Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts -2.5
The 2013 NFL playoffs will kickoff with the Chiefs at the Colts. Both of these teams over-achieved this season and will be looking to go a step farther. Andy Reid has quickly assembled a contending squad, while Chuck Pagano has a very young, yet potent team. Inexperience and could be a factor in this game as few players on each team have been deep in the NFL post-season.
Once again, Andrew Luck’s Colts finished at 11-5, but this time they are champions of the AFC South and have earned a first-round match-up with the Chiefs. While 11 wins is impressive, the Colts have not been a very consistent team this year. They seem to win when they are not expected to and lose in the same fashion. Not many could have predicted they would go into San Francisco and beat the Niners 27-7, or that they would take down the Seahawks and Broncos. While those massive wins are achievements that bode very well for the Colts coming into the playoffs, they also had a few loses that had to make you wonder… A 19-9 lose at San Diego? A 40-11 beat down at Arizona? Worst of all, a 38-8 loss to the Rams at home?!
Meanwhile, Kansas City started the season with an amazing 9-0 record. That record was made even more impressive by the Chiefs’ defense, which never allowed a team over 17 points during the streak. In addition to the defense, the Chiefs have Jamaal Charles who has been nearly unstoppable this season with 1,980 total rushing and receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.
These teams met in week 16 at Kansas City when the Chiefs still had a chance to catch Denver for the AFC West crown. The Colts won that match-up 23-7 over the Chiefs who were not the same after their bye week and went 2-5. In the loss, KC allowed Donald Brown to break a pair of big plays for scores. The Chiefs also only sacked Luck once and let him complete 26 passes for 241 yards and a score.
Colts Game Plan
Andrew Luck will need to show-up the way he did against the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos if the Colts want this win. He is really the only star player the Colts have and must deliver. Stopping Charles is crucial as he’s the only real offensive star the Chiefs have. The Colts were one of few teams that did not have a player rush for over 100 yards this season. Even with that stat, Brown and Trent Richardson have worked well in a two-headed backfield. Kansas City is not great against the run and ranks 11th worst in stopping it.
Keys of the Game
- Contain Jamaal Charles – It’s no secret that Charles is KC’s primary weapon. His speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield make him a nightmare to defend. In week 16, following his massive 5 TD game against the Raiders, the Colts allowed Charles 106 rushing yards and a score on 13 carries. Indianapolis did a little better against Charles in the passing game and held him to 38 yards on 5 receptions. The Colts have solid inside linebackers in Jerrell Freeman and Pat Angerer, but on the season the allowed 2,002 rushing yards, 7th worst in the league.
- Get in the head of Alex Smith – It’s a known fact that Smith is excellent when it comes to taking care of the ball. He only threw 7 INTs, the fewest by any QB that played the majority of the season for his team. In the week 16 win, the Colts sacked Smith five times and picked him off as he went 16 for 28, 153 yards and no touchdowns. On the season, the Colts had 42 sacks, 11th most in the league.
Prop Bets I Like
Total Receiving yards: T.Y. Hilton over 65.5 is a bet I like. Before being the WR1, Hilton was a deep-ball threat and still has the speed to make plays down field. Luck will look to his top target often in this game. Case and point, 15 targets and 11 receptions for 155 yards in week 17 when the Colts had a shot at a first-round bye.
Chiefs Game Plan
The Chiefs will need more than just Charles to win this one. They need that defense that was a force in its first nine games. Luck is a hard QB to get to and tough to bring down, but KC must pressure him if they hope to get a playoff road win. Alex Smith will need to be the field captain he has proven to be in the past and make good and quick decisions in the pocket to avoid the pressure the Colts will bring. The defense must bottle-up the Colts RBs and be aware of Indianapolis’ short passing game, which hurt them in week 16.
Keys of the Game
- Expose the lack of offense – The Colts suffered a big loss early in the season when Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL. Fortunately, T.Y. Hilton did a great job stepping into the WR1 role and finished the season with 1,083 yards on 82 receptions and 5 touchdowns. Luck and Hilton have really been the only consistent offensive playmakers for Indianapolis. While Donald Brown and Trent Richardson have misleading stats due to their time-share, neither is likely to pose a real threat to the Chiefs, if the front seven plays up to its potential. Other than Hilton, there is not a consistent threat in the Colts’ passing game. The Chiefs need to play some bump-and-run and try to prevent any of the role-players from making an impact.
- Control the clock – Always a key for road playoff teams, If the Chiefs can run some clock on their possessions and get an early score, they stand a good chance of taking the crowd out of the game. Momentum is huge in the playoffs and with the type of offense KC has, they can nickel and dime the Colts.
Prop Bets I like
Total Rushing yards: Jamaal Charles under 92.5 is a bet I’ll take. This is a little risky since he’s a threat to break free for a long run on any given play, but I think the Colts will load the box against Charles and try to make Smith look to his mediocre receiving core.
Playoff Prediction: Colts 26, Chiefs 20
This one is likely to be very close and come down to the wire. As the first playoff game of the season, this game is likely set the bar high for post-season drama. The Colts should be able to score just enough to edge the Chiefs and will likely get pressure on Alex Smith.
Checkout out our other NFL Playoff Previews