In last weekend’s series of wild card games, the Colts defeated the Texans in a 21-7 blowout to advance and play the No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead this Saturday.
Now, Chiefs fans wait and prepare anxiously for a game that could break an agonizing cycle of home playoff losses that has lasted more than two decades.
With a lot on the line for both teams, let’s check in with the Arrowhead Pride staff for game predictions:
Shawn Barber, Chiefs 33-27
Safety Mike Mitchell going on injured reserve might be the nail in the coffin for the Colts’ postseason plans.
Any thoughts on how the entire AFC south is ranked in the top 11 in defense points allowed? Think about what all four teams have in common. It’s not any roster full of defensive studs or complex defensive schemes.
Answer: They all play the most watered down schedule ever, which included their own divisional teams twice.
How many explosive offensive teams do you see on their schedule? One game vs. the Pats. C’mon people! Look deeper into the numbers.
Are you sure you want to be a top (points per game) defensive team in the NFL? All of the top the were eliminated last week.
Chiefs are top three where it counts: sacks and turnovers.
Additional food for thought:
The Colts defense is always punching the ball to create turnovers and play a lot of catch coverage to allow the front four to get to quarterback.
The Colts offense rarely targets beyond 20 yards. Attempt to get the ball outta Luck’s hands to avoid pressure or negative plays. Star, rub and pick routes against man coverage. Flood and spacing concepts against zone coverage. Downhill running game strategy: BOB (big on big) moves the chains and controls the clock.
Oh, and Colts score on mostly fourth-quarter garbage points.
Aaron Borgmann, Chiefs 35-32
So look, I haven’t been in Kansas City long (six years), but in that time of five seasons, I was a part of three games against the Colts. Obviously, the one that stands out is the playoff game in the 2013 postseason (2014 calendar year). I’m not going to sit here and pretend that loss wasn’t crushing to be on the field for, especially after all the excitement that the team brought the town that season.
The Colts are a good team that is playing very well, if you disagree with this you are flat out wrong. I don’t want to hear about the strength of schedules or teams they have faced. They are good, period. If you are in the playoffs, you are a good team and no team can be discounted in the playoffs, no matter the seed.
I understand the plight of the KC fan with the whole home playoff game thing. I think that ends on Saturday at 6 p.m. Arrowhead Time. I think this will be a true shootout with whichever team that blinks, or perhaps kicks off (since percentages say that deferring is an advantage) being on the downside. No matter the way it happens, I think the Chiefs come out on top.
John Dixon, Chiefs 31-24
On paper, this should be easy — the six seed on the road against the one seed. But this is the playoffs, so crumple up that paper and throw it away. The Colts are a good team with a good quarterback, and they have been playing very well to close out the regular season — albeit against the weakest part of their schedule. The production of the tight ends will be fascinating, as will the battle between the Chiefs pass rush against the Colts offensive line. Unless one team goes well-ahead early — and maybe even if one of them does — this very well could come down to the final possession of the game. But I see it as a win.
Matt Lane, Chiefs 38-30
The Colts are a solid team—they are coached fantastically and have an amazing quarterback and upper tier offensive line in the NFL, which is always going to spell trouble come playoff time. Outside of that, they have TY Hilton and Darius Leonard teamed up with a bunch of average NFL starters or, to be honest, worse. The Colts roster is the least talented in the playoffs this year and would be near that mark any year. They happen to be good in the right areas to mask it, with the aforementioned fantastic coaching, but their talent level is simply mediocre across the board. It’s been double-digit weeks since the Colts faced a good offense and the Colts have really not had a good time playing the few said good offenses they did play early in the year. The Chiefs are an equally poor matchup for the Colts as they are for the Chiefs.
