Written by: Cody Manning
Previous Matchup: The last time the Colts and Chiefs met was during the 2016 season. Kansas City came into Indianapolis and put a beating on the home team, winning 30-14. An interesting fact from that game was the quarterback who lead them to victory. It wasn’t Alex Smith — it was the living legend himself, Nick Foles. Foles went 16/22 for 223 yards and 2 touchdowns after Smith left with an injury. Indy struggled all day to keep within reach and Luck had a subpar performance even though he was the only player producing on offense that day. It will be a lot different this time around as they will faceoff in Kansas City plus Luck is a better player and the Chiefs now have the should be named MVP of the 2018 season, Patrick Mahomes.
Offense: Indy is entering this matchup with 7th best offense from the 2018 season that averaged 386.2 YPG and 27.1 PPG. With Luck leading the way again, their unit has the capability to keep up with the potent KC offense. The Colts have the 6th best passing offense that averaged 278.8 YPG through the air but only managed to finished at the 20th best rush offense even with an improved line. Marlon Mack has proven he can take over games with his legs, especially behind that dominant line which showed off against the strong Texans defensive front during Wildcard weekend. It will be interesting to see Frank Reich’s strategy on offense for Divisional weekend.
The Chiefs feature the best offense from this past season. Their unit lead the league averaging 425.6 YPG and 35.3 PPG. Behind the talented arm of Mahomes they looked unstoppable at times and can put up points quick. Kansas City was 3rd in passing offense as they averaged 309.7 YPG and was 16th with their rushing attack which averaged 115.9 YPG. If they can put up points fast on Indy then it will be on the combination of Spencer Ware and Damian Williams to help control clock so they can keep Luck off the field. The Chiefs remember giving up a 38-10 lead in the playoffs to the Colts a few years ago, so if they get in that position again, it will be on the duo’s legs to close it out, not the young talented quarterback.
Patrick Mahomes vs Andrew Luck. Marlon Mack/Nyheim Hines vs Spencer Ware/Damien Williams. Tyreek Hill vs T.Y. Hilton. Travis Kelce vs Eric Ebron. One could argue that those individual matchups are pretty even across the board, but the difference for Indy could be the play of their offensive line. For KC, it’s their ability to put up points on a consistent basis. I feel like both offenses are closely even headed into the matchup but I will give the nod to the Chiefs since they were the #1 unit for the 2018 season.
Defense: Indianapolis’ defense continues to be a reliable unit to go with their offense. Even though they don’t have your household names they finished as the 11th overall defense allowing 339.4 YPG and 21.5 PPG. The strongest part of the Colts defense is their ability to shut down the run. They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season long and they finished 8th against the run, allowing 101.6 YPG. While you always have to defend the run, the key to beating the Chiefs will be containing Mahomes and his ability to spread the ball through the air. Indy is a middle of the pack team against the pass so if they Mahomes feed Hill and Kelce then it could be a long day for their unit.
The weakest part of the Chiefs which could be their Achilles heel at some point in the playoffs is the play of their defense. Kansas City finished as the 2nd worst defensive unit that allowed 405.5 YPG and 26.3 PPG. Besides getting to the quarterback, they really don’t have a strong part to their defense. They are the 2nd worst pass defense allowing 273.4 YPG and they finished 27th against the run, allowing 132.1 YPG. If Chris Jones, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston can’t find a way to disrupt Luck’s pocket then he will pick them apart. Plus, if they can’t dominate the trenches then Mack could run all over them. It’s pressure Luck or bust for this unit on Saturday.
Indy has a young and fast unit that is not only overachieving but also making believers around the league because of their play on defense. Darius Leonard will be key to controlling the run game and keeping tabs on Kelce. The Colts will have their handsful with a real offense they will be lining up against but if Matt Eberflus can call a perfect game then he can help his team stay in this game with Kansas City. Chiefs don’t have much going on other than Jones sacking the quarterback this season so I have to give the defensive edge to Indy.
Special Teams: Harrison Butker has been a solid kicker for the Chiefs this season. Kansas City is pretty comfortable sending him out there if the offense can’t find a way to get into the endzone. But at the end of the day, Adam Vinatieri has that playoff experience of kicking in big games and is still just as reliable to the Colts as Butker is for KC. I give the old man the advantage in this one as he tries to help his team to advance to the AFC Championship game.
Coaching: Frank Reich has down a heck of a job with what he has done with the Colts. He has helped changed the culture in the locker room and he has his team believing they can beat anybody. While Reich is on a roll with his team his counterpart, Andy Reid, has been a head coach for a long time and has plenty of playoff coaching experience. Plus Reid is known for having a winning record following a bye week so everything trends his way. Reich is still solid but Reid has the advantage here.
Prediction: If someone told me during the first quarter of the season that the Colts and Chiefs would meet in the playoffs and asked who would win, it would of been an easy guess, the Chiefs. But since then Indy has gone on a roll and Kansas City has shown their weaknesses in a few losses. Luck is 3-1 against the Chiefs which two of those wins came in Arrowhead while the other one was the magical playoff comeback I mentioned earlier. I look at Indy dominating the trenches to help keep Mahomes off the field while forcing him into mistakes. Quarterbacks don’t have a great record in their first playoff start, so I believe the Colts will find a way to sneak away with a close victory in the final minutes of the 4th quarter.
Colts 35, Chiefs 31