A preview of the AFC divisional-round matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs
When: Saturday, Jan. 12, 4:35 p.m. ET
Where: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Line: Chiefs by 6
Injuries: Two significant contributors, receiver Ryan Grant and defensive end Tyquan Lewis, missed Indianapolis’ wild-card victory against the Texans. Grant, who started 10 games in the regular season, battled a toe injury and didn’t practice all week. And Lewis, a starting defensive end, suffered a knee injury in the regular-season finale and also did not practice. Reserve safety Mike Mitchell suffered a calf strain in the wild-card game and was later ruled out. The good news is that talented young safety Malik Hooker left the Houston game with a foot injury but later returned.
For Kansas City, the first-round bye couldn’t have come at a better time. Safety Eric Berry, the heart of the Chiefs’ defense, made his season debut in Week 15 and played the following game, but he sat out the season finale with a calf injury. Coach Andy Reid said the injury was bothering Berry, so the team pulled back on his participation. If Berry can’t go, his absence will e a huge blow for the Chiefs. Running back Spencer Ware has missed the last three games with hamstring and shoulder injuries. Linebacker Reggie Ragland (hip) and nose tackle Derrick Nnadi (concussion) both exited the regular season finale.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. QB play: Fans of potent offenses should be salivating. This matchup features the favorite for league MVP in Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the seeming choice for comeback player of the year in Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. In the regular season, the two combined for for 9,690 passing yards and a stunning 89 passing scores. But both passers also had issues with interceptions. Luck tied for second most with 15, while Mahomes tied for ninth most with 12.
2. Strength on strength: This matchup pits an Indianapolis offensive line that gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL (18) against one of the league’s most prolific pass rushes, as the Chiefs tied for first with 52 sacks. Against the Texans, the Colts O-line didn’t allow a sack on Luck and gave up just four QB hits. And when Luck has time to throw, he can pick apart opposing defenses. Generating pressure in Luck’s face will be key for a Kansas City defense that ranked second-to-last in passing yards allowed.
3. Elements of familiarity: Though Colts coach Frank Reich never served as an assistant under Chiefs coach Andy Reid, there should be plenty of overlap and familiarity between both staffs. That’s because Eagles coach Doug Pederson, whom Reid closely mentored both as a player and coach, was Reich’s boss in Philadelphia from 2016-17. Reich has indicated how influential Pederson has been in his own rise in becoming an NFL head coach, and Reid’s fingerprints are all over the scheme Pederson and Reich ran while both worked in Philly. Reich has incorporated much of that in Indianapolis. That shared knowledge could be instrumental for both staffs in trying to craft a defensive game plan.
And though it was four years ago and there are only a handful of players remaining on both teams from the matchups, the last time these two faced in the postseason produced a memorable outcome. The Colts dealt Reid and the Chiefs a 45-44 loss in a 2013 wild-card game after Kansas City held a 28-point second-half lead. It was the second-worst collapse in postseason history. The only one worse was when the Oilers blew a 32-point lead in a 1993 wild-card game against the Bills, who were – coincidentally – quarterbacked by Reich.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.