When the Colts have the ball they will likely be able to move the ball consistently and almost in any fashion they please. The Colts run game is very good, especially their zone running attack when they get pulling action and it will be paramount for the Chiefs defensive line to play forward and not laterally. If they can free up the linebackers like they did vs. Oakland, there is a chance the Chiefs can slow down Marlon Mack, who still doesn’t have great patience and prefers to run outside. When the Colts drop back to pass, they enjoy the short passing game often relying on mesh concepts and saving their deep shots for TY Hilton. The Chiefs should dedicate a bracket defender to Hilton and force anyone else to beat them. If the Chiefs can sit on the short stuff and force Luck to process more reads, the pass rush will have a chance. The Colts offensive line is fantastic but their offensive tackles are the “weaker” of the group and the Dee Ford - Braden Smith matchup, in particular, could sway some momentum.
When the Chiefs have the ball, it will be all about keeping Mahomes calm. The Colts defense is a more passive defense protecting deep to short giving up the underneath stuff. The Chiefs quick passing game should be used early on to help calm Mahomes nerves and open up the deeper shots that Indy will be forced to allow if they’re giving up chunk plays underneath. It’s no secret Indy is a Cover 2-heavy team and Mahomes has shown plenty of ability to carve it up, and that should be the expectation. There are gaps in the Cover 2 or Tampa 2 that Andy Reid will need to exploit by flooding the zones and pressuring vertical with multiple targets. Leonard flies around the field in the run game, as does the whole defense, but if Kansas City can force Indy on their heels in the passing game the running lanes for Damien Williams should open up and he has the athletic advantage over their defense.
The game is likely a higher scoring affair and it could very well come down to whichever team can jump out to an early lead. As it stands, this Indy team just runs too safe a defense and doesn’t have the overall team talent to match up with the Chiefs. The Colts offense does enough late to make it interesting and close but the Chiefs control the game through Mahomes ability to slice up relatively predictable zone coverage.
Matt Stagner, Chiefs 48-35
First of all, the curse really only exists in the minds of fans. It only has power because we bring it up. We can’t ignore history, but we can let it remain in the past. This Chiefs team has one focus: win this game (Then, win two more).
To accomplish this, they don’t need to overthink it: “Dance with the one who brung ya.”
Do what you do best. Win one football game by outscoring the baby horses.
This Chiefs team is in a pretty good place, they are getting healthier, and the defense might be figuring some things out. The difference between a close game and a blowout might be the ability of Sammy Watkins. If he’s back, and the offense gets back to what it was early in the year, the defense will be of little concern. Put another way: if the offense is great, like they have been, the Chiefs have a good shot at winning this week. If the offense is historically great, like they can be... it might not be that close.
All the defense needs to do is get some pressure on Luck, and get a turnover or two. Dominating yards allowed, time of possession, etc... It’s not necessary. If they just play acceptable defense, tackle and make a couple of plays...and the offense doesn’t forget who they are, this will be a fun week, and years of history will fade.
Craig Stout, Chiefs 41-31
The Chiefs have the No. 1 offense in the NFL and the best player at the most important position in the league. The Colts pass defense hasn’t faced anything like this Chiefs offense, and they’ve struggled to stop lesser ones. Patrick Mahomes should be able to find the seams in the Colts coverages to give Travis Kelce a massive day, and when the safeties start cheating, Tyreek Hill can take the lid off the top of the shell.
There’s rightful worry about the Chiefs defense, particularly against Marlon Mack, Eric Ebron and T.Y. Hilton. Mack can get his behind a stud offensive line, but can be contained with proper gap responsibility and attacking the natural gaps in the Colts power run game. Andrew Luck will dink and dunk and take an occasional deep shot to Hilton with extra blockers in to help. They’ll run scissors concepts and rub routes in the red zone to confuse safeties and get Ebron free for touchdowns.
Both offenses will move the ball, and both have the potential to put up big points against their counterparts. It comes down to which defense can come up with more stops against potent offenses, a situation the Chiefs have found themselves in multiple times this year. The Chiefs *can* get pressure — if not sacks — on Luck, speeding up his internal timer and turning him more inaccurate. Couple that with Luck’s worse road numbers and even worse numbers in open-air/weather, and the Chiefs defense should get the extra stops early to force the Colts to abandon the run to keep up. Colts try to make a game of it late, but Mahomes and the Chiefs offense closes it out to #BreaKtheCycle.
