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Week 6 Sunday Afternoon Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| October 13, 2017 12:00 am PDT
steelers-vs-chiefs

During the most recent offseason, when the 2017/18 regular season NFL schedule was first released, people looked forward to this Week 6 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers traveling to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs as a potential preview of the AFC Championship game.

In the offseason, it seemed that even though the Patriots tend to always hang around and be competitive in the postseason, the Chiefs and the Steelers were certainly going to contend as well. And when KC beat up on the Patriots in Week 1, it seemed all the more likely that Kansas City and Pittsburgh were fated to end up playing at the end of the season.

However, in a turn of events that no one could have anticipated, the Kansas City Chiefs have easily and seamlessly pulled ahead of the pack, while the Pittsburgh Steelers have started to wallow.

Just at the moment when Kansas City looks strongest, currently the only remaining undefeated team in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers look incredibly weak, losing games to both the Chicago Bears and the Jacksonville Jaguars (who won only six combined games last season) and beating the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Cleveland Browns (by 3 points) in their other three games.

Though highly anticipated in the offseason, this game is nothing like we expected.

And even though it’s still early in the year, it bears thinking about how these two teams are going to progress through the season, considering the way that the playoff picture is shaping up in the AFC, and the way that their two divisions have been playing this far.

In short, there couldn’t be a bigger difference between the AFC West and the AFC North.

After a season last year in which the AFC South didn’t really even deserve to send one team to the playoffs, the AFC East was once again dominated by the New England Patriots with no other real contenders, and the AFC North saw a heated battle throughout the first 13 weeks of the season between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens for the chance to represent the division in the postseason, the playoff picture in the AFC has shifted dramatically in 2017/18.

This year, the only thing that has remained the same is that the AFC West seems to be the most dominant division in football, and definitely the most dominant in the AFC.

Though the Raiders have taken a dramatic step back with issues on defense, regression for their receivers, and an injury to quarterback Derek Carr, the Broncos have stepped in ready to take their place as one of the top five best teams in the conference. And of course, with the Chiefs currently sitting with the best record in football, the AFC West looks strong.

In the AFC East, somehow it’s the New England Patriots that look weak, currently sitting tied with the Bills and the Jets at 3–2, both of whom have fewer points allowed than the Pats and a better home record through five games.

In the AFC South, with significant injuries to the Colts’ Andrew Luck, the Titans’ Marcus Mariota, and the Texans’ two star defenders J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, somehow it’s the strong defense of the Jaguars that seems to put them as the favorite, despite ending up in last place in the division last season.

And this brings us finally to the AFC North, which by all accounts has emerged suddenly has the worst division in all of football.

With the Cleveland Browns starting out 0–5, (business as usual), the Bengals firing their offensive coordinator less than a quarter of the way into the season, the Ravens getting blown out multiple weeks in a row, and the Pittsburgh Steelers losing very winnable games to the Bears and the Jaguars, the whole division has been thrown for a loop.

Even though things have been so topsy-turvy in the AFC through the first five games of 2017/18, October football can be a great stabilizing factor in the NFL.

Each season holds its own surprises, and it’s important for fans and gamblers alike not to get too thrown off by unexpected twists and turns. It’s our job to sift through the crud and try to determine which trends are bound to continue and which are merely flashes in the pan.

  • Who: Pittsburgh Steelers (3–2) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (5–0)
  • Where: Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City, Missouri
  • When: Sunday, October 15, 2017. 4:25 PM (EST) on CBS

In this game, sending the Pittsburgh Steelers to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs, we believe that it’s of utmost importance to take a good look at whether public opinion might be swinging out of control, and if there’s more to these two teams than meets the eye.

Pursuant to this aim, below you will find all the information you need to make an informed betting decision about this seemingly trap game. Specifically, we will preview the following bets:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet
  • Any prop bets or futures that could hold value

In the offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers taking on the Kansas City Chiefs seemed that it could serve as an AFC Championship preview. And while the first five weeks on 2017/18 have shown otherwise, we’re not so sure that we weren’t right all along. And we can’t wait to find out.

Steelers vs. Chiefs Betting

FootballMoneyLine
  • Steelers +175
  • Chiefs -210

In picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, our philosophy involves taking a look at both teams holistically, in order to assign a mental advantage in the game.

