Sunday’s Wild Card action concludes with a primetime game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Less than a month ago, the Chiefs dominated the Steelers in a 36-10 game at Arrowhead Stadium. That might explain why the Chiefs are 12.5-point favorites on Sunday, with the over/under set at 46 points.
On paper, the Chiefs underachieved a little this season, finishing 12-5. However, they did win nine of their last ten games to finish the season, including five wins against teams that made the playoffs. The only caveat is that Kansas City blew a lead against the Bengals in Week 17, costing them the top seed in the AFC.
As for the Steelers, they barely snuck into the postseason with a lot of outside help. In fact, Pittsburgh nearly got left out when it looked like the Chargers and Raiders might play to a tie last week. Nevertheless, the Steelers won three of their last four games down the stretch to finish 9-7-1 and earn a playoff spot.
Muck It Up
If the Steelers are going to win this game, odds are they’re going to have to win ugly. Pittsburgh’s rushing attack was one of the worst in the NFL this season despite Najee Harris rushing for over 90 yards in three of his last four games, including the loss against Kansas City in Week 16. At the same time, the soon-to-be-retired Ben Roethlisberger averaged just 6.2 yards per pass this year and has limited options outside of Diontae Johnson Chase Claypool.
Fortunately for the Steelers, they have difference-makers on defense, starting with T.J. Watt, who racked up 22.5 sacks this season. While there were some occasional bad games, the Steelers did hold nine of their 17 opponents to 20 points or less this season. However, the Chiefs were not one of those teams, scoring 36 points on 381 total yards.
In the KC Groove
Even though they needed to be bailed out by the defense in Week 18, the Kansas City offense has hit its stride over the last month or two. Patrick Mahomes finished the season with 12 touchdown passes and just one interception over his last five games, which is an excellent ratio for a quarterback who finished the year with 13 picks. However, the KC running game and rebuilt offensive line remain lingering questions heading into the playoffs, especially with Clyde Edwards-Helaire unavailable and back Darrell Williams questionable as well.
It’s also fair to question the Kansas City defense heading into the playoffs. Granted, the Chiefs held seven of their last ten opponents to 17 points or less. But they also gave up 24 points per game over their last four games and didn’t always have consistency from their pass rush this season.
It’s possible that oddsmakers are making too much of Kansas City’s dominant win over the Steelers from a few weeks ago. Granted, if the Chiefs get going offensively, there’s little chance of the Pittsburgh offense keeping pace. But the Steelers should have learned enough from that first meeting to be more competitive this time around and at least keep the game within 12.5 points to beat the spread.
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