Kent Swanson, Chiefs 38-24
It’s time, Kansas City.
We’re done letting our past pain dictate our expectations for the future. We have too quick a trigger on anxiety in January. We’re done with that. We’re expecting good things to happen for 60 minutes. We’re cultivating an environment that believes.
Lin Elliott is off the hook on Saturday. The Chiefs are lighting the scoreboard up and the defense is getting a few key stops. Travis Kelce is eating, and Kelvin Benjamin is getting his first touchdown as a Chief. Dee Ford is getting a sack fumble.
Expect it. #breaKtheCycle
Pete Sweeney, Chiefs 31-28
I don’t believe this is a good matchup for the Kansas City Chiefs, which scares me. That being said, I wouldn’t have especially loved the Chargers or Ravens matchups either. The Chiefs, with a lot to play for, are taking on a Colts team playing with house money, as nobody expected them to make it this far. This is always the case, but I find it especially in this matchup — it’s a race to a 14-point lead. If the Chiefs can get there, it would force the Colts to become one-dimensional (welcome back to Sack City), and if the Colts can get there, they can utilize Marlon Mack and their offensive line to drain the clock, as they did against the Houston Texans in the wild card round. I watched the Colts hold DeAndre Hopkins to only 34 yards last week, so to me, Sammy Watkins’ game status and production are all the more important. I’m not sure the Chiefs have another Keke Coutee (who had 110 yards last week with Hopkins equalized) on the roster. Both tight ends (Travis Kelce and Eric Ebron) will be a problem in this game. The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, which I believe gives them a slight edge, but don’t get it twisted. This will be a dogfight. For the sake of Kansas City, the Chiefs need to have the ball with under four minutes to go.
Joel Thorman, Chiefs 34-29
We know what the Chiefs offense will do. They’ll put up 30 or more points. The question is the defense. They’ve struggled but the Colts have only scored more than 30 once in the past two months. The Chiefs defense can do it.
Aly Trost, Chiefs 41-31
In all of my years watching, following or covering sports, there is no athlete I’ve had more confidence in than Patrick Mahomes. And I mean that so sincerely. Although defensive concerns about the Chiefs secondary have lingered all season, I’m confident that Mahomes will do what he does best and lead the team to a win at Arrowhead Saturday, while the defense — energized by the crowd at Arrowhead — will come up with the few big stops they need.
Now, here comes my one BIGGEST concern. This is the one aspect that I think could really hurt the Chiefs on Saturday. The run defense. This season, the secondary gave up an average of five yards per carry. Against the Texans last weekend in their wild card win, Marlon Mack (alone) carried for 148 yards, averaging six yards per carry. Terrifying. The Chiefs defense will not only need to slow down Mack and try and get him out of his groove early, but they’ll also need to play forward aggressively to stop the Colts entire run offense and get pressure on Luck. Hello, calling sack city (re: Chris Jones and Dee Ford). Chiefs win it and the decades of bad playoff juju are no more!
Dane Van Why, Chiefs 35-28
It’s playoff time once again in Kansas City and this year has quite a different feel to it. While the spirit of playoff losses past loom heavily over Arrowhead Stadium, fear not Chiefs fans, for there is a savior in our ranks. The Chiefs haven’t been the No. 1 seed in the playoffs since 1997. They lost to the Denver Broncos 14-10 at home and were led by Elvis Grbac. So let’s relax. Patrick Mahomes is no Elvis Grbac. Since the year 2000, 10 of the 18 AFC teams who secured a No. 1 seed made it to the Super Bowl, and since 2013, they all have. The Colts are the go to upset this weekend amongst the national media, but I just don’t see it. This is a different team and a different year with a different quarterback under center.