Week 10's Monday Night Football matchup on ESPN features two teams going in very different directions. The Kansas City Chiefs will head into Pittsburgh looking to upset the Steelers in what can be called a crucial game for both teams.
At 1-7, the Chiefs aren't playing to make the playoffs; the coaches and players are just trying to prove their worth to the higher-ups.
The 5-3 Steelers are very much in the playoff hunt, just one game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the No. 1 spot in the AFC North. Pittsburgh squeaked out a tough victory in Week 9 against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. After that hard-fought win, it will be happy to see lowly Kansas City coming to town.
Some might call this a trap game for the Steelers, as the Chiefs try to right a quickly sinking ship. Others likely forecast an easy win for Pittsburgh. Regardless of which way you're leaning toward, here's everything you need to know before tuning in Monday night.
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Penn.
When: Monday, Nov. 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: Kansas City Chiefs Radio or WDVE-FM (Pittsburgh)
Betting Line: Pittsburgh (-11.5), according to BetOnline
Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
Kansas City Chiefs
RB Jamaal Charles, Neck
WR Terrance Copper, Calf
DE Glenn Dorsey, Calf
RB Nate Eachus, Head
TE Steve Maneri, Ankle
QB Brady Quinn, Head
WR Devon Wylie, Hamstring
RB Baron Batch, Shin
S Ryan Clark, Concussion
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Quadriceps
LB Brandon Johnson, Hamstring
RB Rashard Mendenhall, Achilles
S Troy Polamalu, Calf
RB Chris Rainey, Ribs
RB Isaac Redman, Ankle
LB Stevenson Sylvester, Hamstring
LB LaMarr Woodley, Hamstring
What's At Stake?
The Steelers will already know if the Oakland Raiders did them a solid and beat the Ravens by the time this Monday night clash happens, but Pittsburgh needs this win.
Head coach Mike Tomlin realizes just how critical defeating Kansas City is before taking on those same Ravens in Week 11. If Baltimore takes care of Oakland and Tomlin's crew loses, they'll be two games behind in the AFC North before even playing their purple-attired rival.
For the Chiefs, this one is all about pride. Their lone victory came all the way back in Week 3 against the New Orleans Saints, so the team is in desperate need of a win here.
It's a lost season for a Kansas City team some were picking as a dark-horse favorite to win the AFC West. Despite the disappointment, though, a win against the Steelers would do wonders for a fanbase that is in need of something to smile about.
Pittsburgh Steelers: TE Heath Miller
Heath Miller is a points-per-reception league darling when you consider the fact that he has just one game with less than four catches.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger trusts his tight end, and that fact doesn't change when he leads the his offense into the red zone.
Roethlisberger has connected with Miller on six touchdowns this season, with two coming in the last three weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs: RB Jamaal Charles
The Steelers do boast the league's best defense, but their rush defense is ranked at No. 7.
That means if any of the Chiefs are going to be worth playing for fantasy managers, it's running back Jamaal Charles. Some might be worried about his injury suffered last week, but the rusher is telling everyone that he's ready to get back out there.
Charles told Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star: "I’m fine right now. I feel good. I came off the field pretty good. I feel like I could have gone back in (last game), but they told me to relax."
There hasn't been a whole lot to smile about fantasy-wise with the Chiefs starter since he rushed for 140 yards on Baltimore. In the past three games, Charles has failed to post more than 40 yards on the ground, and he has no touchdowns.
What They Are Saying
Teicher has been busy this week, already reporting that despite missing practice Nov. 5, quarterback Brady Quinn could be ready this week. The Star reporter broke the news (via his personal Twitter account), tweeting:
Brady Quinn has yet to be cleared by doctors and will not practice today. But he could get cleared later in week and play vs. Steelers— Adam Teicher (@adamteicher) November 5, 2012
In other Chiefs news, head coach Romeo Crennel has decided to step down as defensive coordinator. The Associated Press (via USA Today) reported on Nov. 5 that Crennel has relieved himself as the unit's shot-caller and promoted Gary Gibbs to the position.
The team also decided to give cornerback Stanford Routt his pink slip, cutting the 2012 offseason signing on Nov. 5.
On the Steelers side of things, the team is still receiving flack for their decision to run the fake field goal attempt in the red zone against the Giants in Week 9. Larry Foote expressed his annoyance with the failed attempt to USA Today's Mike Garafolo, saying:
I'm more mad we didn't execute it because we've been running that play for about five years now! And in practice, Heath Miller comes off and blocks me every time! We finally ran it and didn't execute!
Execution or not, the Steelers were still able to pull out the victory that week.
Key Matchup: Steelers Rushing Defense vs. RB Jamaal Charles
The Steelers' one potential problem in this game could be Charles, who has the ability to keep his team in the game all on his own. In the Chiefs' one victory this season, he had 55 yards receiving and 233 yards on the ground.
Pittsburgh needs its offense to put up points early to force Kansas City to pass more, and its defense needs to control Charles until then. If Kansas City finds success in the run game, its going to implement a heavy run attack until the Steelers prove they can stop it.
It shouldn't take too much to get the early lead on the Chiefs, which should allow the Steelers defense to see less of Charles carrying the football.
Mike Tomlin's squad has had some slip-ups this season, but no team has melted down quite like the Chiefs. Kansas City isn't going to go the rest of the season without a victory, but its likely not getting one in Week 10.
Riding a three-game winning streak and fresh off a win against last year's Super Bowl champs, it's highly unlikely Pittsburgh loses at home to one of the league's worst teams.
Steelers 28, Chiefs 13