After a dominant performance in Houston, the Colts travel to Missouri for a conference semi-final against the Kansas City Chiefs. Let’s take a quick look back at last week to see what brought us here.
On wildcard weekend, Indianapolis was firing on all cylinders. On the offensive side, the Colts held the ball for over 16 minutes in the first half. This allowed for three touchdown drives, and kept Deshaun Watson and the Houston offense on the bench. Two Andrew Luck touchdown passes to Eric Ebron and Dontrelle Inman, and a 2 yard Marlon Mack touchdown run were all that Indianapolis needed due to an excellent defensive day.
On the defensive side, the Colts nearly pitched a shutout. On the Texans lone scoring play, wide receiver Keke Coutee seemed to have released the ball and fumble into the end zone, which would have kept the Texans off the scoreboard, as the play would have resulted as a touchback. As it was, the play stood as called on the field for the touchdown.
The Texans had no answers for Indianapolis, and the Colts rolled to a 21-7 victory in Houston. When the Colts face the Chiefs on Saturday, their mantras will remain the same, which are to have an obsession to finish, and get to 1-0 this week. This team has essentially been playing playoff football since week 7. At 1-5, Indianapolis knew that they needed a mentality change if they hoped to have any shot at the post season. “1-0” may be simple, and may be generic, and it’s not the first time a coaching staff has used the mantra, but this young Indianapolis team has responded in a huge way, by winning 10 of their last 11 games.
This week the Colts walk into a toxic environment. A stadium with deafening noise, a high octane offense, and a team with a big chip on their shoulder. See, the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game in Arrowhead Stadium in 25 years! To put that in perspective, the last time the Chiefs won a home playoff game was when gas was $1.11 per gallon, George Bush Senior was president, and I was in diapers. Every team wants to win, but I’m not sure any playoff team needs a home playoff win more the Kansas City. Not to mention that their head coach, Andy Reid, has also had his run of playoff struggles. Reid is 11-13 in career playoff games with only 1 Super Bowl appearance (lost to Patriots in SB XXXIX 24-21). In fact, Reid only has one playoff victory as the Chiefs head coach, which came in 2015, when Kansas City bested the Houston Texans in the wildcard round.
So, the history is in favor of Indianapolis. Not only does Kansas City have a poor record at home, and have a coach that is perennially bad in the playoffs, but the Colts also have a lot of postseason success against the Chiefs. Dating back to 1995, the Colts have never lost to Kansas City in the playoffs, going 4-0 in that stretch. In the overall series history, Indianapolis leads the Chiefs 16-9, and the Chiefs were a stepping stone on the way to a Colts Super Bowl run in 2006.
With all of this winning though, it might be time for Kansas City revenge. Heartache has befallen the Chiefs organization for what seems like forever, as they have alway seemed to have a great team, but fall short in the playoffs. Could this be the year they break the Colts curse? I don’t think so, and here are five reasons why:
1) The Chiefs defense is bad. How bad you ask? Well, the Chiefs give up an average of 26.3 points per game (24th), rank 31st in Yards against, and give up an astonishing 5 yards per rushing attempt (only the Los Angeles Rams give up more (5.1). With a running back that just gouged the league’s top rushing defense to the tune of 148 rushing yards, that’s bad new for this Kansas City defense. They might have had a saving grace in their pass rush, because they actually led the league with 52 sacks. I say might have, because even though the Chiefs can get to the quarterback, Andrew Luck is an expert at pre-snap reads, not to mention the Colts offensive line is the leagues’ best at preventing sacks. They’ve only given up 18 all season, including last week’s wildcard matchup against Houston.
2) To piggyback on the Chiefs defense being bad, the Colts offense is very good. Averaging 27.1 points per game is just the tip of the iceberg for these Colts. Ranking 2nd in passing touchdowns, 6th in passing yards are a little deeper, but what has really impressed me over the last few weeks is Indy’s ability to kill the clock. Long sustained drives are what I believe will be the death of this Chiefs team. If the Colts run the ball with effectiveness, Andrew Luck can orchestrate quarter long drives. Drives like this will keep the Kansas City offense cold in the cold snowy weather expected for Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday. Which brings me to my next point.
3) Snowy weather will win the day. An offense that is productive on the ground is dangerous. An offense that can run in the snow is unstoppable. The Colts have a few things going for them in this snowy scenario, the first is that Marlon Mack is an elusive back that can eat up yards. If he can be a mudder on Saturday, that’s a big win for the Colts offense. The second is that, the Colts defense hasn’t given up a 100 yard rushing performance to anyone. Should that trend continue, it might force Mahomes to try an make plays that aren’t there. Indianapolis has forced at least one turnover in 16 of 17 games this year. So, the odds are likely that Mahomes will slip up at least once.
4) The Indianapolis secondary is underrated. When cornerbacks Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore II shut down Deandre Hopkins in Houston for the second time this season, it wasn’t a fluke. The duo has been solid for several weeks now, and has only matured over the course of the season. Add in safeties Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers, and you have a defensive backfield that is capable of giving Patrick Mahomes fits. If Indy can get pressure on Mahomes, this secondary is ready to pounce on big play opportunities.
5) Andrew Luck. Need I say more? Ok, I will. If anyone is able to keep pace with the guy who threw the most touchdowns this year, it’s the guy who threw the second most touchdowns this year. Luck has had a career season, but more than that, his career is loaded with 4th quarter comebacks, game winning touchdowns, shootout victories, and long methodical drives. Andrew Luck has also been to the playoffs before, and has won against a high powered Chiefs offense.
My prediction: My prediction is that bodies at rest stay at rest, and the Chiefs look slow in the snow coming off of their bye. The Colts practiced outdoors this week to prepare for the cold weather, and judging by the shorts Quenton Nelson was wearing, it didn’t faze them a bit. With an offensive running game that is on point, and a defensive squad that is capable of timely turnovers, I’ve got the Colts stealing one in Arrowhead 31-28 behind an Adam Vinatieri game winner.
Photo Credit: Rob Carr SB Nation