Colts-Chiefs, Part II
January 3, 2014
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AFC Wild Card Playoffs (NBC, 4:35 p.m. ET)
Matchup: Kansas City (11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS) at Indianapolis (11-5 SU, 9-6-1 ATS)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Indianapolis -2.5, 46.5
The NFL playoffs get underway Saturday afternoon when the red-hot Colts look for a fourth straight victory (SU and ATS) when they meet the slumping Chiefs for the second time in three weeks.
Since starting the year 9-0 with 12.3 PPG and 327 YPG allowed, Kansas City is 2-5 SU in its past seven games with 27.7 PPG and 420 YPG allowed. On the flip side, Indy’s defense has held opponents to 6.7 PPG and 292 YPG during its three-game win streak, which included a 23-7 romp at K.C. in Week 16, thanks to 110 total yards and two touchdowns from RB Donald Brown. That improved the Colts to 12-2 SU (11-3 ATS) in this series since 1990, which includes a 3-0 playoff mark (SU and ATS).
That is part of the Chiefs' dismal 1-9 ATS mark in playoff games since 1992, but they have been an outstanding road team all season at 7-1 ATS (6-2 SU) where they have outscored host teams by nearly two touchdowns (30.6 PPG to 17.9 PPG).
Indianapolis is a solid 6-2 SU (5-3 ATS) at Lucas Oil Stadium, despite being outgained 366 YPG to 344 YPG by these eight visitors. But in the past two seasons, the Colts are 9-0 ATS at home when the total is at least 45.5 points.
Neither team is dealing with major injuries heading into the postseason with Kansas City OLB Tamba Hali (knee) and WR Dwayne Bowe (concussion) both upgraded to probable. Indianapolis has some concerns on both of its lines, but DE Cory Redding (shoulder), DT Ricky Jean-Francois (foot) and guards Mike McGlynn (elbow) and Joe Reitz (head) all could play on Saturday.
The Chiefs generated 26.9 PPG this season (T-6th in NFL), but the only game in which they did not score at least 17 points was the 23-7 loss to the Colts two weeks ago. In that contest, they rushed the ball very well (155 yards on 7.8 YPC), but QB Alex Smith threw for just 153 yards on 28 attempts (5.5 YPA) with 0 TD, 1 INT and absorbed five sacks. For the season, the K.C. ground game rushed for a strong 129 YPG (10th in NFL) on 4.7 YPC (5th in league), but the air attack managed just 209 passing YPG (T-24th in NFL) on 6.5 yards per pass attempt (27th in league).
Smith finished the season with solid numbers of 3,313 passing yards (6.5 YPA), 23 TD, 7 INT, and he has been outstanding in both his career playoff starts. In these two contests (both in 2011 with the 49ers) Smith threw for 495 yards (7.3 YPA), 5 TD and 0 INT. But he has never fared too well indoors, going 6-6 with a 59.8% completion rate, 6.2 YPA, 8 TD and 12 INT in ideal conditions.
Smith's best offense has been to get the ball in the hands of RB Jamaal Charles, who racked up 1,980 total yards of offense (132 YPG) this season with 19 touchdowns. In the loss to the Colts in Week 16, he ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries (8.2 YPC) and caught five passes for 38 more yards. His numbers in four career indoor games are excellent too, where he has rushed 53 times for 424 yards (8.0 YPC) and two touchdowns. In his last indoor game at New Orleans in 2012, Charles finished with 233 rushing yards (7.1 YPC) and 55 receiving yards.
In addition to Charles, the Chiefs have three capable wide receivers with more than 500 yards this season in Dwayne Bowe (673 rec. yards, 5 TD), Donnie Avery (596 rec. yards, 2 TD) and Dexter McCluster (511 rec. yards, 2 TD).
Kansas City's defense started out the year so well thanks to 35 sacks in the first seven games of the season. But injuries to both top pass-rushing OLBs Justin Houston and Tamba Hali were a big reason the club managed just 12 sacks over the final nine contests of 2013. The Chiefs gave up a ton of yards (368 total YPG, 24th in NFL), both through the air (248 YPG, T-25th in league) and on the ground (120 YPG, 22nd in NFL), but still finished the season tied for fifth in the NFL in scoring defense (19.1 PPG). This was due to a stellar third-down defense (34%, 5th in league) and a strong red-zone defense (51% TD rate, 10th in NFL).
Kansas City's defense also did a great job in making big plays, forcing 36 turnovers this year, including 24 in its eight road games. However, it will be tough take the football away from the great ball-protecting Colts.
Indianapolis committed just 14 turnovers all season, with only three giveaways in the past seven games combined. But despite this lack of mistakes, the team has been average on offense with 342 total YPG (15th in NFL), 24.4 PPG (T-14th in league), 38% third-down conversions (15th in NFL) and a 56% TD rate in the red zone (14th in league).
QB Andrew Luck cut his interception total in half from his rookie year when he threw 18 picks, finishing the season with a 60.2% completion rate for 3,822 yards (6.7 YPA), 23 TD and 9 INT. Although he struggled in his postseason debut last year in Baltimore (28-of-54, 288 yards, 5.3 YPA, 0 TD, 1 INT), Luck was on target against the Chiefs in Week 16, completing 26-of-37 passes (70.3%) for 241 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT.
Although he misses injured WR Reggie Wayne, Luck has relied mostly on fellow second-year pros WR T.Y. Hilton (1,083 rec. yards, 5 TD) and TE Coby Fleener (608 rec. yards, 4 TD) when he drops back. However, it was rookie WR Griff Whalen who did the most damage against K.C. two weeks ago with seven catches for 80 yards.
The offense isn't all based on Luck though, as the Colts have rushed the football effectively this year too with 109 YPG on 4.3 YPC (13th in NFL), including 122 rushing YPG in the past three games. RB Donald Brown (537 rush yards, 6 TD) ran for 79 yards on just 10 carries against the Chiefs, which included a 51-yard TD scamper. His 5.3 YPC average ranks third in the NFL this season, and he has been a welcomed change of pace from disappointing RB Trent Richardson. The No. 3 overall draft pick in 2012 rushed for only 458 yards on 2.9 YPC with 3 TD in his 14 games with Indianapolis this year, and gained just 43 yards on 16 carries (2.7 YPC) versus the Chiefs two weeks ago.
The Colts defense has been erratic all season, allowing 33+ points four times, but holding five opponents (including each of the past three) to 10 points or less. The +7 turnover rate over the past three contests has been a key to the win streak, but a poor run defense has to be concerned with Jamaal Charles. For the season, Indy ranks 26th in the NFL in rushing defense (125 YPG) and 25th with 4.5 YPC allowed. The squad is also subpar in the red zone, allowing a hefty 59% TD rate (20th in NFL).
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