Colts vs Chiefs : The Colts versus Chiefs matchup might be the most intriguing game of the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, at least if you like innovative offense. After Indianapolis thumped Houston in the wild card game, the Colts look like contenders.
NFL Playoffs 2019
Team : Colts vs Chiefs
Date : Saturday, January 12
Start Time : 4:35 PM ET
Colts vs Chiefs LivE
Indianapolis’s defense held Houston’s tailbacks to 29 total yards on eight carries and forced Deshaun Watson to be a scrambler, then an unwilling runner. The improvement of the defense, in addition to that of the offensive line, has been a major story this season, highlighted by the success of 2018 draft picks Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard. Nelson, a guard, and Leonard, a linebacker, became the first rookie teammates to be named first-team all-pro since 1965.
The Colts will face a big challenge this week in trying to contain Chiefs’ gunslinger Patrick Mahomes. He leads an explosive offense that averaged an NFL-best 35.3 points per game, and he threw for a league-leading 50 touchdowns. He is considered the favorite to win league MVP in just his first season as a starter.
[‘We got it done!’: The inside story of how Patrick Mahomes landed with the Chiefs]
But Kansas City’s defense, which allows 26.3 points per game, could be a major liability if the Colts get rolling.
“Will the Chiefs’ defense cost them a championship?” NFL analyst John Clayton asked in his weekly column. “I think it will, and so do many people around the NFL I’ve spoken to. They believe in Mahomes. They believe in [Chiefs Coach] Andy Reid. But the defense can’t stop the run, and it has major problems in pass coverage.”
Kansas City also doesn’t have history in its favor. The Chiefs’s last home playoff win came against the Los Angeles Raiders in 1991.
And teams with playoff newcomers at quarterback have often struggled in such situations. As The Post’s Matt Bonesteel noted this week, teams with first-time playoff starters have gone 8-15 this decade, and 14-32 since 2002.
One thing we can be sure of is that the elements will play a factor come kickoff. It’s been snowing in Kansas City since Friday night, with anywhere from 4.5 to seven inches of accumulation and light snow expected throughout the day, per The Kansas City Star. Wind chills at Arrowhead Stadium could drop into the lower to mid 20s.
A view from the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot. There’s a stadium in there someplace pic.twitter.com/d6e5EZmeQ8
— Les Carpenter (@Lescarpenter) January 12, 2019
When: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. Eastern.
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City.
How to watch on TV: NBC.
How to stream online: NBCSports app.
Odds: Chiefs -5.
What’s next: The winner advances to the AFC championship game on Jan. 20, playing the winner of Sunday’s matchup between the Chargers and the Patriots. If the Chiefs win, that championship game would be in Kansas City. If the Colts win, that game would be on the road.
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck has the Colts rolling after a dominant win against the Texans. (Michael Wyke/AP)
Matchup to watch: Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill vs. Colts defensive backs Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker
Don’t be surprised if the Colts don’t even attempt to play man coverage on a single snap against the Chiefs this weekend. The played 65 snaps of man coverage during the regular season, the second-lowest total in the NFL, and unless you have cornerbacks who can run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash, that’s usually the correct coverage to play against Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs’s speedster racked up 562 yards against man coverage this season — third-most in the NFL — at a ridiculous 19.4 yards per catch.
It’s not like teams fared amazingly against Hill playing zone, either, though. The Chiefs will regularly counter soft zones by sticking Hill in the slot and letting him get a free run at the safeties. The speed with which he gets to the second level of the defense and quickness with which he breaks off his routes is a nearly impossible task for most safeties to match. He racked up 597 yards from the slot against zone coverage — the most in the NFL.
Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker have been successful matching up with slot receivers down the field so far this season, having allowed all of five catches between them. Hill presents a rare challenge, however, and on one play he can completely change the game.LUCK RUNS OUT? In 86 regular season games, Colts QB Andrew Luck has a 53-33 record and a touchdown pass-interception ratio of 171-83. Luck has not fared so well in the playoffs, however, where he has a 4-3 record and has thrown just 11 touchdown tosses compared to 13 picks. His ratio in last weekend’s 21-7 victory over Houston was 2-1. Chiefs had 15 interceptions on which they scored three TDs during the season.
MACK ATTACK: Last week we focused on the Bears’ Khalil, this week it’s the Colts’ Marlon Mack. The 22-year old Colts running back played in just 12 games (10 starts) this season and still managed 908 yards and nine rushing TDs. Against the Texans last week, Mack was on fire with 24 carries for 148 yards (6.2 avg.) and a touchdown. He is the best running back at Arrowhead on Saturday.
TRIPLE THREAT: That would be the best way to describe explosive Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill. Fourth in receiving yards this season with a franchise-record 1,479, Hill was also fourth in TD receptions with 12. Hill usually rushes the ball a couple of times per game — he scored on touchdown on a handoff — and he’s one of the most dangerous return specialists in the league. He took one kick to the house in Week 1, so he’s probably due for another some time soon.
GROUNDING IT OUT: The release of bad boy Kareem Hunt in November meant the loss of a dangerous weapon. Hunt played 11 games and was still far and away the team’s rushing leader with 824 yards (next was QB Patrick Mahomes with 272). Hunt also had another 378 yards on 26 catches. RB replacement Spencer Ware (hamstring) has practised this week but remains questionable. Former Dolphin Damien Williams should carry the bulk of the load for K.C. He had 11 carries for 51 yards in Week 17, and 13 carries for 103 yards against Seattle in Week 16. He’s also scored six TDs in the last four games.
FLAGS ON THE PLAY: The Chiefs led the NFL with 137 penalties, which was 12 more than anybody else and 17 more than Indianapolis (fourth). That means they drew about one more flag than the Colts per game, which isn’t so bad except that their K.C.’s penalties added up to a league-high 1,152 yards, while Indy’s fouls only added up to 953 yards (14th), or two football fields less than the Chiefs’ total. Chiefs will need to fight the temptation to interfere with T.Y. Hilton.The Indianapolis Colts, led by quarterback Andrew Luck and receiver T.Y. Hilton, meet the Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game on Saturday, January 12, 2019 (1/12/19) at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
In a later game, the Dallas Cowboys, led by quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, meet the Los Angeles Rams, led by quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley, in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game on Saturday, January 12, 2019 (1/12/19) at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.
The winners advance to the AFC and NFC Championship Games on January 20, 2019, with a chance to advance to the Super Bowl on Sunday, February 3, 2019.