Indianapolis Colts vs Kansas City Chiefs: In Depth Divisional Breakdown

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Jan 5, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack (25) against the Houston Texans during the AFC Wild Card at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Time: Saturday Jan. 12th 4:35 (EST)

Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City


This contest is connected by more ways than the straight shot down I-70, through the heartland of the United States.  The last time these two teams played, Indy overcame a 28 point second half deficit, to win the game in Indianapolis.  Also, Chris Ballard, just 2 years ago, was the Chiefs Director of personnel.  Chris was G.M. Dorsey’s right-hand man and knows this organization well.  This may, or may not, have a little bearing on how the Colts Frank Reich approaches this game.

The Chiefs are coached by one of the all time great offensive masterminds, Andy Reid. Headlining powerhouse offenses such as Green Bay from 1992-1999, Philadelphia from 1999-2012, and been where he is now since 2013. His overall record as a head coach is 195-124, and 65-31 in K.C.  Indy however, has the first time head coach Frank Reich at the helm.  Reich is mostly known as the offensive  mind behind the Chargers from 2013-2016.  Then last years O.C. for the Superbowl winning Eagles.  In his first year as head coach on a NFL team, he took a 4-12 team from last year, and after the learning curve of going 1-5 in his first 6 games, took the team to the playoffs, going 10-1 in his past 11 games.   

Offensively, Kansas city is helmed my sophomore sensation, Patrick Mahomes.  This year he has lit opposing defenses up for 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns, to 12 interceptions, on a 66 completion percentage, and a 113.8 QBR.  His 8.8 Yards per pass, is #1 for QB’s with at least 200 pass attempts this year.  He is a clear favorite to win this years MVP award, by many voters.

His main deep threat is speedy Tyreek Hill.  his 1479 yards on 87 receptions. His 17 Yards per catch, and league-leading 27 catches for 20+ makes him a clear threat deep.  Indy is going to have their hands full containing him.  But Hill is not the only receiving threat Mahomes has at his disposal.  Travis Kelce was #2 in the NFL in yards(1,336) and TD’s (10) in the NFL among Tight Ends.  A dangerous weapon in the middle of the field, going against one of the worst rated teams in the NFL covering T.E.’s in the Colts.

Many know that their star R.B. Kareem Hunt was released by the Chiefs, and suspended by the NFL for assault on a woman earlier in the year.  But that has not slowed their running game all that much.  The other running backs since then have run the ball 89 times for 421 yards, a 4.7 YPC. The running attack is helped immensely by this prolific passing attack. Opposing defenses can not keep all the eggs on the line of scrimmage to stop the run, due to fear of getting burned deep, and the RB’s see very few 8+ man boxes. 

Defensively for the Colts, They are very quietly one of the better defenses in the NFL.  Since Week 7 they are the #1 scoring defense in the NFL.  Overall on the year, they are #11 in NFL in yards allowed per game, 8th in rushing/game, and 4th in YPC.  The zone pass defense Indianapolis runs is made to prevent big plays.  They are 3rd in the NFL in allowing 20+ yard plays.   

They make teams be patient, and methodically work their way across the field.  Always having deep safeties to prevent that deep pass  keeping everything in front of them, and using their speed to rally to the tackle.  This defense works in their favor in my opinion, as the Chiefs, and Mahomes, love throwing deep and getting chunk plays.  The real key will be Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker Vs Travis Kelce.  Can they, between them and the safeties, keep Kelce in check?   

Offensively for the Colts, they are headed by league favorite for Comeback player of the year, Andrew Luck.  Whom on the year has had a career best’s in completion percentage (67.3), and is 2nd only to Mahomes in TD’s thrown with 39 (regular season). T.Y. Hilton gives the Colts a deep threat at receiver.  And Eric Ebron has been a T. D. machine. Accumulating 14 total on the year. His 13 receiving is 2nd by any receiver and leads all T.E.’s. Luck has been VERY methodical.  Has shown time and time again, all year, that he is able to dissect pass defenses for short and medium throws, to keep the chains moving.  Indianapolis is #1 in the NFL in 3rd down conversions. 

