Free NFL Picks: Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Odds and Expert Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/11/2017
If the Kansas City Chiefs reach their first Super Bowl since the 1969 season -- before the NFL-AFL merger -- they probably should send a thank-you card to Indianapolis Colts linebacker Trent Cole.
That's because in the Oakland Raiders' 33-25 win over the Colts in Week 16, Cole sacked Raiders star QB and MVP candidate Derek Carr, breaking Carr's leg. I believe that changed the entirety of the AFC playoffs, especially for Kansas City. The Raiders then went to Denver in Week 17 without Carr, lost their second-string QB to injury and were thoroughly dominated by the Broncos. That loss plus Kansas City's closing win in San Diego gave the Chiefs the AFC West and the second seed in the conference instead of a wild-card spot. Kansas City is a good team, but it wasn't going to win three road playoff games to reach the Super Bowl. Now it only likely needs to win one away game to get there: next Sunday at New England, that is if the Chiefs can beat visiting Pittsburgh this Sunday afternoon in the divisional round. And, hey, if Houston pulls the mammoth upset of the Pats, the AFC title game would be at Arrowhead.
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Last year, the Chiefs ended an eight-game postseason losing streak with a 30-0 wild-card win in Houston as that excellent Kansas City defense did a major number on Texans QB Brian Hoyer. That win sent K.C. to New England in the divisional round, and the Patriots won 27-20 as Chiefs coach Andy Reid had some puzzling late-game clock management, although it probably wouldn't have mattered. This is Kansas City's first home playoff game since the 2010 season. The Chiefs have dropped their past four home playoff games, three of them in the divisional round. Their last win at Arrowhead was in the wild-card round against the Steelers, 27-24 in overtime on Jan. 8, 1994. The Kansas City quarterback that day? Guy by the name of Joe Montana. That was the last Chiefs team to reach the AFC title game.
Pittsburgh is in the playoffs for the third straight year and in the divisional round for the second postseason in a row. Last year in Denver in that round, the Steelers lost 23-16. I believe that game ends differently if the Steelers had star receiver Antonio Brown, but he suffered a concussion the week before on a dirty hit by Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Pittsburgh is looking for its first trip to the AFC title game since beating the Jets in it on Jan. 23, 2011.
Steelers at Chiefs Betting Story Lines
Kansas City (12-4) is about as healthy as can be this time of year coming off the bye week. The two guys who needed that the most were running back Spencer Ware and outside linebacker Justin Houston, who both will play Sunday. Ware missed Week 17 with a rib injury and the Chiefs averaged only 3.3 yards per carry in the win over San Diego. Houston didn't debut this season until Nov. 20 off knee surgery and also missed the final two games with knee troubles. When Houston is right, he's every bit the pass-rusher that Von Miller is. When Kansas City won 30-27 in OT at Denver in Week 12, Houston showed why he got such a mega-contract after leading the NFL in sacks in 2014 as he had 10 tackles and three sacks vs. the Broncos. The Chiefs need that guy to show up Sunday because they aren't in the same ballpark offensively as the Steelers.
Offensively, you know what the Chiefs are going to do. Alex Smith will be asked to simply manage the game and complete safe passes. The Steelers no doubt will pay special attention to tight end Travis Kelce, who had five 100-yard games in his final seven. The Chiefs also will use stud rookie Tyreek Hill as a receiver and occasional ball-carrier on offense. He had 12 TDs during the season, nine as an offensive player and three as a punt/kickoff returner. Color me surprised if the Steelers allow him to get his hands on one kick this game.
Is there a better offensive threesome in the NFL than Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Brown? I certainly don't think so. Yet those three had never played a postseason game together. Bell was hurt the previous two postseasons. He finished the 2016 regular season as the hottest running back in the NFL and continued that in last Sunday's 30-12 win over Miami with a franchise playoff-record 167 yards rushing along with two scores on 29 carries. Bell has rushed for at least 118 yards in six of his past seven games. He's a pending free agent, but the Steelers will surely slap the franchise tag on him if they can't agree to a deal. Bell has some drug suspensions on his record or he would really cash in.
The only concern from the Dolphins win is that the Steelers (12-5) stupidly had Big Ben throwing the ball with under five minutes left in the game -- Coach Mike Tomlin has admitted that was a bad decision -- and he got his foot/ankle rolled upon. Roethlisberger was in walking boot for like 24 hours, but that's off and he's of course playing Sunday. Some tend to think Big Ben overplays injuries to show how tough he is. I can't speak to that. Also, the Steelers had a minor distraction when outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, a fine linebacker himself back in the day, was arrested for some drunken stupidity outside an area bar last Sunday night. He has been placed on leave. If Porter were a coordinator that might be a problem, but in his role it shouldn't really matter.
Steelers at Chiefs Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , the game is a pick'em (Chiefs -125) and thus no moneyline. The total is 44.5. On the alternate lines, the Chiefs are -1 (-118), -1.5 (-110) and -2 (-105). Pittsburgh is 10-6-1 against the spread this season (5-3 on road) and 6-11 "over/under (2-6 on road). Kansas City is 9-7 ATS (3-5 at home) and 6-10 O/U (2-6 at home).
The Steelers are 3-0-1 ATS in their past four divisional playoff games. They are 12-3-3 ATS in their past 18 in January. Pittsburgh is 0-3-2 ATS in its past five playoff road games. The Chiefs are 5-1 ATS in their past six vs. teams with a winning record. They are 1-7 ATS in their past eight playoff games. The under is 8-2 in Pittsburgh's past 10 after an ATS win. It is 7-3 in the Steelers' past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 7-2 in Kansas City's past nine after a win. It's 11-5 in the Chiefs' past 16 in January. The home team is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Steelers at Chiefs Betting Prediction
The Steelers destroyed the visiting Chiefs 43-14 in Week 4. That was easily Kansas City's worst game of the season as it had two early turnovers and was down 22-0 before the end of the first quarter. Big Ben threw for 300 yards and five scores, Bell rushed for 144 yards in his first game off suspension and Brown had two TD catches. Smith threw the ball 50 times for the Chiefs, which is incredibly unusual. But they were down big early so they had no choice. Hill was still relatively unknown then, although he did have a 10-yard TD catch.
It could be messy in Kansas City on Sunday afternoon as the current forecast is freezing rain in the morning and changing to rain in the afternoon with a high of 36. Obviously a few degrees lower and it's going to be snow or sleet.
I think the Steelers are the more talented team, and they are rolling on an eight-game winning streak. I would take them at home and at a neutral site. But Pittsburgh's offense has been about a TD worse on the road this year, and Reid is an amazing 19-2 with the Chiefs and Eagles after a bye week. Take Kansas City and go under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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