Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), Sunday Jan. 15 1:05 PM ET
The first round of the NFL playoffs wasn’t terribly exciting. This is the kind of matchup that makes you believe the second round is going to make up for it.
The Steelers and the Chiefs are two really good teams that, on paper, should have a great matchup. Pittsburgh essentially dominated the Dolphins last week, beating them 30-12, and the game wasn’t even that close. The big three of Pittsburgh’s offense, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown, were all great. Brown caught two touchdowns, and Bell set a Steelers postseason record for run yards. You won’t find a better offensive trio in the NFL. Pittsburgh only finished eighth in offensive DVOA, but they were missing Bell for a few weeks, and Roethlisberger also got banged up. Now they are healthy and firing on all cylinders.
The Chiefs are a more balanced team. Fittingly enough Pittsburgh and Kansas City rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in overall DVOA. The Chiefs rank 13th on offense, 14th on defense, and second on special teams. Special teams is where Tyreek Hill comes into play. He’s the sort of dynamic offensive talent and big play threat this Kansas City team really needed. Just how close to full strength Justin Houston is will also be important. While Dee Ford had a real breakout year, and Tamba Hali had a little bit left in his legs, Houston is a major difference maker in the pass rush.
This game is essentially a coin flip. The Steelers are probably just a bit better, but they are on the road. The Chiefs have had a week off. However, and this may be a bit of recency bias kicking in, but it’s hard to argue with how Pittsburgh is looking on offense right now.
Prediction: Steelers 27, Chiefs 24
Ladarius Green, TE Questionable
Ricardo Mathews, DE Questionable
Robert Golden, S Questionable
Anthony Chickillo, LB Questionable
Ben Roethlisberger, QB Questionable
Derrick Johnson, LB Injury Reserve