1 including playoffs in games that are 32 degrees or below at kickoff since 2017 when Sean McDermott became head coach

Here's a list of notes from the 2023 regular season ...

  • The Bills have won five straight games to close the regular season
  • The Steelers have won three consecutive games
  • Buffalo was 5-1 against playoff teams in 2023
  • The Steelers are 1-10 when TJ Watt does not play
  • Sean McDermott is 3-1 against the Steelers
  • Mike Tomlin is 5-3 against the Bills
  • Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph is 3-0 in his last three starts
  • Buffalo was 7-1 at home in 2023
  • Pittsburgh was 5-3 on the road in 2023

What to watch for: The roads that the Bills and Steelers took to this game contain an eerie number of similarities, from losing key players to injury for stretches to putting together season-ending winning streaks despite low playoff odds. Both teams also fired their offensive coordinators at midseason, becoming the first playoff teams to have an in-season coordinator change since the 2012 Ravens. The Steelers are looking for the team's first playoff win since 2016, while the Bills are 13-2 in home playoff games since 1970. Limiting quarterback Josh Allen in the postseason will pose a challenge for Pittsburgh, as Allen is the only player in NFL playoff history to average 250 passing yards and 50 rushing yards per game (min. five games) and has the highest combined average yardage (343.9). -- Alaina Getzenberg

Bold prediction: Steelers running back Najee Harris will have his third consecutive game of at least 100 rushing yards. The Bills' rushing defense is arguably the toughest the Steelers have faced in at least a month, allowing opponents an average of 103 rushing yards per game in their past three contests. But Harris is on a roll with back-to-back games of 100-plus rushing yards. With the temperature expected to be below freezing, wind gusts of 50 miles per hour and possible light snow, the Steelers will lean heavily on their ground game. Sharing the backfield with Jaylen Warren, Harris had just 255 touches in the regular season, his fewest in his three-year NFL career, making him as fresh as possible for the playoffs. -- Brooke Pryor

Stat to know: The Steelers had nine wins in one-score games during the regular season, which led the NFL and are the most in a single season in franchise history.

Matchup X factor: Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins. With edge rusher T.J. Watt out, Alex Highsmith is even more crucial to the Steelers' pass rush. If Dawkins -- who has had a really nice season and ranked fourth in pass block win rate among tackles -- can shut down Highsmith, that should set up Allen for a pretty smooth day. -- Walder

Game-plan key: Pittsburgh has to run the ball well between the tackles. Harris and Warren finished the regular season hot, and Buffalo allowed 4.6 yards per carry on inside runs this season, 30th in the NFL. -- Bowen

Officiating note: This game will benefit from one of the NFL's most trusted referees. Carl Cheffers has been the Super Bowl referee in two of the past three years and three times in the past seven. His regular-season crew threw the third-fewest flags in the league (12.1 per game). -- Seifert

Betting nugget: The Steelers were 10-7 ATS in the regular season with unders going 11-6. The Bills were 7-10 ATS in the regular season with unders going 11-6.

Moody's pick: Bills 34, Steelers 20

Walder's pick: Bills 30, Steelers 13

FPI prediction: BUF, 76.6% (by an average of 10.4 points)

The Bills are rolling into the playoffs as winners of five straight. They have the look of a dangerous playoff team. The Steelers won two straight to get into the postseason, but they will be without T.J. Watt here against Josh Allen. That's a bad thing for a defense that has struggled in a big way even when he's on the field. Look for the Bills to roll in this one. 

Pick: Bills 27, Steelers 13

Josh Allen vs. Mason Rudolph. With no T.J. Watt. There's not much more to say.

Florio: Bills, 24-10.

Simms: Bills, 27-13.

Pittsburgh will be without defensive standout T.J. Watt, who led the league with 19 sacks, after he suffered a knee injury in the third quarter of Saturday's win over the Baltimore Ravens. J.J. Watt revealed on social media that his brother suffered a Grade 2 medial collateral ligament sprain and will need a "couple weeks of rest/recovery."

Add in the playoff experience for Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen (99.6 passer rating over eight postseason games) and the lack of experience for Pittsburgh's Mason Rudolph (zero playoff games), and it's an easy play to back the Bills at home with a spread under the key number of 10, although it has since moved up.

Pick: Bills -9½ (The number has since moved up.)

How I see it: I've been telling anyone who would listen this season to not give up on the Bills. Having said that, they're not exactly rolling into the playoffs on fire. This is a team that nearly lost to Easton Stick a few weeks ago. And even against the Dolphins in Week 18, they did 12 stupid things before finally securing a victory. Either the Bills will win the Super Bowl, or they'll suffer a loss that is so absurd we'll all be telling our grandkids about it.

