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AFC Divisional Round Preview: Steelers at Chiefs

January 15, 2017 • Ben Heck • AFC, AFC North, AFC West, Front Page, Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Playoffs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Predictions, Preview

The best part of January: playoff football.

Due to a forecasted storm in the Kansas City area, the league decided a few days ago to push today’s Steelers at Chiefs match-up (originally schedule for 1:05 P.M. ET) back to 8:20 P.M. ET.

Pittsburgh, led by two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, is one of the AFC’s hottest teams. Riding an eight-game win streak into tonight’s match-up (last loss came on Nov. 13), even 12-4 Kansas City’s seventh-ranked scoring defense may have issues slowing down the Killer B’s trio.

How the Pittsburgh Steelers can win…

At this point, I’m not even sure Pittsburgh will need to play superb, picture-perfect defense to win tonight’s match-up. If the offense is aggressive early on and can emulate what they did in the first quarter against Miami last week, and then pound the run game with Le’Veon Bell, it may be enough to wear down Andy Reid’s defense. Quarterback Alex Smith isn’t exactly built to sustain and win in shootouts, so an early lead for Pittsburgh could go a long way. Kansas City’s defense typically doesn’t allow teams to put up a lot of points on them — well, except for this Steelers team. In Week 3, Pittsburgh dropped 43 on K.C. The 43-14 loss marks the only game the Chiefs have even allowed 30+ points this season, and the team has gone 10-2 since that game. The only two losses were by a combined four points (both 19-17 scores). So this will be a tough one, but limit turnovers and mistakes and they could approach 30 points.

How the Kansas City Chiefs can win…

As stated above, I don’t think Kansas City can afford to trail early on in the game and abandon the run game. With Spencer Ware (921 yards, 3 TD) and Charcandrick West (293 yards, 1 TD), Kansas City would be smart to run the ball 30+ times. On defense, Kansas City has forced multiple turnovers in 10 games this season (8-2 in those games). They didn’t force any in the big Week 3 loss to Pittsburgh, which marks the only game of the year that they failed to force a turnover. I don’t think I even need to point out the importance of forcing turnovers against a high-scoring, fast-paced offense such as Pittsburgh’s. That’s one of the few ways they’ll be able to keep pace on offense. Limit Le’Veon Bell and force 2-3 turnovers, as well as mistake-free football from Alex Smith, and you have a legitimate shot at beating this team. Especially at home in front of the Arrowhead Stadium crowd.

Our Pick: Steelers, 28-14

I’m already picked against a team riding a seven-game win streak (Green Bay), so I don’t feel comfortable picking against another hot-streak-riding team today. Pittsburgh’s trio will get off to a fast start and do just enough to squeeze past K.C. in a hard-nosed, two-score game on the road.

Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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