In our experience, whichever team is able to play disciplined for 60 minutes generally, ends up winning. On the other hand, when a team loses its mental toughness, they commit a host of different mental mistakes that end up costing games. Whether it’s blown coverages and a lack of pressure on defense, dropped balls and penalties on offense, or anything in between, the mentally tough team limits mistakes and wins.

In this game, we believe that the Kansas City Chiefs have by far the stronger team identity at this point.

Football is a game that is dependent on mental precision and complete focus. When a team is firing on all cylinders, it’s because the players are completely dialed into what they are accomplishing together, and trusting each other both on and off the field.

It seems pretty apparent that the three team leaders for the Pittsburgh Steelers have allowed themselves to become a distraction for the team.

Chronologically, the first distraction was the contract holdout by star running back Le’Veon Bell. In refusing to report to Camp all the way up to the first game of the regular season, Bell demonstrated to the team that he felt his own financial situation was more important than the team’s success.

If Le’Veon Bell is not yet fully integrated into the offense and still working out the kinks and shaking off the rust due to his lack of preseason snaps, that’s one mental challenge.

Second, star wide receiver Antonio Brown, who currently leads the league in receiving yards, was recently seen on the sidelines tossing a water cooler like a petulant teenager. Brown, known for his immaturity from the Facebook live controversy of last year, can’t have those mental errors.

If Antonia Brown is allowing his emotions to get the better of him and not helping out his teammates on the sideline, that’s a second mental challenge.

Finally, and most recently, after last week’s five-interception performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ben Roethlisberger responded to a question in his postgame press conference by claiming: “maybe I don’t have it anymore.” Even though, in context, Ben backtracked on the remark, the established, veteran team leader has to realize that these words would provide a distraction.

If Roethlisberger is, in fact, doubting his own abilities, or even if he is simply giving the team an opportunity to, that’s a third mental challenge.

Mental challenges have a habit of piling up on a team, and their influence is subtle. Sometimes, you can’t even see it on the television broadcast, but if you watch enough games live, it’s possible to notice subtle looks and gestures and signs in a player or coach’s body language that indicate that now all is not right with the team.

On the other hand, when you see players smiling, interacting with each other with each other in a healthy way, and generally demonstrating team unity, you get much more confidence that a team will be able to handle adversity, play with mental toughness, and bounce back after a disappointing start to the season.

And let’s not forget that the Pittsburgh Steelers have also had a challenge presented to their team unity as it regards to the national anthem protests.

In response to President Donald Trump’s comments that every player who kneels during the national anthem is a “son of a bitch,” the Steelers came out in their next game and spent the duration of the anthem in the locker room.

However, despite the fact that multiple teams had utilized this strategy to minimize distractions and keep the players from needing to make a difficult choice, Alejandro Villanueva stood outside the locker room, away from the team, with his hand over his heart.

Even with good intentions, an image of Villanueva ended up going viral throughout the media, and the young man unwittingly incited yet another distraction for the team to overcome.

These types of distractions, most notably the four that we’ve listed thus far, can compound a team’s already shaky confidence at playing poorly on the field, can cause finger-pointing and harsh words, and can generally provide a block that inhibits the team from being able to play well.

And all of the mental distractions for the Steelers should be compounded by playing on the road.

The Kansas City Chiefs undoubtedly have one of the best home-field advantages is in the league right now, and they are also clearly the most complete team in the league. Their identity is rock solid, they are probably the most well-coached team in the league, and there is no reason to think that their mental toughness should be challenged in this game.

Ultimately, we do believe that the Steelers are going to take a step forward in this game, because they are an experienced and veteran team, because they know what it takes to make a run into the postseason, and because they had their pride seriously injured last week with such an abysmal performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But even though we don’t anticipate the game being a blowout, we do believe that the Kansas City Chiefs will do enough in all phases to capitalize on Pittsburgh’s greater number of mental mistakes, and ultimately to win the game.

Pick: Chiefs to win

FootballSpread
  • Steelers +5 (-115)
  • Chiefs -5 (-105)

Having established our pick for the Kansas City Chiefs to win at home by capitalizing on the mistakes that we anticipate from the distracted Pittsburgh Steelers, let’s now turn our attention to the question of whether we believe the Chiefs will win by more than five points.

