A very unusual NFL schedule in Week 4 as just one game features playoff teams from last season and that’s the Sunday night matchup between the Chiefs and Steelers in Pittsburgh. They were the AFC’s two wild-card teams in 2015. Kansas City won that wild-card game in Houston but lost in the divisional round at New England. Pittsburgh won its wild-card game at Cincinnati but then lost in the divisional round in Denver. The Steelers are favoured here on Sports Interaction NFL odds.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Point spread: Steelers -5.5
Date: Sunday, Oct. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs (2-1) dominated the visiting New York Jets last week 24-3 to improve to 2-0 at home in 2016. Kansas City intercepted Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick six times and forced eight turnovers overall. Two of those led to defensive scores, a 27-yard Demetrius Harris fumble return for a 17-0 lead in the third quarter and a 55-yard Derrick Johnson interception return late in the fourth for the final margin.
I feel confident in saying that a team has never lost an NFL game forcing eight turnovers (second-most forced ever by Kansas City). Three of the interceptions happened in the end zone. That type of stellar defense is what carried the Chiefs to a 10-game winning streak to close the 2015 regular season. The Chiefs win with ball control and defense. Against the Jets, they had just one offensive play longer than 20 yards. And if you want to nitpick, that Kansas City offense has scored just one TD in the past two games.
This could be the season debut of former All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles for Kansas City. He tore his ACL early last season and has been working his way back. He wasn’t active the first three games. All Coach Andy Reid will say about Charles is “there’s a chance” he plays. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have played well in his absence.
The Steelers (2-1) were 3.5-point favourites last week at Philadelphia but Pittsburgh was absolutely blasted 34-3, its worst loss since 1989. Who would have predicted Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would be outplayed by Eagles rookie Carson Wentz? Big Ben was 24-for-44 for 257 yards with a pick. Antonio Brown had his usual big day with 12 catches for 140 yards, but no other Steeler did much.
The Pittsburgh rushing attack managed only 29 yards on 10 carries in the loss but welcomes back perhaps the best all-around tailback in the NFL this week in Le’Veon Bell off his three-game suspension. Veteran DeAngelo Williams has done about as much as possible in Bell’s place as Williams has rushed for 258 yards and three scores. But Bell can do it all. Coach Mike Tomlin says Bell, who hasn’t played since last Nov. 1 when he injured his knee, said that the Chiefs would see “a lot” of Bell this week. Since 2014, Bell has averaged the third-highest amount of yards per attempt (4.76) among running backs with at least 200 carries in that span. He’s also a tremendous receiver.
Defensively, the Steelers expect a similar offensive attack to what they saw in Philadelphia because new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson spent the previous three season as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator under Reid. Pittsburgh has allowed a 300-yard passer in all three weeks and has an NFL-low one sack thus far. Three Steelers defensive starters are in question this week: linebackers Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons and safety Robert Golden.
Chiefs vs. Steelers Prediction
This could have wild-card implications this season with both the Chiefs and Steelers second in their respective divisions. Kansas City started its season-ending 10-game regular-season winning streak last year with a 23-13 home win over the Steelers. But Roethlisberger was out injured and backup Landry Jones really struggled in his spot. West rushed for 110 yards and a score for K.C.
I’d give the points here. The home team has covered six of the past seven in the series. Go under the total. It’s 6-1 in Pittsburgh’s past seven games and 5-2 in the Chiefs’ past seven.