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But the real story of this offense is the offensive line.  After the Colts started the year 1-5, Indy finally got their O-line together.  This group, after finishing dead last in giving up sacks last year, was #1 in the NFL this year, only giving up 18.  As a unit, when the starting O-line is together, and fully healthy(8 games this year), Marlon Mack has 150 carries, 809 yards(5.4YPC), and has not given up a single sack!  Speaking of Mack, this was the sophomore’s break out year.  After missing 4 games, he finished the year with 908 yards and 9 TD’s on the ground.  He was 7th in the NFL in Yards per game. 

Defensively, K.C. has a lot to be desired.  They rank 31st in the NFL in total yards given up. Maybe the biggest stat that is important in this game specifically, is that they allow 5 yards-per-carry on the ground!  That is not the only bad part of this defense, as they are terrible in pass defense also.  Ranking 31st in this regard.  But I believe much of this is due to Kansas City jumping out to big leads, and the other team being forced to pass more often. They are actually mid-tier in yards per pass gained at 7.5.

Eric Berry has finally come back to the roster after a hiatus, and may be able to help in this regard, but how much? Reports are he re-aggravated his heel injury.  The pass rush for this team is the only real boon on defense, being #1 in the NFL with 52 sacks.  However, after deeper inspection, 23 of those sacks came against the worst of the worst O-lines in the NFL. When facing the 8 best o-lines, 5 sacks in 3 games.   Division rivals have been sacked 20 times. Colts are not division rivals and have arguably the best O-line in the NFL.  It will be interesting to see is these ‘sack masters’ K.C. has, can get to Andrew Luck.

This is a tough game to get a grip on.  It can go 1 of 2 ways depending on K.C.’s run D, and Indy’s pass D.  If Indianapolis can establish their force of will on the O-line, Quenton Nelson and the rest of his roughneck crew could open huge lanes in this porous K.C. run D. Marlon Mack would then be able to set the tone of the game.  Keeping Mahomes and this high powered aerial attack on the sidelines.  Keeping the score lower than what the Chiefs will want.  Time of possession is going to be a huge factor for the Colts to win this game. 

Even if Mack cannot continuously gain first down’s on the ground, Luck has an uncanny ability to be able to throw for 3rd and long to keep the chains moving.  This will allow Indy to milk the clock all game, limiting Kansas City to maybe 6 possessions for the game in theory.  However, even if they do run the ball well against this defense, Indy’s zone passing defense will have a daunting task continuing what they’ve accomplished so far this year: turning big-play passing attacks into dink and dunk. 

I do believe they will place Hooker over the top of Hill while either Desir or Moore tries to stick with him underneath.  They will try to take that aspect out of the game like they have done with Hopkins and Cooper in the past few weeks.  Combined, in three games, Hopkins and Cooper had 13 catches for 105 yards, averaging only 34 yards per game.  The X-factor will probably be Kelce.  Indy will need to either double him, making it very tough on the front 7 to hold the run, or hope Walker or Leonard can cover Kelce 1 on 1(which would be a monumental task).

Indy will need to either double him, making it very tough on the front 7 to hold the run or hope Walker or Leonard can cover Kelce 1 on 1(which would be a monumental task). I do believe Eberflus will come up with a good scheme in the pass rush department to put pressure on Mahomes, but in doing so, will it leave the pass defense vulnerable?  If Indy cannot at least limit the big plays, the Chiefs will be able to score fast, and allow the mastermind Reid ample opportunities to continue calling designed plays to dissect the Colts defense.

In the end, I just don’t see the Chiefs being able to stop this Colts rushing attack.  This could very well be the 4th time this season Indy goes 200+ yards on the ground.  And even though Mahomes will probably get a few big plays in, Luck has more than enough ability to return the favor if needed.  I will give 2 predictions because of how this game could turn out.

If Indy runs effectively:  31-28 Colts (My lean)

If Indy can not:  45-38 Chiefs.

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