Indianapolis is turning into the Cinderella story of the NFL. The Colts have won five in a row and 10 of 11 and are becoming universally known as The Team You Don't Want to Play. The Colts have it going on all cylinders (they have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season; no sacks allowed in five straight games) and they have owned the Chiefs in the playoffs (4-0 all time, 2-0 on road). Quarterback Andrew Luck authored one of the greatest comebacks in postseason history against the Chiefs in 2014, rallying the Colts back from a 38-10 deficit to a 45-44 win. Kansas City struggled a bit down the stretch, but with a week off and home-field advantage at raucous Arrowhead Stadium the Chiefs will have an emotional edge. The Chiefs were 7-1 at home this season but are 0-5 all time at home in divisional games and, remember, this is Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes' first playoff start. He threw 50 touchdown passes this season, but his next pass will come under playoff pressure.
Not only have the Colts won 10 of their past 11 games, they play a stifling cover-2 defense that has held five opponents to 9 points or fewer this season, including the Texans in last week’s wild-card playoff game in Houston. Andrew Luck will be able to throw against Kansas City’s defense. The question will be whether Patrick Mahomes, making his first playoff appearance, can stay calm enough to make plays downfield against the Colts. First-time playoff quarterbacks are 0-3 so far.
Marlon Mack — not Andrew Luck or Patrick Mahomes — will be the difference in this game. Mack has been unreal since Week 15, averaging five yards per carry against elite rush defenses like the Dallas Cowboys and Houston. The Chiefs have the league’s second-worst rush defense, allowing more than five yards per carry. Mack’s success will alleviate Luck’s workload. The Colts are 9-0 this season when Luck throws fewer than 40 times in a game. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have to go up against Indy’s elite rush defense, which allowed fewer than four yards per carry this season. Luck also gets protection. The Colts allowed 18 sacks in the regular season, and they’ll be ready for the Chiefs’ strong pass rush.
Can you ever really trust Kansas City come playoff time? The Chiefs have been on a whole different level offensively this season, but their defense will be their fatal flaw this week. Kansas City has the 31st-ranked run defense, according to Pro Football Focus, and now must face an Indianapolis offense that’s coming off a tremendous ground showing against the Houston Texans’ stout front seven. The Colts’ offensive line, which ranks third in run blocking, per PFF, will control the line of scrimmage, ultimately opening up shots down the field for Andrew Luck. The Colts also rank first in third-down conversion percentage and fifth in red-zone scoring percentage, whereas the Chiefs rank 25th in opponent third-down conversion percentage and dead-last in opponent red-zone scoring percentage. Look for Indianapolis to extend and finish drives, resulting in an upset.
Playing behind an outstanding offensive line, Luck has the Colts offense clicking. That will be a problem for a bad Chiefs defense.
The Colts are the NFL’s hottest team with 10 wins in their last 11 games. It isn’t simply Andrew Luck carrying the team as Indianapolis has boasted a top offense and defense over the last three months. Kansas City is difficult to beat at home, but their inability to stop anyone could make this a competitive, high-scoring affair. The Chiefs haven’t beaten a playoff team by more than five points since Week 1. Kansas City went 4-4 against the spread at home, and Indianapolis is 7-3-1 against the spread since Week 6
The Colts, armed with Luck and powered by Mack, can definitely put up some points in Arrowhead, and they won't be intimidated by the raucous playoff atmosphere with Luck and Reich keeping them cool through four quarters. This feels like a "last possession wins" game, and Mahomes will begin his playoff legend with a successful game-winning drive.
The good news is that the Colts are built to hang with the Chiefs; their defense is a top-10 unit and their offense is also well balanced -- 10th overall, 10th in passing, 13th in rushing. And that's the thing: Indy can compete.He still finished strong, and that should be the expectation this weekend, but the Colts could complicate things by starting strong, just like they did in Houston.
I think Andy Reid will create plenty of easy throws against a defense that can't slow down the Chiefs all day, but I also believe the Colts could get a lead early in this one, hold it for a chunk of the game and/or storm in the backdoor if the Chiefs come out hot.
The Chiefs had NFL's second-worst passing defense in 2018, the Colts have Andrew Luck. The Chiefs gave up 5.0 yards per carry this year (second-worst in the NFL), the Colts have a running back who averages 4.7 yards per carry and a quarterback who can scramble. Although I'm pretty sure it was by accident, the Colts roster is basically designed to exploit every Chiefs weakness.
Even though Arrowhead Stadium is one of the league’s loudest, the Chiefs have the second-worst overall postseason record among the current lineup of 32 NFL teams. And, this time around, they’re playing a Colts team that’s HOT! When you add in the Colts’ reconfigured offensive line and good receiving corps, going with Indy doesn’t seem like an upset to me.
Man, Indianapolis looked great last week, going on the road to Houston and blasting the Texans in the first half to win 21-7 in a game that wasn’t that close. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, the road to the Super Bowl gets much tougher on Saturday when the Colts visit Kansas City. The Texans were brutal on offense last week. The Chiefs and their No. 1 rated offense likely will be much more difficult to slow down. By now, most of us know Kansas City coach Andy Reid’s success coming off a bye. In the regular season, he’s 17-3 lifetime when he has two weeks to prepare for an opponent. He’s been pretty good in the playoffs as well, going 4-1 when his teams skip wild card weekend. Reid’s failure to win a Super Bowl—or have much success at all in the postseason—is well-documented, and yes, Indianapolis is peaking at the perfect time (and yes, Kansas City’s defense is not good). But this year, the Chiefs have a real chance at an NFL title, and they won’t let Indianapolis stand in their way.
I opened on the Colts because I think they do some things that will give the Chiefs trouble. That being said, Indy quite literally hasn’t seen a team like the Chiefs all season. The Colts haven’t faced a single top-10 offense, and now they take on arguably the league’s most explosive unit. There’s also this from The Action Network: Dome teams playing outdoor playoff games since 1990 are 12-44 straight-up and just 18-36-2 against the spread. That has even kind of been the case for the Colts this season, with four of their six losses coming outdoors. The Colts have injuries in the secondary with safety Mike Mitchell going to injured reserve. That could be especially costly for a defense that’s struggled to stop tight ends all season and now has to find a way to stop an All-Pro in Travis Kelce.
So the question becomes whether the Colts’ no-name defense and a chilly, possibly snowy day at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium can slow the Chiefs enough to let Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis offense make this a game. There are paths to victory for both teams, but the most likely result is a win by the Chiefs. That’s hardly an insult to the Colts, a balanced team that has been fun to watch but that has the misfortune of being the first team to face Mahomes in the playoffs.
Recent performance vs. full-season performance. How a bettor weighs those factors is likely to determine which side he or she lands on the first divisional-round playoff game. Put an emphasis on the last couple months and there’s no way 5.5 points divide these two teams. The Colts have been just as strong as the Chiefs over the second half of the season, going 8-1 straight-up, 6-3 against the spread to the host’s 5-3 straight-up, 5-3 against the spread records. But the Chiefs had been far ahead of the Colts before that, to the point where this line would have been higher if the two met at any other point of the season. There have been plenty of instances of a team peaking at the right time to wreak havoc in the playoffs but siding with a larger sample size should still be the default reaction.
I know, I know, again I am shorting the Colts, who have won 10 out of 11, and certainly the Texans defense is better than the Chiefs D. But other than a 23-0 win over Dallas in Week 15, none of Indy's other victories could be called overly impressive, and they have scored more than 28 just once over their last seven games. Not only do the Chiefs win, but I think this is the largest margin of victory of the weekend.