A Week 16 rematch will likely be the last matchup between Super Bowl champion quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger
The matchups were all set after a wild Sunday Night Football matchup between AFC West rivals. Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired in order to move on and eliminate the Los Angeles Chargers.
This means the Chiefs will face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card. These two teams are familiar with each other after a recent matchup. A day after Christmas Day saw the Chiefs host the Steelers in Week 16. The Chiefs won handly in a 36-10 rout, even without All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, who was sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19.
Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill was also in COVID-19 protocols for most of the week. Though Hill played, it was clear they didn’t use him to his full extent and relied more on their other wide receivers to carry the workload. Chiefs wide receiver Byron Pringle stepped up huge against the Steelers, totaling 75 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Mecole Hardman also added another receiving touchdown.
There was a key injury that certainly limited star defensive end TJ Watt. Watt played through cracked ribs and was only able to produce one tackle in the Chiefs matchup. Watt has clearly shown an ability to play better than his lackluster performance, tying Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks. This is even more impressive given that Watt has played through cracked ribs and missed two games this season.
The Steelers were able to bounce back from their blowout loss in Kansas City. The Steelers handled the Cleveland Browns by double-digits and then squeaked by the Baltimore Ravens with an overtime field goal by Steelers kicker Chris Boswell. This does appear to be the end of the road for two-time Super Bowl champion Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben struggled in Week 16, totaling just 159 passing yards with an interception and touchdown pass. Roethlisberger will need to create more chances and take more risks in order to not make this his last Steelers performance of his career.
One reason for this was the Chiefs pass rush. With trading with Pittsburgh for linebacker Melvin Ingram, the Chiefs have been able to adjust the line to fit their regular scheme. Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones has moved back inside, with Ingram and Frank Clark rushing off the edge.
One bright spot for the Steelers in the previous matchup was rookie running back Najee Harris. The Alabama alumnus rushed for 93 yards on 19 touches, nearly five yards per carry. If the Steelers are to have a chance, they will need to limit the Chiefs’ defensive line play and keep Kansas City’s explosive offense off the field and in check. One key to the matchup will be how well the Steeler’s do running the football with Harris. Both Watt and All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick must play much better to keep the Steelers in this first-round matchup.
The Chiefs have opened as big favorites ahead of the game, partially given how well they played without Kelce and a limited Hill from not truly practicing with the team in preparation.
The Chiefs will play the Steelers on Sunday Night Football to finish the first tripleheader in the new Wild Card playoff format.