The Pittsburgh Steelers are out to make amends for last week's disappointing home loss, and our man Mark Kirwan believes they are the value call on the handicap to get the better of the Kansas City Chiefs...
"It's not an easy call, but the Steelers +4 at 2.01/1 or above is hard to turn down given the potential reaction to last week's embarrassment and the necessary improvement in Roethlisberger's play if he's to dispel suggestions his career is winding down."
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Cheifs
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
These teams lead two of the more competitive divisions in the league going into Week 6, but the mood around each organisation contrasts sharply as they prepare to meet at Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday evening.
KC are flying high right now. They hold the last undefeated record in the league and their array of explosive offensive talent could challenge for a Superbowl title.
QB Alex Smith is playing more adventurously this season, no doubt spurred on by rookie gunslinger Patrick Mahomes's presence on the sideline. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have seen the benefit of Smith's performances in their stats this season, but Kareem Hunt is the breakout star. He is a hot favourite for Offensive Rookie of the Year award having accumulated a league-leading 609 yards on the ground, 166 receiving yards, and six of the Chiefs' 18 touchdowns this season.
If looking for possible issues, their defence suffered the loss of safety and leader Eric Berry in Week 1, and it is giving up an eye-popping 14.5 yards on average per reception this year, with no fewer than seven catches of 40 or more yards. Lineman Justin Houston's calf complaint this week could impede his contribution this Sunday as well. The offence has managed to blow teams away so comprehensively in recent weeks that no opponents could keep pace, but they could also be hampered by Travis Kelce's concussion and receiver Chris Conley's ruptured Achilles tendon.
Pittsburgh come into this game with more obvious issues following a humiliating defeat at home last week to Jacksonville. The Steelers lead the AFC North having muddled their way to a 3-2 record.
The issues for the Steelers revolve around Ben Roethlisberger and whether he can return to form after an offseason where he publicly contemplated retirement. Their disappointing play is a pity given how Pittsburgh's offence is one that Steelers fans and neutral observers alike have been eager to see in full flight for some time.
Le'Veon Bell has been one of the outstanding running backs in the league for years, but serious injuries, including a knee ligament tear in 2015, have limited his playing time and the championship ambitions of his team. Antonio Brown has been playing at a consistently elite level as well, and only a handful of other wide receivers could claim to be his rival for best in the league over that time. However, the recurring absences of quarterback Roethlisberger in recent seasons have forced Brown to field passes from sub-par talent Landry Jones at times.
Also, Martavis Bryant's series of suspensions has denied Brown the support of a top quality second receiver to pose different questions and provide openings against opposing secondaries.
After two years imagining how powerful these pieces could be once on the field together, the opening to Pittsburgh's season has been the dampest of damp squibs. What could be a record-breaking offence on paper has disappointed, their laboured opening week defeat of the Browns a sign of underwhelming play to come rather than an early season wake-up call.
Coach Mike Tomlin and OC Todd Haley have come in for some criticism this week for being too predictable on offence, and there are murmurings of discontent in the camp, with the Steelers ranking 24th in average yards per pass completion, gaining just 6.5 yards per play through the air. The running game has fared little better, placing 26th in the league with 3.5 yards per attempt. Bell's holdout in preseason cannot have helped here either.
The Steelers can take some comfort from their defence. Last week's meltdown against the Jags largely fell on the offence, Roethlisberger throwing for five picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns within minutes of each other, and Jacksonville ran out the clock on the back of Leonard Fournette.
The defence has held up for the most part, with linebacker Ryan Shazier fourth in the league in tackles and the secondary performing better than preseason expectations would've suggested. Their problems against the run continue, however, and need to be addressed quickly.
The Steelers were shocking last week, and the hope in Pittsburgh will be the Jacksonville game prompts a reaction from the players and coaching staff. Injuries to important pieces on both sides of the ball for the Chiefs present a chink of light as well.
It's not an easy call, but the Steelers +4 at 2.01/1 or above is hard to turn down given the potential reaction to last week's embarrassment and the necessary improvement in Roethlisberger's play if he's to dispel suggestions his career is winding down. If the Steelers do not put up a strong display this week their season prospects will need to be downgraded significantly.
The Total Points line has been set at 47, and the preferred play there is under. In terms of trends, the under has won 10 of the last 14 times the Chiefs have played at home. The injuries to Kelce and Conley will likely limit the Chiefs play, even if Kelce suits up as expected. It should allow the Steelers to defence to focus on limiting the Chiefs running game, which will be key to them being competitive in this matchup.
A very speculative First TD punt also might be worthwhile on Demetrius Harris of the Chiefs. If Kelce is limited in anyway, Harris could see a few more redzone targets than usual, and should be available at around 20/1 or higher on the Sportsbook once player markets are active.
Back the Steelers +4 @ 2.01/1 or bigger
Back Under 47 Total Points @ 1.9620/21
Back Demetrius Harris First Tourchdown (when Sportsbook prices become available