The second weekend of the NFL playoffs kicks off with a showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts. Game time is set for 4:35 EST on Saturday, January 12, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The game can be seen nationally on NBC.
Oddsmakers list the Chiefs as 5.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 57 points. Click here to check out betting odds and previews for all of this week’s NFL playoff games.
The Colts head into the divisional round of the playoffs as perhaps the hottest team in the NFL. After last week’s wild-card win over the Texans, the Colts have now won 10 of their last 11 games. Also, Indianapolis was arguably the most impressive team we saw last weekend, going up 21-0 on the road against the Texans by the middle of the 2nd quarter. The Colts have now won back-to-back elimination games on the road, so they’ll have no fear heading to Arrowhead this weekend.
The Chiefs, of course, are beginning their playoff journey this week as the top seed in the AFC. For most of the season, Kansas City looked very much like the part of the best team in the conference. They began the season by winning nine of their first 10 games. Even after going 3-3 in their final six games and looking a little vulnerable in December, the Chiefs were able to secure the AFC West crown and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Of course, the Chiefs have a troubling playoff history. Under Andy Reid, Kansas City is just 1-4 in the playoffs The Chiefs have lost at home in the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Reid’s postseason resume also includes a loss to Andrew Luck and the Colts following the 2013 season. In that game, the Chiefs led 38-10 early in the 3rd quarter only to lose 45-44.
Even if I forget about Kansas City’s recent playoff woes, I feel good about leaning toward the Colts and the points in this game. The Colts are as hot right now as the Chiefs were early in the season. The Chiefs also have weaknesses that I think the Colts will be able to exploit. Even at home, I don’t see Kansas City being able to pull away, which makes me think that Indianapolis will at least beat the spread.
If the Chiefs are going to win this game by a comfortable margin, they’ll have to overcome their weaknesses. Everyone who’s been paying attention knows that Kansas City’s defense is the team’s biggest weakness. Outside of holding the Raiders to three points in Week 17, that unit has proven to be vulnerable for much of the season. In fact, one could say the Chiefs won most of their games in spite of their defense rather than with a little help from their defense.
Luck is undoubtedly good enough to take advantage of such a porous defense. He’s thrown five touchdowns over the past two weeks against defenses far better than the one he’ll see on Saturday. The Colts also have a strong rushing attack to help them stay balanced and take some pressure off Luck. If he hadn’t missed time early in the season due to injury, Marlon Mack surely would have eclipsed 1,000 rushing this season. After going off for 148 yards on 24 carries last week against Houston, he’s someone the Chiefs will have to focus on stopping. That could prove difficult with the Chiefs giving up five yards per carry on the ground this season.
Kansas City’s only hope of slowing down the Indy offense is with their pass rush. For all of their faults, the Chiefs totaled 52 sacks this season behind the likes of Chris Jones, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston. However, they’ll be facing one of the best offensive lines in the league. Luck wasn’t sacked at all last week against J.J. Watt and Houston’s vaunted pass rush. If the protection from the Indy offensive line is just as good this week, Luck has a chance to pick apart the Kansas City defense.
Of course, we can’t discount Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense. Mahomes has been unbelievable this season, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns this season. The Chiefs led the league in scoring and were held under 30 points just four times in 16 games. Even running back Damien Williams is starting to come along with Kareem Hunt out of the picture and Spencer Ware hurt, giving Mahomes just a little bit of assistance from his running game.
However, the Indianapolis defense is better than most people realize. The Colts have an impressive amount of speed on that side of the ball, not to mention rising stars like Darius Leonard, who totaled 13 tackles during last week’s win against the Texans. Obviously, no one is expecting them to shut down the Kansas City offense completely. But after the Colts limited the Texans to just seven points last week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Indy defense have a decent showing against the high-scoring Kansas City offense.
With Mahomes, all things are possible, and the Chiefs are certainly likely to advance behind their amazing quarterback. But I can’t ignore the fact that the Colts have the better defense, the better offensive line, and a quarterback who’s nearly as good as Mahomes. All things considered, I like the Colts to keep things close enough to beat the spread and perhaps even pull off another upset on the road.