The Kansas City Chiefs went from divisional leaders to clinging to a fading hope for a wild-card berth. The Steelers have won two in a row, both on the road, recovering nicely from a bad loss at Heinz Field to New Orleans.
Those are probably the reasons why the Steelers are favored by three points heading into their Week 16 game against the Chiefs in Pittsburgh.
The Chiefs are among the lowest statistically-balanced offensive teams in the league. While they're an outstanding running team (running back Jamaal Charles is expected to play after taking a shot to the head against Oakland in Week 15), they do not pass the ball well, averaging just 196.7 yards per game, 30th in the NFL.
That's the area the Steelers' defense has struggled with this season. They've allowed at least 120 yards to a wide receiver in each of their last three games, and a revolving door currently leads to one of their cornerback positions. Ike Taylor didn't play in Sunday's win over the Falcons, but the Steelers' sub-packages struggled to contain Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas. Julio Jones didn't play and the Steelers still surrendered 310 passing yards.
The Chiefs have been living and dying by the production of Charles who, along with Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, is one of the most dynamic backs in the league. He averages 91 rushing yards per game, a bit under the Steelers' average yards allowed of 103.6, which is 11th-best in the league.
The Steelers were dominant at home this season until getting worked by the Saints in Week 13. Coming out of their bye-week, the Steelers' defense was shredded through the air by quarterback Drew Brees, who tossed five touchdown passes in the win. They led by as much as 35-16 in the second half, in a game that wasn't close to being as competitive as the 35-32 final score reflects.
A Steelers' win puts them in the post-season for the first time since 2011. It would also set up a division-championship game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Assuming the Steelers win, if Cincinnati defeats Denver in Week 16, the winner of the Bengals-at-Steelers game would be the division champion. A Bengals loss would keep the door open for Baltimore who, assuming it wins in Week 16, would still be able to win the division if the Steelers lose to Kansas City and Cincinnati with the Bengals going 1-1 in their final two games.
Kickoff from Heinz Field is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Dec. 21.