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The Chiefs Didn’t Get a Bye, but They Got the Next Best Thing

The Chiefs' first playoff game is against an opponent they've already defeated thoroughly.

With the Las Vegas Raiders' win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday — a game that nearly ended in a tie and came oh-so-close to knocking the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the playoffs — the Steelers are locked into the AFC's seventh and final seed. 

Their reward for taking care of business and getting some help on the final day of the regular season? A wild-card weekend matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, who defeated them by a final score of 36-10 just a few weeks ago.

The Chiefs, who won on Saturday, needed some help from the Houston Texans in order to secure a first-round bye and the AFC's one-seed. While Texans quarterback Davis Mills fought his hardest, the team wasn't able to complete the mission. As a result, the road to the Super Bowl goes through Nashville and the Chiefs' quest for a third straight appearance in the big game becomes more difficult. Patrick Mahomes and company drew a favorable first-round matchup, though, as they're quite the mismatch for Pittsburgh.

The last time these two teams faced each other, the Chiefs dominated. In a turnover-free game, Mahomes completed 23 of his 30 pass attempts for 258 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs ran the ball for 127 yards. The scariest part? Wide receiver Tyreek Hill hauled in just two passes for 19 yards all afternoon and tight end Travis Kelce missed the game due to COVID-19 protocols. The Chiefs weren't at full strength nor in full sync, yet they played efficient offensive football in round one of this battle. In round two, Hill (albeit injured) should be featured more in the game plan. Kelce's presence, while he's also banged up, must be accounted for. Nothing the Steelers' defense did last time around worked against the Chiefs, so that bodes well for their second meeting.

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Defensively, the Chiefs allowed the Steelers to score just three points heading into the fourth quarter. Kansas City's pass rush got after Ben Roethlisberger all afternoon, sacking him twice and recording several pressures overall. Had it not been for some 50/50 passes to begin the game and a garbage-time touchdown to end it, Pittsburgh wouldn't have mustered much of anything on offense. Without wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and with some poor offensive line play, the Steelers' offense remains as anemic as it was on Dec. 26. The group scored just 16 points in its regular-season finale.

Sometimes, it does prove truly difficult for one team to defeat another more than once within the same year. That's the argument used against the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans for a potential second matchup of 2021-22 against the Chiefs. With that said, the wild-card round is an introduction to the real thing. Not all of the teams there are bonafide contenders. From what the Chiefs and Steelers have shown this season, Sunday's contest doesn't project to be a particularly close one. Upsets are possible and the Chiefs playing to their potential is never a guarantee, but Act II of this play may be awfully similar to Act I. Kansas City didn't qualify for the bye, although they did manage to qualify for the next best thing. 

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Read More: Four Takeaways From the Chiefs' 28-24 Win Over the Broncos