NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions For Steelers vs. Chiefs: How Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill Impact Betting This Game
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS. Pictured: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
|Time||4:25 p.m. ET|
Don’t call it a comeback!
After a 3-4 start to the season, the Chiefs appeared to be in the midst of a full-fledged Super Bowl hangover before winning seven straight games on their way to a 10-4 record — the best in the AFC. This Sunday they’ll host the Steelers, who are fighting for their playoff lives and are just a half-game back from the Bengals and Ravens for the AFC North lead.
This appeared to be a complete mismatch before a COVID-19 outbreak in Kansas City left the Chiefs potentially missing Travis Kelce, among others. On Saturday, Tyreek Hill was reported as set to suit up after clearing protocols. Nevertheless, we’ve see the market move from Chiefs -10.5 and a 46.5-point total to Chiefs -8.5 and a 45-point total (check real-time NFL odds here).
Can the Chiefs overcome their outbreak? Or will the Steelers keep their playoff hopes alive with a win over the defending AFC champions? Let’s find out where the betting value lies for this matchup!
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Steelers vs. Chiefs Injury Report
Steelers vs. Chiefs Matchup
|Steelers Offense||DVOA Rank||Chiefs Defense|
|Steelers Defense||DVOA Rank||Chiefs Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Steelers Defense Now A Weakness
The Steelers are coming off a 19-13 home victory over the Titans in a game Pittsburgh arguably should have lost by two touchdowns.
It was one of the more misleading scores of the season as the Steelers were dominated in yardage (318 vs. 168), rushing yards (201 vs. 35), yards per play (4.1 vs. 3.7) and third-down percentage (44% vs. 18%). They were simply fortunate to hold the Titans to 1-of-4 (25%) in the red zone while also forcing four turnovers, including three fumbles and a Ryan Tannehill interception that set the Steelers up in Titans territory for points.
With wins like that, it’s no surprise that the Steelers have outperformed their point differential as this is a team with a Pythagorean Expectation of just 5.8. Nevertheless this team faces a much steeper test this week against the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
The Steelers don’t do anything particularly well, ranking 23rd in Offensive Expected Points Added (EPA) per play and 31st in Success Rate behind an offensive line that’s 31st in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards, as well as 30th in ESPN’s pass block win rate and 31st in run block win rate.
Ben Roethlisberger has clearly shown signs of aging as he’s just 24th in EPA + CPOE and 30th among all quarterbacks in Success Rate (43.1%). And wile he’s made big plays with weapons like Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and Najee Harris, there’s only so much impact they can have with a poor offensive line.
Nonetheless, this is a struggling and inconsistent offense averaging just 20.8 points per game, 20th in the league. The Steelers will also be down TE Pat Freiermuth, who left last week’s game with a concussion and was a huge security blanket for Roethlisberger.
The defense was supposed to be the strength of this team heading into the season, but that’s been anything but the case.
T.J. Watt will play on Sunday, but this defense still can’t stop the run, ranking 30th in EPA/play and 22nd in Success Rate (41.7%). While many teams would love to see the Chiefs run the ball to keep the ball out of the hands of Patrick Mahomes, you certainly don’t want to see a repeat of the Steelers’ performance last week, when they allowed the Titans to rush for 201 yards on 4.8 yards per carry.
The Steelers are also around league-average in Dropback EPA and Success Rate, so the Chiefs should be able to find some success through the air as well.
As a whole, the Steelers are fighting an uphill battle here.
Chiefs Defense Now A Strength
The Chiefs have reeled off seven straight wins, but surprisingly, it’s come on the backs of a defense that’s allowed just 13.2 points per game over that stretch.
If you remove last week’s game against the Chargers in which the Chiefs gave up 28 points, they’re giving up 10.2 points per game. Since Week 8, they’re fourth in EPA/play, Dropback EPA and Success Rate. They’re also 12th in pass rush win rate and should be able to get to Roethlisberger with Chris Jones, Frank Clark and Melvin Ingram.
On paper, this appears to be a complete mismatch on both sides of the ball that the Chiefs should dominate, but their COVID-19 outbreak has completely put a hex on their plans of winning eight straight as they could potentially be without Kelce. Mahomes and this offense haven’t been nearly as prolific as years past, so missing one of their two best weapons can’t be understated.
The Chiefs are top 10 in explosive pass plays, ranking seventh with completions of 20 or more yards and eighth with completions of 40 or more yards. Where their offense struggles — and where they should take an even further step back — is in the red zone, where they’re just 17th in the league, converting just 59.3% of their trips inside of their opponents’ 20-yard line.
Still, you can expect a heavy dosage of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams against this struggling Steelers run defense, which should create opportunities for wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle.
The Chiefs should find some success offensively, but this won’t be the same high-flying offense that scored 34 against the Chargers and 48 against the Raiders.
NFL Pick: Steelers vs. Chiefs
This is a really tough game to handicap given the potential absence of one of Mahomes’ top receiving options in Kelce.
With both Kelce and Hill in the lineup, I was looking to lay double digits with the Chiefs against a Steelers team coming off one of the most misleading wins of the year. Without them, though, we’ve since seen this spread come down from Chiefs -10.5 to -8.5 (check real-time NFL odds here).
At the current number, I still believe you have to take the Chiefs. We just saw the Titans dominate the Steelers on the road without A.J. Brown or Derrick Henry. Pittsburgh simply couldn’t get the win due to four turnovers, all which led to Tennessee points.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have one of the best defenses in the league over the last seven weeks and their pass-rushers should dominate against a poor Steelers offensive line. The Chiefs should also have the ability to run the ball at will on this porous Steelers rush defense.
Look for big days from Edwards-Helaire and Williams, and while this won’t be an easy cover for the Chiefs, I see them eventually pulling ahead by the second half to win their eighth straight and cover the 8.5 points.
Pick: Chiefs -8.5 | Bet to: -9 without Kelce; -10.5 with both Kelce and Hill active
Editor’s note: With Tyreek Hill clearing COVID protocols and Travis Kelce officially out for Sunday, our expert now likes the Chiefs to -10 (shop for the best real-time line here).
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