It’s finally time. The playoffs have made it to Arrowhead, and here’s who you should be watching when the Chiefs square off against the Colts at 3:35 p.m. Saturday.
No. 15 Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
23 years old, 6-3, 230 pounds, 2nd season
Watch the quarterback. Obviously. But seriously, Mahomes is the thing that makes this Chiefs team different than all the other Chiefs teams in the past. He plays like a video-game cheat code, making throws that defy logic — and sometimes physics. Mahomes doesn’t have many firsts left, but this weekend, he’ll start in his first playoff game. He’s had a propensity to come out overamped in some big games, and staying within himself, especially early, will be a major key against the Colts. He’ll be going against a Colts defense that tends to play more zone coverage, and Mahomes is pretty good against the zone. He’s completed 64.1 percent of his passes against teams that play zone and has thrown 14 touchdowns to no interceptions.
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No. 95 Chris Jones, DE, Chiefs
24 years old, 6-6, 310 pounds, 3rd season
Jones hasn’t forgotten about the way his season ended last year when he missed the X of the playoff loss to the Titans. That’s fueling him through these playoffs, and this time around, he’ll be faced with a tough task from the get-go. The Colts give up the fewest sacks per game, while the Chiefs record the second-most. With 15.5 sacks, 29 quarterback hits and 71 pressures in the regular season, Jones is a major part of that pass rush. He’ll have his hands full this week with Pro Bowl rookie guard Quenton Nelson. Though the Colts could choose to keep the ball on the ground with the Chiefs’ run defense issues and the weather, Jones and the pass rush still need to make Luck uncomfortable whenever he throws — something he could end up doing pretty often if the Colts get down big early.
No. 25 Marlon Mack, RB, Colts
22 years old, 6-0, 210 pounds, 2nd season
The running back put together a franchise-record performance in the Wild Card round, racking up 148 yards in the Colts’ win against the Texans. During the regular season, he had four 100-yard rushing games and finished with 908 rushing yards over 12 games. Because the Chiefs have the worst rushing defense in the NFL, at least according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, Mack could be poised for another big. Add the fact that the game could be played in a couple inches of snow and a need for the Colts to control time of possession, and Mack could really be a major factor.
No. 53 Darius Leonard, LB, Colts
23 years old, 6-2, 234 pounds, 1st season
Though he was a Pro Bowl snub, the rookie outside linebacker is still coming off an impressive season. He was named to first-team All-Pro, and he broke the Colts’ franchise record for tackles in a season with 161. Against the Texans, Leonard led the way with 13 tackles. This week, Leonard will be a major part of the Colts’ efforts to slowing down tight end Travis Kelce. It won’t be easy, though. The Colts have allowed the most yards to tight ends this season of any team in the league.