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There isn’t a hotter team in football entering the playoffs than the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished the regular season riding a 10-game winning streak. And by all accounts, that streak is likely to extend to 11 games after Saturday’s Wild Card contest against the Houston Texans is finished.
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Kansas City’s defense is one of the best in the league, allowing the third-fewest points this season. The Chiefs are led by a dominant defensive line, which features four players with at least five sacks (Justin Houston leads the club with 7.5 sacks). The Chiefs back up their D-line with a strong secondary, including star rookie corner back Marcus Peters. Opposing quarterbacks have only thrown for an average of 231 yards per game against them.
McCarron has been starting since Dalton injured his right thumb in Week 14. The Bengals are 2-1 in his three starts, and McCarron has steadily improved. In five total games this season, McCarron has completed 79 of 119 passes for 854 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Both of McCarron’s interceptions came against the Steelers in Week 14, when he saw his first substantial play of the season after Dalton was injured.
This will be the third time the Bengals have faced the Steelers, an AFC North rival, this season. Cincinnati won at Heinz Field in Week 8 by a final score of 16-10. Dalton was injured against the Steelers at home in Week 14, and Pittsburgh won that matchup 33-20.
Division games are often chippy, and there’s plenty of bad blood between these teams. The Steelers were unhappy about the way Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict reacted after injuring running back Le’Veon Bell in Week 8, and James Harrison and Burfict had to be separated after a scuffle before the Week 14 game. Burfict was fined for a low hit on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Week 14.
The Bengals have historically struggled in Wild Card games. Their last Wild Card win came in 1990 against the Houston Oilers, and the Bengals went on to lose to the Los Angeles Raiders in the divisional round. Since that time, the Bengals have had six Wild Card appearances and zero playoff wins.