The Kansas City Chiefs open defense of their American Football Conference Championship tonight when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium.
The NFL playoffs offer a bevy of factors to be considered and weighed in importance. Double-digit favorites do exceptionally well in Wild Card games, they have a 9-1 all-time straight-up record and 8-2 point spread mark in those ten games.
The only double-digit point spread favorite to lose was the 2010 New Orleans Saints. The defending Super Bowl Champions were a 10 point road favorite over the Seattle Seahawks. The Saints were required to play the game on the road despite an 11-5 winning record because they finished second to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South Division race. The home-standing Seahawks were the first team in NFL history to win their division with a losing record. They were 7-9 in 2010, good enough to win the NFC West, and they parlayed that postseason appearance into a victory over the Saints in a game that included Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown run and the ensuing celebration in the stands that registered on the Richter Scale.
Since the Seahawks division win with a losing regular season record, two other teams have advanced to the Wild Card round that lost more regular season games than they won. The Carolina Panthers won the NFC South Division with a 7-8-1 mark in 2014, and the Washington Football Team captured the NFC East Division last season with a 7-9 record.
Perhaps ironically, or more attributable to motivation, all three of the Wild Card division winners who didn’t post a winning season opened the postseason with a home point spread victory. In addition to the Seahawks upset over the Saints, the Panthers beat the St. Louis Rams and last year Washington clipped the soon-to-be Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the point spread. The Buccaneers won the game, 31-23, while favored by 10 points. That game represents the only Wild Card double-digit favorite to have the result of the game flipped by virtue of the point spread.
Kansas City is favored by 12½ points tonight, the 11th double-digit Wild Card favorite, and they will be looking to add to the 9-1 straight-up and 8-2 point spread record for big favorites in the Wild Card round. There is another factor to consider here, and that is that the straight-up double-digit underdog winner, the Saints, and the team that beat the point spread while losing the game, Washington, were the only double-digit dogs playing on their home field.
With the Chiefs hosting tonight’s game, that puts Kansas City in a category that in the history of the NFL is 8-0 both straight-up and against the point spread for a home team favored by double-digits in the Wild Card weekend.
Are the Chiefs likely to get clipped?
Do they have a motivational disadvantage that can level their talent edge?
I don’t see it.
In fact, there is just enough buzz around the Steelers and doubt in the Chiefs camp, given they lost two games back, at Cincinnati to the Bengals, and narrowly escaped with a win last Saturday over the Broncos in Denver, to expect the Chiefs to be ready to excel.
Sunday at Arrowhead, looks to me like the Steelers are in for a pounding.
Qoxhi Picks: Kansas City Chiefs (-12½) over Pittsburgh Steelers