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NFL

Jan 11, 2019

DP - Colts at Chiefs

The NFL playoffs continue on Saturday as Kansas City looks to exorcise its home playoff demons against Indianapolis. Amazingly, the last time the Chiefs won a postseason contest at Arrowhead Stadium came in 1993 as top-seeded Kansas City welcomes the hottest team in football over the last three months.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

The Colts (11-6 SU, 9-7-1 ATS) finally had a healthy Andrew Luck after the former top pick missed last season with a shoulder injury. Indianapolis fell into a 1-5 hole through six games, with the lone victory coming at Washington in Week 2 as six-point underdogs, 21-6. The Colts dropped their first two home games to the Bengals and Texans, while allowing at least 34 points in four of those defeats.

However, Frank Reich’s team would turn things around by picking up five consecutive wins to climb above the .500 mark, as the offense posted 27 points or more in each of those victories. After getting blanked at Jacksonville in Week 13 in a 6-0 setback, the Colts rebounded with four more wins to close out the season, including back-to-back victories over the Texans and Cowboys. Indianapolis clinched its first playoff berth since 2014 in a Week 17 winner-take-all triumph at Tennessee, 33-17 to finish 4-2 inside the AFC South.

The Colts didn’t stop there as they rolled past the Texans in last Saturday’s Wild Card round, 21-7 as 1 ½-point road underdogs. Luck connected on a pair of touchdown passes, while running back Marlon Mack posted a 148-yard performance and reached the end zone as Indianapolis didn’t allow its first touchdown until the fourth quarter.

After suffering a Wild Card meltdown to the Titans last January, the Chiefs (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) moved on from veteran Alex Smith and turned to unproven Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. In a Week 1 victory over the Chargers, Mahomes proved not only to the Chiefs but to the rest of the NFL that he belonged as he threw four touchdown passes. This would begin an incredible stretch as Mahomes didn’t throw his first interception until Week 5, while leading the Chiefs to a 5-0 start.

Kansas City covered in each of its first seven games, including in a three-point defeat at New England in Week 6. Three of the four losses for the Chiefs came by three points or less, while Kansas City closed the season at 1-5-1 ATS in the final seven contests. The Chiefs’ offense produced 26 points or more in all 16 games this season, but Andy Reid’s club put together a 2-4 record against playoff teams.

WHO TO WATCH

Luck threw for the second-most touchdowns in a season in his career (39), including an eight-game stretch in which he tossed at least three touchdowns. Mack is coming off a career season by racking up 908 rushing yards in only 12 games, including a 139-yard effort against Dallas in the Week 15 home shutout. T.Y. Hilton fought through an ankle injury in last week’s win at Houston by hauling in 85 yards receiving, while accumulating five 100-yard performances this season.

Mahomes finished second in the NFL in passing yards with 5,097 behind Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, while the former Texas Tech standout tossed 50 touchdown passes. Speedster Tyreek Hill compiled 1,479 receiving yards on only 87 catches, as he averaged 17 yards a catch. Tight end Travis Kelce put together career-highs in catches (103), yards (1,336), and touchdowns (10), while finishing with over 1,000 yards receiving for the third consecutive season.

HOME/ROAD SPLITS

Indianapolis owns a 5-4 away mark from Lucas Oil Stadium, while the UNDER cashed in five of those road affairs. The Colts managed a 4-2 ATS mark in the role of a road underdog, including the two outright victories at Houston. Indianapolis yielded 17 points or less in three of the final four contests, as the Colts hit the OVER on its lone road total of 50 or higher at Oakland in a 42-28 win in Week 8.

Kansas City continued its dominance at Arrowhead Stadium by winning seven of eight home games. The lone loss came in Week 15 to the Chargers after the Chiefs blew multiple 14-point leads in a 29-28 setback. The Chiefs covered in their first three home contests, but closed the season at 1-4 ATS in the final five games at Arrowhead. In spite of the high-scoring ways from the Chiefs, the UNDER went 4-3-1 at home, while putting up 35 points or more three times at home compared to six times on the highway.

SERIES HISTORY

The Colts and Chiefs are meeting for the first time since 2016 as Kansas City ended a three-game losing skid to Indianapolis in a 30-14 blowout at Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck threw two touchdown passes, but was outdone by future Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who tossed a pair of touchdowns to Hill and Kelce. That is the only loss by Luck to the Chiefs in his career, as the former top pick is 3-1 against Kansas City, including a pair of December wins in 2012 and 2013.

Perhaps the most impressive win of Luck’s career came against Kansas City in the 2013 Wild Card round as he rallied the Colts from a 38-10 hole in a wild 45-44 triumph as 1 ½-point home underdogs. It was the fourth time since 1995 that Indianapolis has knocked Kansas City out of the playoffs, as the Colts have eliminated the Chiefs twice at Arrowhead in 1995 and 2003.

PLAYOFF HISTORY

Indianapolis has reached the postseason for the fourth time in Luck’s career since 2012, as the Colts have split a pair of divisional playoff contests with a loss at New England in 2013 and a win at Denver in 2014. Kansas City has been playoff kryptonite over the last 25 years by owning a dreadful 1-10 record in this span, including an 0-6 mark at home. Last season, the Chiefs squandered a 21-3 halftime lead over the Titans in a 22-21 defeat, while their only win in this stretch came at Houston in the 2015 Wild Card round.

HANDICAPPER’S CORNER

VegasInsider.com NFL expert Joe Nelson checks in on this showdown, “This is an offense vs. defense matchup with clear edges for the Colts on defense but with the Chiefs posting bigger offensive numbers. Kansas City led the NFL in scoring at 35.3 points per game and total offense at 427 yards per game. The loss of Kareem Hunt did tack a toll on the numbers however as Kansas City was out-rushed in each of the final four games of the season and the Colts are a well above average run defense and the scoring average for the Chiefs dropped by a field goal without Hunt.”

Can the Colts continue their mastery of the Chiefs in the playoffs? “Indianapolis stunningly put up more than 200 rushing yards last week against one of the league’s best run defenses and they now face one the league’s worst run defenses, allowing 5.0 yards per rush. However, the solid numbers on both sides of the ball for the Colts came through one of the weakest schedules in the NFL. The Colts are also facing a third straight elimination game on the road after needing to win in Nashville Sunday night in Week 17, but the Colts have allowed just 14 points per game the past eight weeks,” Nelson notes.

This is not only a big playoff test for the Chiefs, but also for Reid’s legacy, “Reid has won 60 percent of his games as an NFL head coach though he is just 11-13 SU and 12-12 ATS in playoff games including going just 1-4 SU and ATS in now six seasons with the Chiefs. Reid famously led the Eagles to four consecutive NFC Championship games early in his career but he has one win in his last seven playoff games over the last decade,” Nelson says.

FUTURE ODDS

The Chiefs are the favorites to win the AFC championship at at 3/2 odds (Bet $100 to win $150), while the Colts sit at 5/1 odds. As far as Super Bowl odds go, Kansas City is second behind New Orleans at 9/2 odds, while the Colts own the same odds as the Eagles at 10/1 to capture the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Kansas City opened as 5 ½-point favorites on Saturday, but that number has slightly dropped to -5 at most books. The total has moved from a 55 ½ opener to 57 at a majority of outfits.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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