New England host the below average Houston Texans and enjoy a two touchdown advantage over their opponents in the first of the AFC Divisional matches, with the most competitive encounter seeing the 11-5 regular season Pittsburgh Steelers travel to the 12-4 Kansas City Chiefs. Can the Steelers upset the odds? Read on to find out.
It’s another venue switched reprise of a regular season match up. In week four Pittsburgh’s (2.13*) efficient passing and a positive turnover differential helped them to a 43-14 trouncing of Kansas City. (1.80*)
Kansas City’s conventional stats would appear to be the most vulnerable to regression towards the mean. Their points scoring record suggests a Pythagorean win expectation of just 10 wins, rather than their actual 12 and they have won six games narrowly and lost just three.
They also have the league’s best turnover differential, although these have been partly fuelled by interceptions, which can be personnel or scheme driven and may be more reliably persistent than fumble recoveries.
Kansas' points scoring record suggests a Pythagorean win expectation of just 10 wins, rather than their actual 12.
Pittsburgh share some of Kansas’ possibly unsustainable over performance. Their Pythagorean expectation suggests one fewer win, they also have two more narrow wins than defeats, but their turnover differential is much less extreme than is Kansas’.
Kansas has an averagely efficient running and passing game, the latter overseen by below elite level quarterback, Alex Smith, who has tasted a handful of post season games with both KC and San Francisco.
Smith’s regular season performances have been typical of his previous three seasons in KC and they have scored 24.3 ppg (points per game) against defenses that typically allow 23.7 ppg.
The host’s defense has been of around average efficiency, but better against the pass than the run.
However, they have limited opposition scoring events by allowing 24 ppg sides to score an average of just 19.4 ppg.
Pittsburgh are led by Ben Roethlisberger, a veteran of 18 post season games, losing just six.
They are above par in passing efficiency and marginally so when running the football, but they have excelled on the scoreboard, scoring 24.9 ppg against 21.9 ppg defenses.
It’s a similar story on the defensive side of the ball. Opponents can achieve average efficiency running or passing the ball, but 22 ppg offenses have posted just 20.4 ppg when facing the Steelers.
Matchups suggest a fairly even contest between offense and defense, with Pittsburgh perhaps having greater success on the ground and overall it is difficult to split the two sides, other than through home field advantage and an extra week’s rest favouring KC by 3 points.
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*Odds subject to change