The good news: after their bye week and two consecutive road games, the Chiefs return to Arrowhead for the first time in almost a month. The bad news: their opponent is the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Last season, the Steelers' defense led the league both in yards and points allowed. They had the NFL's best pass defense, the second-best run defense, and their 51 sacks were second only to the 59 put up by Dallas.
Surprisingly, though, their offense wasn't all that strong last year, finishing the season ranked 22nd. Due to a struggling offensive line, the traditionally strong Steelers' run game only mustered 105.6 yards per outing, nearly 10 yards fewer than the Chiefs' own rushing attack. Pittsburgh's offensive line allowed 49 sacks, the fourth most in the league.
Despite their offensive setbacks, the Steelers managed to put up nearly 22 points a game and went 12-4 during the regular season.
Why The Chiefs Could Win
Normally in this space, we try to devise some scenario – no matter how unlikely – in which the Chiefs have a chance at pulling off a win. Whether it's their opponent losing a similar game the year before, or their opponent having a certain weakness that the Chiefs could try to exploit, there's usually something we can discuss.
This week, it's a little harder.
The Steelers lost just four games in 2008, all to playoff teams, and in only one of those games – a 31-14 loss on the road at Tennessee – did they lose by more than nine points.
As for Pittsburgh's biggest weakness, even if the poor play on their offensive line continues in 2009, the Chiefs' pass rush doesn't appear strong enough to take advantage of the opportunity. And if the run defense doesn't improve, the matchup could prove to be a "get well" game for the Steelers' line.
On the bright side, Todd Haley and Clancy Pendergast should be awfully familiar with the Steelers, having spent two weeks preparing for last season's Super Bowl. The Cardinals even came remarkably close to pulling off the upset, as Haley's offense put up 16 points in the game's final quarter.
Of course, the key players that helped Arizona accomplish that feat won't be available to the Chiefs in this game. But maybe, just maybe, Haley identified some critical flaw in the Steelers' approach that even a less-talented team can take advantage of.
Apart from that – hey, any given Sunday, right?
Why The Chiefs Will Lose
When the Chiefs last met the Steelers in 2006, they were on the wrong end of an embarrassing 45-7 beatdown – and Kansas City made the playoffs that year. Imagine how much worse things might have been if that game had been played during the last two seasons.
Let's just hope the final score isn't quite as bad this year.
Most Likely Outcome: the Chiefs (3-7) show some heart, but aren't yet ready to hang with the league's elite.
Reading KC's Fortune - Week 11
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