In picking games against the spread, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.

In our experience, when a team is both able to remain mentally tough enough to win and also matches up well on offense against the opposing team’s defense, it usually happens that they score enough points to win against the spread as well as straight-up.

However, if the losing team’s defense matches up well against the winning team’s offense, and is able to generate stops, then the game usually ends up close, and the losing team can usually execute a backdoor cover.

The matchup we’re watching in this game is between the Chiefs’ offense and the Steelers’ defense.

For the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s hard to talk about their offense so far in 2017/18 without simply offering a string of superlatives.

After Week 5, in which the Los Angeles Rams ended up with only 10 points of offense against the Seattle Seahawks, the Kansas City Chiefs have officially snuck into first place in the league in terms of points scored, for the first time this season.

So far through five games, KC has averaged a league-leading 32.8 points per game.

The Chiefs are ranked second in the league in terms of yards, with 414.2 per game, and a disproportionate amount of which has come in the run game. Kansas City is ranked second in rushing yards, with 156.2 per game, and ninth in pass yards, with 258 per game.

This disparity is reflected in the number of attempts, as the team is ranked 12th in the league in rushing attempts and 21st in the league in passing attempts.

Either way, though, the Chiefs rank out near the top of the pack for both run and pass in terms of efficiency, ranked #1 in the league in average amount of yards per rushing attempt, and #3 in the league in net yards per pass attempt.

The reason why the Chiefs can lead the league in scoring despite not even cracking the top 10 in total rushing or passing attempts, (and particularly not even the top 20 in passing attempts), is the fact that they have been remarkably efficient at scoring points on their offensive drives.

Currently ranked second in the league in total number of turnovers, with only one single offensive turnover so far this season, Kansas City ranks number one in the league in both percentage of offensive drives ending in an offensive score and average points scored per drive.

This remarkable efficiency on offense is a testament to the coaching and scheme of Andy Reid.

It can’t be denied that quarterback Alex Smith has been remarkably efficient, with a 76.6% completion percentage and a passer rating of 125.8 over the first five games, throwing for 8.8 yards per attempt and adding zero interceptions to his 11 touchdowns.

And it’s also true that rookie running back Kareem Hunt has been an absolute revelation, currently leading the league in rushing by just shy of 150 yards, with 609 yards over five games (121.8 yards per game), on an average of 19.4 attempts per game for a total of 6.3 yards per attempt, and adding on two receiving touchdowns to his four rushing touchdowns.

But the fact of the matter is that with weapons across the board, including Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Charcandrick West, and of course the dual-threat 33-year-old wonder Alex Smith, Andy Reid simply has a full complement of weapons to work with.

When you provide this many weapons to a play-caller who is unquestionably one of the most genius offensive mines in the game today it’s simply a magical combination.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers’ defense has yet to really show its true face through the first four games of the season.

On the one hand, Pittsburgh has allowed the fewest passing yards in the league through five games and the second fewest touchdowns, with the lowest net yards allowed per pass attempt in the NFL. In three of their five games, they have allowed less than 100 rushing yards, and have generated at least one turnover in each of game so far, with their 8 total turnovers ranked ninth in the league for takeaways.

On the other hand, however, the Steelers are also ranked 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed, 30th in the league in rushing touchdowns allowed, and 31st in the league in average amount of yards allowed per rushing attempt. The bulk of this production has come in two games, (their two losses against the Bears and the Jaguars), where the defense allowed 222 and 231 yards in the ground game, respectively.

And let’s not forget when evaluating the Steelers’ passing statistics that in their five games they have faced DeShone Kizer, Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon, Joe Flacco, and Blake Bortles.

Ultimately, when we look at the tape we see a defense that has the playmakers to be great, but just hasn’t put it together yet. Across the team, Pittsburgh seems to rise only to the level of the competition, which is why they went to overtime with the Bears and why they only beat the Browns by 3 points in Week 1.

This is a prideful group, that got their tails whipped last week against Jacksonville. We believe that Pittsburgh will bounce back in Arrowhead, contrary to most people’s expectations and that their defense will finally break Kansas City’s ridiculous turnover streak.