Can the Bills blow the Steelers out? Sure. On paper, that's what should happen. But only one of their final five wins came by more than a touchdown. This team lets opponents hang around, and the Steelers specialize in hanging around. Going on the road in the playoffs and playing a potential snow game with a third-string quarterback? Mike Tomlin was built for this. I'm taking the points.

The pick: Steelers (+10)

This is the fourth playoff meeting between these teams. Buffalo won its past five games, but four of those victories were one-score games. The Bills were 1-5 ATS when favored by more than seven points. Still, they will be a popular pick in this spot given how Josh Allen is 3-1 S/U as a starter against the Steelers. T.J. Watt (knee) also might be out, and Pittsburgh still has an unsettled quarterback situation with Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett. The Steelers were 5-0 S/U as an underdog of three points or more this season. Pittsburgh hangs around here, too. 

Pick: Bills 24, Steelers 17

The Bills got the Dolphins and a shaky QB situation to open the playoffs last year. They get a similar benefit from Mason Rudolph starting for the Steelers. He's been playing caretaker, showing just a few flashes throwing downfield while watching the defense and running game deliver the past three weeks. But that defense remains hurting with T.J. Watt again and Najee Harris will see harder sledding in Buffalo. On the other side, Josh Allen's turnover wildness will be tamed by more calculated, methodical passing and thriving running game led by James Cook.

Pick: Bills win 27-13 and cover the spread.

This matchup has the largest spread as the Buffalo Bills ride a five-game winning streak into the postseason to face the Pittsburgh Steelers, who needed help to clinch the No. 7 seed.

Though none of our experts picked the Steelers to win, most of them think Pittsburgh keeps the outcome within single digits.

Hanford acknowledged the Steelers' improved offensive output with quarterback Mason Rudolph leading the huddle over the last three weeks, which factored into his decision to side with Pittsburgh ATS, but he doesn't see an outright upset here.

"The Steelers are arguably the weakest team in the playoffs and will be without their best player in T.J. Watt (MCL sprain) this week in Buffalo. That's not a good recipe, even if Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee) is set to play. I don't have any Lake Erie or walleye references to back up my Bills pick like we've seen from one of my colleagues in several cases."


Davenport: Steelers

Gagnon: Bills

Hanford: Steelers

Knox: Steelers

Moton: Steelers

O'Donnell: Steelers

Sobleski: Steelers

Toporek: Steelers

ATS Consensus: Steelers +9.5

SU Consensus: Bills

Score Prediction: Bills 28, Steelers 21

The Buffalo Bills are one of the league's hottest teams, winning their past five games and beating the Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and Dolphins during that stretch. Josh Allen is one of the few quarterbacks in the league who can carry an offense. Turnovers can be a problem for Allen, but he gives Buffalo's offense an enormous ceiling. RB James Cook has a solid matchup here because Pittsburgh allowed the 10th-most rushing yards to running backs.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have an uphill battle on multiple fronts in this contest. Pittsburgh is 3-0 with Mason Rudolph as its starter, but the Steelers only scored 17 points in a must-win game against the Ravens' backups last week.

Expect the Steelers to continue to lean on their running back duo — Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren — for as long as they can. If Rudolph struggles early, it wouldn't be a surprise if Kenny Pickett is brought on in relief duty.

The biggest issue for Pittsburgh is that it will be without T.J. Watt, arguably the best defensive player in the league. Last season, the Steelers were a much different team while Watt was sidelined. His absence gives Pittsburgh an even narrower path to victory in Buffalo.

Weather is an X-factor for this contest, as significant wind could greatly impact both offenses. Right now, 25 mph sustained winds are in the forecast, which is the area where wind can be a major factor.

In 2021, we saw a severe wind game in Buffalo against the New England Patriots, where neither side had much success in the air. The Patriots threw three passes in that matchup. If this game has severe wind, it could benefit Pittsburgh, given its run game and how it will reduce what Allen can do through the air.

Score Prediction: Bills 17, Steelers 10

Why Brooke is taking the Bills: Mike Tomlin may have just banked his 17th consecutive non-losing season, but the last time his Steelers won a playoff game, the Killer Bs -- Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown -- were on his side. This time around, Pittsburgh must rely on Mason Rudolph, whose presence admittedly has sparked a downfield passing game, and a steady backfield duo. Honestly, though, the defense has been the highlight of this team for most of the season, but it'll be without star pass rusher T.J. Watt on Sunday. That's a huge blow to Pittsburgh's chances of frustrating the roller coaster that is Josh Allen, whose play is just too erratic for me to believe he'll make it to Championship Sunday. The turnover-prone quarterback must protect the ball. If he does that, the Bills advance. If he doesn't, it very well could be another lost season in Buffalo. It's that simple.


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