Steelers Need to Take Care of Ball vs. Chiefs
By Charles Jay
There were ice storms that hit Kansas City early on Sunday, and since this was anticipated, the game time between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs was set back to 8:20 PM Eastern time. These conditions may play a factor in the game, although both squads have to be used to bad weather. The question is, what can Kansas City do to not only extract revenge from a very one-sided defeat they suffered to the Steelers earlier this season, but also slow down two of the most potent offensive weapons in the National Football League. While this game is happening, America’s Bookie customers can avail themselves of two different “Live Betting” options in their interface, which adds to their enjoyment with a few thrills here and there.
Pittsburgh was 4-5 at one time, but one of those four victories came at the expense of Kansas City, a 43-14 beatdown that featured five touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger. It was 36-0 in the third quarter, so that gives you a picture of the total dominance involved. Le’Veon Bell was actually seeing his first game action of the year after sitting out the first three weeks with the suspension, and he had 144 yards on the ground. So the challenge is big for the Chiefs, who went into a bye week after that, then came out and won 10 of their last 12 games.
The Steelers beat the Jets after hosting Kansas City, then lost four in a row. Admittedly they had to do some of that would Landry Jones at quarterback, as Big Ben got injured, but now they have been truly on a roll, winning eight straight games behind an improved defense, among other things.
In the NFL playoff odds posted on this game, Kansas City is favored:
Kansas City Chiefs -1.5
Pittsburgh Steelers +1.5
Over 44.5 points -110
Under 44.5 points -110
Here is what were looking at when we handicap this game – we know that the Steelers can score on just about anyone, and it doesn’t matter a whole lot if Antonio Brown gets double-covered. That’s happened to them all season long, and he has been targeted more than twice as many times as the next guy on the list. Yet he’s caught 106 passes for 1284 yards. Bell, who averaged 4.9 yards per carry, is the kind of guy you like to have in bad weather. He is a patient runner, who can get yards after contact. Kansas City’s running game was adequate, but not like it was last year, as they really recovered after Jamaal Charles went down with an injury. Alex Smith was once again safety-first at quarterback, but he is getting rid of the ball quicker these days, and he has a premier tight end in Travis Kelce, who caught 85 passes for 1125 yards. And even though Jeremy Maklin, because of injuries and other reasons, was not as big a part of the offense, Tyreek Hill, a rookie, came through as both the receiver and return man. He scored a dozen touchdowns, and he is definitely somebody the Pittsburgh defensive staff has to game-plan for.
All in all, however, Kansas City is not as threatening as Pittsburgh on the offensive side. And this is a team that was actually out-gained by its opponents. One of the reasons is that they weren’t all that good against the run, allowing 4.4 yards per carry. They also allowed teams to convert 43% of the time on third down, and that is normally not the kind of thing of which championship teams are made. They certainly don’t have the best quarterback, the best running back or the best wide receiver in this matchup. But where the Chiefs get their advantage is in turnovers. They have forced 33 of them, translating into a +16 ratio, and both of those are best in the league. Roethlisberger admittedly has been prone to some errors lately; he’s thrown eight interceptions in his last five games, for example. And he’s actually had 13 interceptions dropped this season, in addition to the 15 he actually threw. But with Bell in the backfield, he can afford to play at a little more carefully. And his team lost only three fumbles all season long. We’ll go one step further than that – aside from Big Ben, the Steelers turned the ball over only ONCE. So this is the kind of thing that could negate Kansas City’s edge right there.
Derek Johnson, a standout linebacker, will not be available for Kansas City because of an Achilles injury. Justin Houston, with inflammation in his knee, will play, but Pittsburgh has one of the best pass-blocking offensive lines in the NFL, yielding only 21 sacks. And the Steelers themselves had 35 sacks in the last ten games, after just eight in the first seven contests. Kansas City is 30th best in the red zone, which makes a difference too. Yes, we know that Kansas City coach Andy Reid is 19-2 on his career coming out of a bye week, but we will buck that trend, although in only a small recommendation, with the Steelers on the road, as the Charles Jay/America’s Bookie Challenge continues on Sunday night.
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