Look for the stiff competition provided by Andy Reid and the unstoppable Kansas City Chiefs to bring out the best in the Steelers, and for them to play them close, just like last year’s divisional playoff game.

Pick: Chiefs to win by less than 5

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 47 (-110)
  • Under 47 (-110)

Now that we’ve made our prediction for the Chiefs to win at home because they will be able to capitalize on mistakes made by the Steelers, and that the Steelers’ defense will rise to the level of competition (as they always do) and keep the game close, it’s time for us to turn our attention to the question of whether this game will be generally high- or low-scoring.

In picking games for the total score over/under bet, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In our experience, when a team stays mentally tough enough to win and also matches up well enough on both offense and defense to score points and generate stops, they’ll usually control the time of possession to such a degree that the total score ends up going under.

On the other hand, when the losing team’s offense matches up well against the winning team’s defense, the losing team will often score enough points to push the game into a shootout, and this generally pushes the total score over.

In this way, the matchup we’re looking at is between Kansas City’s defense and Pittsburgh’s offense.

Much in the same way as their defense, the Pittsburgh offense has been very hot or cold so far after five games of this young 2017/18 season.

Twice so far, once at home against the Minnesota Vikings and once on the road against the division rival Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers have ended up with a final score of 26–9, winning the game by 17 points and ending up with over 100 yards of rush offense.

Tacking on their win in Week 1 in Cleveland, (where they had only 35 yards rushing yards but only one turnover), the Steelers have only two turnovers in their three wins.

However, in both of their two losses, on the road against the Chicago Bears and at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Steelers have ended up with exactly 70 total rushing yards (despite the fact that they played an extra overtime period in Chicago). Pittsburgh has also combined for an incredible seven turnovers in these two losses, five of which came last week against the Jaguars.

When you throw 5 interceptions in a game, it’s no wonder that you immediately fall to the 2nd-worst in the league in terms of total interceptions lost, and 6th-worst in the league in total turnovers lost.

When you look at the stats in this way, it’s pretty clear what the Steelers need to do in order to play more like the team that won by 17 against the Vikings and the Ravens: they need to feed Le’Veon Bell.

In Weeks 1, 3, and 5, in which the Steelers rushed for 35, 70, and 70 yards, respectively, Le’Veon Bell had 10, 15, and 15 carries. Conversely, in Weeks 2 and 4, Bell had 27 and 35 carries, respectively, and Pittsburgh ended up with 102 and 173 rushing yards.

In some ways, it’s more complicated than this. But in other ways, it truly is just that simple.

It’s true that the Steelers have to be controlling the time of possession and moving the ball through the air in order to manipulate defenses and get the looks they want in the run game (and naturally the type of defense and defensive scheme has a lot to do with it as well), but at the same time it really is that simple: the ball simply needs to be placed in Le’Veon Bell’s hands.

Because in this game, if Ben Roethlisberger makes the same number of mistakes that he made last game against the Jaguars, he’s liable to commit just as many turnovers.

It does need to be noted that of Ben Roethlisberger’s 5 picks, when you look at the tape you see that really only two or possibly three were Ben’s fault. One was clearly due to pressure in his face, and a second was clearly tipped at the line of scrimmage.

On the other hand, it was also clear that at least one of the interceptions (as well as other interceptions so far this season and last season) have demonstrated that Ben is beginning to struggle more and more with accuracy and ball placement, particularly on intermediate to deep throws.

And this Kansas City Chiefs’ defense is not one to let you get away with errant throws.

In particular, defensive team leader Marcus Peters will be hungry to get his hands on balls the same way that the Jacksonville Jaguars did last week against Roethlisberger. Peters has one interception this season, Terrance Mitchell has two, and defensive end Chris Jones has one.

In addition, the Chiefs have already racked up 14 sacks, with Justin Houston notching five-and-a-half, Chris Jones tacking on three-and-a-half, and Alan Bailey adding two.

While Pittsburgh has held up well so far in pass protection, allowing Big Ben to be sacked only nine times this season (which ranks out at tied for 9th in the league), they haven’t exactly faced the greatest defensive fronts, either, with the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, and Baltimore Ravens not providing very much of a challenge in terms of pass rush.

