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Steelers-Chiefs pregame stretch...

November 26, 2011 - Ray Eckenrode

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC

Announcers: Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth

Annoyance factor: We noted a few weeks ago that this is the #1 announcing team going right now, pretty much by default. But that was before the NFL Network schedule started. Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock have been extremely strong in their first few games there (although Mayock seems to be a polarizing figure, with some, like us, bowing to his supreme football knowledge and others simply unable to get past his lisp). We’re very anxious to see if we feel that way after those two do a Steelers game (in two weeks vs. the Browns).

Referee: Ed Hochuli

Competence factor: Hochuli, of course, has become somewhat of a cult figure because of his bulging biceps, but don’t let that overshadow the fact he’s a very good white hat – and man oh man could the NFL use a few more of those right now in the midst of the most poorly officiated seasons in a long time, perhaps ever. Did you catch some of the garbage Ron Winter’s crew was throwing against the wall in the Ravens-Bengals game last week, i.e. defender "not playing the ball" (which technically isn't a penalty) on very questionable pass interference call, continuing to block out of bounds on a punt? Those guys have got to be stopped. That said, we’re glad Winter didn’t get seriously injured in the middle of that loose ball late in that game. That was scary. Oh, but back to Ed Hochuli’s crew. They’re good and hopefully they’ll have a good night Sunday.

The line: Pittsburgh -10.5

Smarts say: It’s hard to argue against that line after KC’s performance Monday, but we think it’s setting up a sucker bet on the Steelers (who are coming off a bye and on the road). The over/under of 40.5 means something in the 24-14 range (because 25-15 NFL games are so very rare). The professional bettors who participate in the Las Vegas Hilton Supercontest like the Steelers in this one by a 2-1 margin with the Chiefs being the second least popular selection of the weekend. Their overwhelming best bet of the weekend is Houston -3.5 over Jacksonville.

Key matchup: Tamba Hali, Chiefs ROLB vs. Max Starks, Steelers LT

Because: Hali’s en route to another double-digit sack year (with seven already) and just about any scenario you can imagine involving the Chiefs staying close or winning this game probably involves a sack/strip of thumb-impaired Ben Roethlisberger that leads to Chiefs points.

Quick hits:

+ Comparing Ndamukong Suh’s recent problems to James Harrison’s situation is fairly ridiculous. Harrison has been fined for playing the game too violently between the whistles. Many of Suh’s issues involve temper tantrums after the whistle. Huge difference.

+ If you were too nauseous to watch the end of the 49ers-Ravens tilt on Thanksgiving night, you missed Baltimore dousing Coach John Harbaugh with Gatorade after the regular season win over a team that just happened to be coached by his brother (you might have heard about that!). The whole affair resulted in one of the best Twitter hash tags of the year, in the form of #BaltimoreGatoradeBath, now synonymous with celebrating wildly over an ordinary achievement, for example: Hit all green lights going home from work today. It’s time for a #BaltimoreGatoradeBash. Now, you try...

The pick: Here are two simple reasons to be concerned about this game: The Chiefs will give a better effort at home than they did Monday at New England and teams have been notoriously bad this year in the NFL after their bye. Now, a third reason: Ben Roethlisberger’s broken thumb, which everyone will assure you is alright, but, of course, can’t be because IT’S BROKEN. While that likely won’t affect #7’s accuracy or zip, it almost certainly will affect his grip, which might make it more difficult to use his trademark pump fakes, and certainly makes him more liable to fumble in the pocket than he already is. (<------ 40-word sentence #wordy) All that said, we expect the Steelers defense (which we’d guess will still be without LaMarr Woodley) to be able to smother Tyler Palko and preserve a close win … Steelers 21-17.

Last week: We were wrong about a Bengals upset two weeks ago but had them covering, leaving us at 6-4 straight up and 6-4 vs. the spread.

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