It took a while, but it is finally time for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to hit the field again. Following their first-round bye, they will meet Andrew Luck and a red hot Colts team who seems determined to get another road playoff win. This game has a little bit of a feel of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object matchups. With that said, let’s start looking at some of the headlines for this Chiefs-Colts Divisional Round contest.
Past Is The Past, The Future Is Now
Earlier in the week, I mentioned how the Chiefs are ready to break the trend of their horrid playoff past. For more on that click here.
To see the national media constantly talking about the Chiefs home playoff past is not a surprise. But, there is a reason to believe that by looking at or hearing all of this could be a big benefit to the players. Chiefs fans will be ready to have Arrowhead rocking. The players feed off of that and have the determination to overcome this past. They’ve talked about it long enough this week, now they’re ready to put it to bed.
Luck Of The Draw
Who knows if anyone had the idea that Luck would come back so strong this season. After missing all of last season and having to completely go through a simple throwing program due to shoulder surgery, Luck has been as good as anyone could have hoped this season. The way this season has fallen in place, the Colts have certainly had luck on their sides in the timing aspects of things.
First, they found success in hiring head coach Frank Reich. Reich was a blessing in disguise for Indy, after the Josh McDaniels back out fiasco. He has been the perfect guy to build this team and be able to get them back to the top of the AFC. You also have the draft class this team had last spring. Former Chiefs front office man, now Colts general manager, Chris Ballard and his scouts were able to strike gold on guys that were not generating a lot of buzz from other teams heading into the draft. Many of these guys, like linebacker Darius Leonard for example, have been looked at as steals in the draft and he fits the Colts mentality of us against the world perfectly.
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Indianapolis has also had luck on their side in the trenches this season, by finding the perfect players to be in those spots. Offensively, the Colts have allowed just 18 sacks all year long, including none allowed against JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and that hard-nosed Texans front last week in the Wild Card round. Last season, they ranked dead last in sacks allowed. And in 2016, the last time Luck played before this season, they ranked 28th in sacks allowed. Defensively, the Colts have the most depth for pass rushers that they have arguably had in Luck’s career. The smart drafting by Ballard to provide that depth has made the Colts a good team on the turn of a dime and they are probably within a few years away from being one of the top teams for a while atop the AFC.
Slice ‘Em Up Pat
It’s been discussed this week, how the Colts have run a cover 2 defense. This seems to set up well for Mahomes in a big way, especially having Sammy Watkins will help too. Watkins is listed as questionable and he practiced in some capacity throughout the week. Based on stats, the Colts defense against “above average” quarterbacks don’t fare as well as other matchups. On the other hand, Mahomes has carved up zone defenses this seasons. One matchup that stands out, in particular, is the Steelers from Week 2.
We talked about the Colts trenches already, and they will be ready to disguise blitzes by overloading defenders against the offensive line. Mahomes has done mostly good against pressure this season.
As for the back end that plays the cover 2 defense, the Colts have the old, simple gameplan of not getting beat deep and attack what’s in front of you. The Colts hook into zones and have forced quarterbacks to hit on short passes this season. They tackle well enough too, that if a pass is caught, a skills player will rarely break a tackle.
By playing zone heavy, the Colts play aggressively against the run. This will likely be a plus for the Chiefs in play action calls or even the RPO calls we see drawn up for Mahomes often.
The key for Mahomes and Co. will be to read the Colts disguises and stunts and communicate all the defenders in pre-snap. If the Chiefs take what is given to them and attack the Colts enough downfield, they should find success.
Controlling The Clock
Watching how both teams control the clock and decide when to push the ball up the field will be interesting to watch. The Colts have a few good running backs who can make this struggling Chiefs run defense pay. Also, the Colts have the offensive line that creates holes better than anybody. If the Colts are able to hold onto the ball and gain five yards per rush, then that will put Kansas City in a bind.
The Chiefs have the ability to do that as well, but probably not as well as Indianapolis. With Kareem Hunt being released, the Chiefs don’t necessarily have a guy in the backfield that can automatically pick up a first down anytime they touch the rock. Spencer Ware, Damien Williams and Darrel Williams might have the ability to break tackles and pick up solid gains, but it’s hard to make up for what Hunt brought in times when the Chiefs could kill off some clock.
Matchup To Watch: Travis Kelce Vs Colts Pass Defense
In the matchup to watch this week, we are going to focus on just one player going against the other side because the numbers are so glaring. The Colts have made tight ends look like megastars almost every single week. This season, Indianapolis has allowed 1,234 yards to opposing tight ends this season, the most in the NFL. This season, Kelce himself had 102 more receiving yards. The Chiefs have averaged 93.8 receiving yards per game this season, with the league average being 52.2. Considering the stats and the zone coverage of the Colts defense we mentioned earlier, this matchup could be a big plus for Kelce and the KC offense.
It’s been stated plenty this week, but the streak the Chiefs are trying to break is SIX straight home playoff losses. Last time the Chiefs won at home in the playoffs, Joe Montana led them over the Steelers in the Wild Card round in January of 1994.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Mahomes (50) and Luck (39) have combined for the most TD passes in any QB matchup in postseason history. (89)
Luck has had quite the difference in home/away splits in the postseason. At home, he has a touchdown to interception ratio of 5:3. Whereas on the road, the ratio is 6:10. There has also been talk of his numbers dropping outdoors as well. With the forecast indicating a chance of snow for Saturday, that will be another thing to watch.
Thank you for reading. Be sure to check out Full Press Coverage throughout the NFL post-season. Enjoy the Divisional Round.