In the end, we believe that the defense of the Kansas City Chiefs will be more than adequate to put the pressure on Big Ben and the Steelers and keep it there.

We foresee the Steelers employing a conservative game plan, running the ball heavily. Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger will both no doubt be keen to keep the attempts for Ben down, in order to limit mistakes, as well as to capitalize on the Chiefs’ weakness so far this season (in terms of yards per attempt).

Ultimately, we see the game including a lot of field position manipulation, punts, several drives ended by either turnovers or key defensive stops and multiple field goals instead of touchdowns.

Pick: Chiefs 23, Steelers 20

FootballProp Bets

Having established our prediction for the Kansas City Chiefs to win at home, capitalizing on Pittsburgh mental mistakes, but for the Jekyll & Hyde Pittsburgh defense to do enough to keep the game close, let’s now see if we can’t profit off of this view of the game by investing in some prop bets.

Specifically, we believe that the following bets hold value:

  • There will not be a score in the first 7m30s of the game. We believe that the Steelers’ offense is going to need some time to get into a rhythm, meanwhile, the Steelers’ defense is going to come out with a strong first 20 scripted plays. Look for the first drives to end in punts on both sides.
  • Le’Veon Bell as an anytime touchdown scorer. The Steelers’ game plan this week is going to involve digging deep to find their true identity on offense and finding the run game. We like them to have at least one long, tough drive that helps limits Ben’s mistakes and ends with Bell.
  • The Chiefs to score the longest touchdown yardage. Even with Antonio Brown on the field, the league leader in receiving yards, the Chiefs’ defense is too disciplined to give up a long bomb. We like either Kareem Hunt or Tyreek Hill to break one the other way, so take the Chiefs.

In addition to the bets above that we will be able to watch unfold live during the game on Sunday afternoon, we also believe that the following future bets hold value:

  • Antonio Brown to win the yardage total. So far through 5 games, Antonio Brown has demonstrated that he has the formula to win for yards: a struggling team that will need to throw the ball often, along with health, chemistry, and talent. We think he does it this year.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs to win the AFC West. Starting out 5–0 with the Raiders faltering and the Chargers immediately excusing themselves from the race, it seems like the Chiefs’ only main competition in the division will be the Broncos. We like the more experienced quarterback.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers to miss the playoffs. While it may seem crazy to imagine (and while we do see a case for the Steelers to bounce back from these early struggles), the odds will never be better to bail on Pittsburgh. If they go 8–8 to the Jaguars’ 9–7, they might not get a Wild Card.

In order to bring your gambling to the next level, it’s important to start watching games not just to see if your immediate bets payout, but also to take mental notes for any and all future bets that you may want to make down the line. Keep a weathered eye out for any clues into the bats above, and thank us later.

Summary: Best Bets

During the offseason, fans and pundits alike looked at this game pitting the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Kansas City Chiefs as a potential AFC Championship preview, and an exciting rematch from last year’s divisional playoff game. But no one expected Kansas City to come out looking unbeatable, and for the Pittsburgh Steelers to start out so slow.

Nonetheless, we believe that people are too quick to write off the Pittsburgh Steelers, and we foresee a very entertaining matchup.

Specifically, we believe that the Chiefs will end up with the win in the end because they will make fewer mental mistakes at home then the Steelers on the road. However, we believe that Pittsburgh’s defense will rise to the occasion and Kansas City will finally break their turnover streak. We foresee the game being a low-scoring affair, in which both teams try to grind out the clock with the ground game.

In order to capitalize on this view of the game, here are our best bets:

  • Chiefs -210 moneyline
  • Steelers +5 against the spread (-115)
  • The total score to go under 47 (-110)
  • There will not be a score in the first 7m30s of the game
  • Le’Veon Bell as an anytime touchdown scorer
  • The Chiefs to score the longest touchdown yardage

Ultimately, only time will tell which of these two teams will end up relevant in January. After all, last season the Minnesota Vikings also started out as the last undefeated team at 5–0, only to miss the playoffs. October football is a great equalizer in the NFL, and we’re excited to see two of the AFC’s premier franchises battle it out on Sunday afternoon.

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