AFC Divisional Playoffs
(3) Pittsburgh Steelers at (2) Kansas City Chiefs
Steelers: Eight wins in a row and counting. When they last lost a game, it was to the streaking Dallas Cowboys at the time and since then, they haven’t missed a beat. Being healthy truly does make a difference. I’d rather have a fully 100 percent Ben Roethlisberger than to see him force himself back on the field and he’s not fully healed. But, you can’t knock the guy for wanting to be under center leading his team to victory and with him, he gives them the best to win games. Without him, they struggle. Last week against Miami, we finally saw the “three B’s” healthy and on the field together for the first time in a postseason game as the last two postseason appearances we didn’t see Le’Veon Bell because he was sidelined with knee injuries. This is by far the best trio of offensive players in the league. Having Bell made all the difference and when a wide receiver of Antonio Brown’s caliber demands so much attention, teams tend to forget about the threat that Bell is in the backfield and they don’t load the box which allows him to roam around. I mentioned this the other day and said that Le’Veon Bell is a mix of Marshall Faulk and Barry Sanders. He displays the patience that Marshall displayed and allows the hole to open up and then bursts through and he shows the elusiveness to make people miss in the open field like Barry. Their defense got a boost with Tuitt back on the field to bolster their run defense. They did a great job against Miami in not letting Jay Ajayi get loose and I’m curious to see if they can keep that consistent play going. They already won the first rematch last weekend, now, it’s onto Kansas City for Mike Tomlin and the black and yellow.
Chiefs: I’ll always give credit when and where it’s due. When I previewed the AFC West during the summer, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Kansas City Chiefs, especially without Justin Houston who missed a large amount of time with a knee injury and he’s the motor to that defense because he generates a pass rush and is extremely fast to the football. He comes back and doesn’t miss a beat and for the first time since 2010, the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West and here they are hosting a playoff game at Arrowhead. I’ve been on the radio and I’ve stated this is the only team that I feel can challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC because of their ground game and how they can control the clock and win the time of possession battle and defensively, they have the game-plan to neutralize the Patriots offense. Lots of pressure up the middle and they have a secondary that can keep up with their receivers. Let’s not also forget that they played New England pretty tough last year in the playoffs but did fall short. I’ve always been concerned about their offense but ever since Tyreek Hill was used more, I can take them a bit more seriously now. Every team has that “Mr. Everything” type of player and as of late, he’s been their’s. He’s that guy that no matter where you place him, he’s effective. The Chiefs are an old-school football. There’s nothing fancy or flashy about them at all as they are simply a team with an opportunistic defense and a grinding, ball-controlling offense with a quarterback that takes very good care of the football and doesn’t turn it over. They’ll look to now avenge the embarrassing loss from week four with the Steelers now coming to their house.
Steelers Player To Watch: Ryan Shazier– He’s the key to limiting a consistent ground attack of the Kansas City Chiefs. He can single-handedly destroy their ground game and he’s not too bad in pass coverage either and he’ll be counted on to shadow Travis Kelce. He does his best work when he’s crashing the gaps and keeping runners in the backfield.
Chiefs Player To Watch: Tyreek Hill– He’s became a big spark plug for them and he’s able to score at anytime. He wasn’t a factor in the first meeting but since then, he’s scored a total of 12 touchdowns. When he touches the ball, defenses need to be aware.
Steelers Keys To The Game: Unleash the Bell. After the win last Sunday, Ben was seen in a walking boot (we’ve seen this before). You have the most dynamic player in the game today. If Big Ben isn’t healthy enough and can’t get the ball to Antonio Brown, you’ll have to play the Chiefs style of football. Grind it out and if that’s the case, you’re turning to the best running back in the NFL. Don’t buy into Hill. He’s still an inexperienced receiver that doesn’t touch the ball too much. He’s used as a decoy and the weapon they need to be worried about is Travis Kelce.
Chiefs Keys To The Game: Discover what Ben Roethlisberger is on the field. As a defensive player when you face a guy that isn’t fully healthy, you test him early and make him work. I’d make him run early on to see if he’s 100 percent. One injury, even the slightest can have a big impact on the game. Make room for Kelce to run. This is where the Tyreek Hill factor plays in. The more space he opens up down the field, the more the opportunities will be available for Kelce over the middle.
Prediction: Another rematch in this round of the playoffs and when they first met, the Steelers destroyed Kansas City. All these months later, they meet again but this time, a trip to the AFC title game is on the line. I like the Steelers to win this game. Steelers 27 Chiefs 24