Every time there are two teams on a field in a game, both of them have a chance to win. It doesn’t matter how much better one is perceived to be than another. As long as they are both actually playing a game, and trying to win, the result isn’t pre-determined, even if one outcome is seen as much more likely than the other.
You already know why I’m opening the article this way. The Pittsburgh Steelers are huge underdogs heading into Sunday’s Wildcard Round game against the Kansas City Chiefs. And on top of that, they’ve already lost to the Chiefs this year in decisive fashion.
The two teams played just three weeks ago, and Kansas City dominated, the final score of 36-10 not even fully representing that fact. And the Chiefs didn’t even have All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce for that game, while wide receiver Tyreek Hill was highly limited.
Not everybody is convinced that we’re heading for an encore, however. Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, for example, is giving his old team a chance, and at least saying that he thinks this game will be “a lot closer” than the first one, speaking earlier this week on CBS Sports.
“You play a team a second time, there’s a little familiarity with that”, said the Hall of Fame head coach. “I think the familiarity really benefits the team that loses. It slows down a little bit the more you play a team. That’s why you see all these close divisional games because they know each other so well. Playing a team for a second time is like that divisional game”.
The Steelers benefited from some close divisional games this past weekend—or rather one not so close. The Jacksonville Jaguars were heavy underdogs heading into week 18 against the seemingly playoff-destined Indianapolis Colts, but they dominated and won a game Pittsburgh needed them to win in order for them to be in the position they’re in now.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid also talked about the novelty of playing the same team more than once in the same season. “You play a team twice, you’re going to throw some different wrinkles at them”, he said this week. “You don’t just study the last couple games, you study the whole season when you go into something like this”.
It will help them this week to have some players back themselves who missed the first game, or who were injured during it, but they will certainly need more than just an influx of personnel. For starters, they’re going to have to figure out how to make Patrick Mahomes uncomfortable, something they almost entirely failed to do the first time around.