Cover 3: AFC Playoff Storylines

The Steeler’s Big Three

The combination of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger is a danger to any defense. Against Miami, Roethlisberger threw for 197 yards, Bell rushed for 167 and Brown had 124 receiving yards. This is the first season the trio has made a playoff appearance together, and they have not disappointed. Roethlisberger was spotted with a walking boot after the win against Miami, but expects to start on Sunday. This may mean more plays aimed at Bell, who “controlled the line of scrimmage” against Miami, according to Brown. The Pittsburgh offense dominated Kansas City when the teams met in Week 4. Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns — including two to Brown — while Bell ran for 144 yards. Roethlisberger also threw zero interceptions in the first meeting and aims to have the turnover battle favor the Steelers. If Pittsburgh makes it past the Chiefs this week, the Big Three will be able to give the unstoppable New England team a sure challenge.

 

Cinderella Texans

Houston is the Cinderella story of this AFC playoff season. Winning just nine games in the regular season and defeating an injury-ridden Raiders team last weekend, the Texans now face the rested and ready Patriots in Foxborough. On Monday, Brady was quoted saying the Texans own a “damn good defense,” offering a good test for the Patriot’s dominant offense. The Houston defense is the highest-ranked in the league with strong forces such as Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney and Whitney Mercilus,. With Rob Gronkowski out, Houston can focus on its run defense and apply pressure to the rushers. In the team’s last five games, the defense has only given up an average of 17 points. If they can hold New England, a stellar offensive performance could give the Texans a fighting chance. Despite Houston’s powerful defense, it still seems unlikely that the Texans’ offense — headed by a shaky Osweiler — can defeat the Patriots.

 

Winners and Losers

Despite securing home field advantage, the Chiefs have a history of falling short in the second round of the playoffs. Despite advancing to the postseason 13 times in the last 26 years, the Chiefs only advanced to the AFC Championship game once. In the first meeting between the two teams in Week 4, the Steelers scored 22 unanswered points in the first quarter alone and went on to win 43-14. If Ben Roethlisberger minimizes turnovers, the Pittsburgh offense will be lethal. Sunday will likely continue both the Chiefs’ playoff misfortune and the Steelers’ winning streak.

Prediction: Steelers 28, Chiefs 24

 

The Texans head to Foxborough on Saturday to face the Patriots, who are coming off of a bye week. The last time the two teams met in Week 3, New England blanked Houston 27-0. New England also started rookie QB Jacoby Brissett as Tom Brady was out during his “deflategate” suspension and backup Jimmy Garoppolo was injured. Despite Brock Osweiler’s improved performance against the Raiders, New England brings a much higher level of competition. The numbers are not in Houston’s favor; the Patriots are a 15.5-point favorite for Saturday.

Prediction: Texans 14, Patriots 30

 

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