One Minute Preview (AFC Divisional Edition): Indianapolis Colts
It’s going to be a long work week in Kansas City, and it has nothing to do with the lack of a holiday day off for the first time since Dec. 17-21.
Rather, Chiefs fans are going to nervous and eager and excited for the AFC Divisional playoff against the Indianapolis Colts, 11-6, at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs, 12-4, will be looking for their first home playoff victory since Jan. 8, 1994 when Joe Montana led Kansas City to a win over the Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium.
To do so, the Chiefs will need to beat the Indianapolis Colts, who upset the Houston Texans 21-7 in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card Game.
Each week, I take an early look at the Chiefs’ next opponent, and here are five things to know about the Colts ahead of Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 3:35 p.m. and will be broadcast on NBC (Ch. 41):
1. Andrew Luck
Luck garnered some MVP support down the stretch as he helped the Colts win nine of their last 10 regular-season games. During that stretch, Luck completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 2,801 yards with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
In those 10 games, Luck was sacked a mere eight times and he wasn’t sacked in Saturday’s win at Houston. It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs, who lead the NFL in sacks, will get pressure on Luck.
While Luck likely won’t win the MVP award (Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes appears to be the favorite), he could be given the comeback player of the year award considering he missed all of last season because of a shoulder injury.
Oh by the way, Luck has postseason playoff success against the Chiefs on his resume. He was 29 of 45 for 443 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions in a 45-44 win over the Chiefs in a wild-card game in 2014 in Indianapolis.
2. Receiving targets
In that 2014 playoff game, Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton torched the Chiefs secondary for 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
Hilton is still going strong, catching 76 passes for 1,270 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season. In Saturday’s playoff win at Houston, Hilton had five catches for 85 yards.
Luck also has tight end Eric Ebron, whose 13 touchdown receptions tied for second in the NFL behind Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. On Saturday, Ebron scored the game’s first TD on a 6-yard reception.
Dontrelle Inman also had a touchdown catch Saturday, the third straight week he’s scored. He could see more balls thrown his way if the Chiefs are able to slow Hilton and Ebron.
3. The defense
The Colts finished the regular season ranked 10th in points allowed (21.5 per game) and 11th in yards allowed per game (339.4).
While the rushing defense was the eighth-best in the NFL (101.6 yards allowed per game), the passing defense was 16th (339.4).
A closer look at their pass defense shows the Colts were tied for ninth with 15 interceptions, but had just 38 sacks, which was 19th in the NFL. However, only one team allowed fewer pass plays of 40 or more yards than Indianapolis, which was burned for just four such plays.
In fact, the Colts allowed the fifth fewest “explosive plays,” which ESPN defines as pass plays of 20 or more yards and rushes of 15 or more yards. That number was the second best in the AFC:
4. Rushing attack
Although Indianapolis ranked 20th in rushing this season, it piled up 200 yards Saturday against the Texans. That could be worrisome for the Chiefs, who were 27th in stopping the run this season.
Leading the way for the Colts on Saturday was Marlon Mack, who ran for 148 yards in 24 attempts with one touchdown.
Mack rushed for 908 yards in 12 games this season, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt.
5. Special teams
Mahomes was less than a year old when Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri’s career started in 1996 with the New England Patriots.
Vinatieri, 46, has scored more points than any player in NFL history (2,600), been part of four Super Bowl champions and has a well-deserved reputation for coming through in the clutch.
But don’t think Vinatieri is resting on his laurels. He made 23 of 27 field-goal attempts this season, including four from 50 yards and longer.
Punter Rigoberto Sanchez was third in the NFL in net punting average (44.5 yards per punt) and eighth in average (46.1 ypp).
The Colts have done a great job slowing other teams on returns, too. Opponents were last in punt-return average (4.4 yards per return) and 24th in kickoff return average (22.0 ypr).
However, Indianapolis ranked 29th in kickoff return average (19.8 ypr).