Week 2 Preview: Pittsburgh @ Kansas City

Can anyone guess the newest chic AFC Championship pairing? It's an easy answer because one need only look at this week's NFL schedule. The Pittsburgh Steelers face the Kansas City Chiefs to continue a long rivalry of Arrowhead-only games. This particular contest is very appealing to many palates because of the very real possibility that both teams will meet in at least a playoff round if not the championship game.

But really, how serious is the possibility? Very, unless you take into account that the most real possibility of them all is the chance that one of these teams won't even make the playoffs. That team, however, isn't wearing black and gold.

The Chiefs without a defense last season almost played their way into a playoff appearance while riding the legs of Priest Holmes. Then Holmes was injured late in the season and the proud franchise stumbled to an 8 – 8 record. The Chiefs last season played one of the most competitive divisions in football, the AFC West. This season the West is still ultra-tight with all four teams having real possibilities of a Super Bowl visit.

Couple their murderous schedule with the fact that the AFC East and AFC South have a combined 6 potential playoff teams and add the Steelers; you'll see that 11 teams are fighting for 6 playoff positions. The Steelers get one for being the only worthy team in the AFC North and that number drops to 5. That means that unless the Chiefs win the division, they'll be fighting 7 teams for two playoff spots.

However, the Chiefs and other teams in the AFC can help themselves by following the 10-win rule. The 10-win rule only comes into play in parity conferences, i.e. the AFC. In this rule, if a team wins 10 games they are virtually assured of a playoff spot. Win 11 and you're virtually assured of a division. Win 12 or more and you'll get a bye. Win 9? Well, if you win 9, you'll be needing help.

It used to be that a 9-win season usually meant football in January. Not anymore. Having 10 wins isn't a guarantee, but it's almost a sure-fire barometer. The Steelers and Chiefs each need 9 more wins. Both passed their first test of the season last week with flying colors, but this week they are hit with a pop quiz and fans can only hope the Black and Gold remembered to study.

Offense

Pittsburgh: Ranked 8th (Passing 12th, Rushing 16th) The running game is still in flux, although Verron Haynes should turn out to be a wonderful 3rd down back. Bettis might not play, surprise, surprise. The passing game is outright the best in the NFL and should put up major numbers again this week.

Kansas City: Ranked 5th (Passing 4th, Rushing 8th) Priest Holmes is the best back in the NFL and can hurt teams with his cutback and pass-catching abilities. The receivers aren't scary, but Tony Gonzalez may still be the best tight end in the NFL. The offensive line remains the best in football.

Advantage: Even

Defense

Pittsburgh: Ranked 3rd (Passing 8th, Rushing 13th) Clark Haggans filled in admirably for Joey Porter last week while James Farrior showed why he was a tackle machine for the Jets a few years ago. The big story will be Casey Hampton's ability (or maybe inability) to blow plays up against the Chiefs offensive line.

Kansas City: Ranked 4th (Passing 10th, Rushing 7th) They stuffed LaDanian Tomlinson last week for 30+ yards on the ground. That's not good news for a struggling Pittsburgh rushing attack.

Advantage: Pittsburgh has more talent, but…Holmes can make the best defenses look awful.

Quarterbacks

Tommy Maddox: The AFC Offensive Player of the Week. Is this the marking of a one-hit wonder? I don't think so, Prisco.

Trent Green: He has two major weapons in Gonzalez and Holmes to throw to and the others are just fodder. But, those two weapons are the best at their positions.

Advantage: Green just doesn't have the weapons or the accuracy that Maddox brings to the table. Remember fans, Green could have been a Steeler.

Outlook: This was a tough, tough game to predict, but I think the Steelers will get caught in a shootout. The deciding factor will be the running yardage disparity. Kansas City by 4.

John Biles
SteelCitySports.com


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