Ben Roethlisberger is determined to enjoy what could be his final appearance in the NFL as the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL playoffs on Sunday
Los Angeles (AFP) - Ben Roethlisberger has dismissed the Pittsburgh Steelers’ chances of beating the Kansas City Chiefs in what could be his farewell appearance as the NFL stages its Super Wild Card weekend.
After a thrilling final round of regular-season games, Roethlisberger and the Steelers squeezed into the playoffs after grinding out a victory on the road against Baltimore as the Indianapolis Colts suffered a shock loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That improbable combination of results means that Roethlisberger, who is widely expected to retire at the end of the season, has extended his playing career by at least another week.
The dubious reward for Pittsburgh, however, is a daunting trip to the home of the Kansas City Chiefs, the second-seeded team in the AFC who have reached the past two editions of the Super Bowl.
Roethlisberger is under no illusions about the scale of the task facing the Steelers, who suffered an emphatic 36-10 regular-season loss to the Chiefs on December 26.
“We probably aren’t supposed to be here. We’re probably not a very good football team,” Roethlisberger told reporters this week. “Out of the 14 teams that are in the playoffs, we’re probably No. 14.
“We’re probably 20-point underdogs. I know they’re not the No. 1 seed but they’ve won the AFC the last two years. We don’t have a chance. So let’s just go in and have fun.”
Whether or not Roethlisberger was deliberately talking down Pittsburgh’s chances remains to be seen.
But the 39-year-old two-time Super Bowl champion can at least take comfort from the fact that he has a winning record against Kansas City, with seven wins against three defeats.
- Pats ready for big chill -
Buffalo's Highmark Stadium is set to be blasted by a sub-zero wind chill factor for this weekend's playoff game between the Bills and the New England Patriots
That said, any result other than a Kansas City victory would be a monumental upset on a weekend of intriguing match-ups across the Wild Card playoff round.
The slate of six games gets under way on Saturday, when the Las Vegas Raiders, who reached the playoffs after an epic overtime victory against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, travel to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC.
In Buffalo, meanwhile, the Bills are preparing to host the New England Patriots in what are expected to be brutally cold conditions at the Highmark Stadium.
Although temperatures are expected to remain in single digits, with a sub-zero wind-chill factor, Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave a typically blunt response when asked about the weather this week.
“The weather is the weather,” Belichick said. “I’m more worried about the Bills than the weather.
“We’ve practiced in just about everything we could, any type of conditions we could have and played in quite a few as well. There’s no way to turn the temperature down, up, or anything else. It is what it is out there.”
On Sunday, two NFC wild card games kick off proceedings before the Steelers visit to the Chiefs in the late game.
The reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers face a home fixture against the Philadelphia Eagles, with the Eagles coaching staff focusing on how to stymie the evergreen Tom Brady.
The age-defying Brady appears to have got the Bucs’ offense firing again just at the right time, averaging just under 34 points a game in their final three wins of the regular season.
- ‘Trained killer’ Brady -
The Philadelphia Eagles say they are preparing to face a 'trained killer' in Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady during the playoffs
“This guy, he’s a trained killer, and he knows how to play good offense and what he needs to do to keep his offense on track, so it’s going to be a big-time challenge,” Eagles defensive co-ordinator Jonathan Gannon told reporters.
Although Brady will be without two key parts of his receiving corps, in the fired Antonio Brown and injured Chris Godwin, the 44-year-old seven-time Super Bowl champion will be able to count on tight end Rob Gronkowski and star receiver Mike Evans.
In Arlington, meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys will host the San Francisco 49ers in the latest edition of one of the NFL’s greatest franchise rivalries.
The Cowboys and 49ers have battled in a slew of post-season classics, but Sunday’s game marks the first playoff duel between the two giants since the 1995 season, when the 49ers won the NFC Championship game.
The Cowboys motored into the playoffs last weekend with a 51-26 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dallas, however, will be wary of a San Francisco team riding momentum after snatching victory on the road against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday to book their playoff place.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan, whose father Mike was the 49ers offensive coordinator during the team’s 1995 playoff win over the Cowboys, admits he’s unsure how aware his players are of the historical rivalry.
“I wish I could say yes, but I mean, some of these players were born in the 2000s,” Shanahan said this week.
The slate of wild card games is completed on Monday when the Rams host the Arizona Cardinals in Los Angeles.