2018 Colts Preview: Colts/Chiefs, Divisional Round

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INDIANAPOLIS — The sixth-seeded Indianapolis Colts (11-6) take on the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) this Saturday in the Divisional Round of the 2018-19 NFL Playoffs. Where these teams rank in the standings is just “gray matter,” however, leading many to believe the Colts can pull off the upset. Here is everything you need to know leading into this matchup.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Saturday, Jan. 12 at 4:35 p.m. ET
  • Kansas City, Mo.; Arrowhead Stadium
  • TV: NBC — Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (color) and Michele Tafoya (sideline)
  • To find out what games will be on in your area, check here
  • Radio: WFNI “1070 The Fan” and WLHK “HANK FM” — Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Jim Sorgi (color) and Caroline Cann (sideline) | Westwood One — Ryan Radtke (play-by-play), Trent Green (color) and Laura Okmin (sideline)

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Colts lead, 12-9 (4-0 in the playoffs), and are 9-4 against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Colts have won three of the last four dating back to 2012.
  • Last game — Week 8 of 2016. The Chiefs won, 30-14.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Chiefs:

  • HC Andy Reid
  • OC Eric Bienemy
  • DC Bob Sutton
  • STC Dave Toub

LAST WEEK

Colts:

  • Won @ Houston Texans (11-6), 21-7

Chiefs:

  • Wild Card BYE. In Week 17, won vs. Oakland Raiders (4-12), 35-3

INJURY UPDATE

*The Colts conducted a walkthrough on Tuesday. Tuesday's practice report was only an estimation of a player's participation if there was a practice.

Colts:

  • DL Denico Autry (shoulder): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Tuesday and Wednesday, limited participant Thursday
  • WR Ryan Grant (toe): OUT — Did not practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • S Malik Hooker (foot): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • DL Tyquan Lewis (knee): OUT — Did not practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

Chiefs:

  • S Eric Berry (heel): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Tuesday, did not practice Wednesday and Thursday
  • LB Dorian O'Daniel (calf/ankle): DOUBTFUL — Did not practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • RB Spencer Ware (hamstring): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • WR Sammy Watkins (foot): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Will Weather Be A Factor? — There is snow in the forecast before and during gametime. At the very least, it will be cold, but the teams have prepared by practicing outside this week. If there is any precipitation, it may help throw Kansas City's potent passing attack off course. In that event, the better ground game may prevail.
  • Establish The Run — Regardless of weather, it would be good for the Colts to establish the run against the Chiefs' 27th-ranked run defense. The Colts offense also has an advantage in the red zone, as it ranks fifth while the Chiefs' defense ranks 31st in that area. If the Colts can move the ball down the field with running back Marlon Mack and the run game and then get touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone, then they will be keeping the ball away from MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes while forcing Kansas City to put sixes on the board in rebuttal. Colts head coach Frank Reich discussed this approach earlier this week: “Yeah, that’s it. If it’s running it for 200 (yards) or throwing it for 400 (yards), I am always going to say the same thing. We are trying to score every time we touch the ball and we are going to game plan and call the game in a way to score points. We are really not trying to think so much about, ‘Well let's hold the ball and keep it from them.’ We want to run it, there’s no secret about that. That does keep them off the field, that would be great but at the end of the day the primary goal is score points.”
  • Shootout At Arrowhead? — If the run game doesn't dictate things then there's a good chance this game could be a shootout between two of the league's most exciting quarterbacks. The Chiefs are the only team in NFL history to score at least 26 points each game in a 16-game season, and the Colts can score points as well, ranking fifth (27.1 PPG) during the regular season. For the viewer, a Luck vs. Mahomes shootout could be quite the entertaining sight. Regarding what impresses him about Mahomes, Luck said: “Yeah, he’s fun to watch. He certainly creates some amazing plays, but he also makes the routine and the simple plays. So I think his ability to really make every throw, to do the simple things well, to do the amazing things well – it’s fun to watch. Certainly it has been fun to watch on TV and hopefully I don’t see too much of it when we’re playing him, but he’s fun to watch certainly.”

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts OG Quenton Nelson vs. Chiefs DL Chris Jones — This is an awesome matchup between All-Pros. Every week, Nelson pops up on highlight reels for his mauling blocks while Jones was third in the NFL in sacks (15.5) this season. More impressively, Jones recorded a sack in an NFL-record 11 consecutive games between Weeks 5-16.
  • Colts OTs Anthony Castonzo/Braden Smith vs. Chiefs OLBs Justin Houston/Dee Ford — We already know how good Jones has been, but the Chiefs also bring pressure off the edge with Houston and Ford, who had 22.0 sacks between them. With the duty of blocking the pair, Castonzo and Smith have allowed just four sacks combined. Houston and Ford have had periods of dominance during their career, so this one is a big matchup to watch.
  • Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Chiefs CB Kendall Fuller — Fuller is one of the league's bright young corners, and like Kenny Moore II for the Colts, he travels from the slot to the boundary. When outside, Fuller primarily plays the offense's right side, where Hilton lines up most often. With Hilton's ankle feeling better all the time, Fuller will really have his hands full.
  • Colts DE Jabaal Sheard vs. Chiefs RT Mitchell Schwartz — Schwartz is arguably the league's best right tackle, and he is really fundamentally sound. Sheard is a crafty veteran himself at defensive end. Although his pass-rushing stats aren't eye-popping, he often affects the edge in the run game and helps close the pocket in the passing game.
  • Colts LB Darius Leonard vs. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce — One of Leonard's strengths is his ability to guard a variety of different people in the passing game, which includes wide receivers. Although the Colts play mostly zone coverage, Leonard will likely be tasked with keeping Kelce from racking up many yards after the catch. This week, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus discussed the effect of facing an elite tight end like Kelce: “Yeah, I think it’s a big issue when you start dealing with different skillsets. When teams have a good receiver and a good tight end and they can put them on opposite sides of the ball or on the same side – mostly opposite – that creates problems for the defense. It just does – the matchups. That’s why it’s great to have – we have a great tight end. We have several great tight ends. We are able to use our tight ends and man that makes it hard for defenses. We have two or three good receivers – that makes it hard. So when we face those guys it’s a difficult task.”
  • Colts CB Kenny Moore II vs. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill — Hill plays a great deal between the slot and outside, which means Moore II is likely to be the Colts corner that matches up with him most. Hill's most noticeable qualities are his speed and quickness, so the Colts' budding star corner may have his tallest task of the season.

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

REGULAR SEASON LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Andrew Luck (4,593 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (908 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (1,270 yards)
  • Touchdowns — TE Eric Ebron (14)
  • Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (163)
  • Sacks — DL Denico Autry (9.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Kenny Moore II (3)

Chiefs:

  • Passing — QB Patrick Mahomes (5,097 yards)
  • Rushing — QB Patrick Mahomes (272 yards)
  • Receiving — WR Tyreek Hill (1,479 yards)
  • Touchdowns — WR Tyreek Hill (12)
  • Tackles — LB Anthony Hitchens (135)
  • Sacks — DL Chris Jones (15.5)
  • Interceptions — CB Steven Nelson (4)

COMPARING 2018 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 7th (386.2 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 5th (27.1 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 6th (278.8 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 1st (18)
  • Running offense — 8th (126.3 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 1st (49%)
  • Red zone offense — 5th (68.8%)
  • Total defense — 11th (339.4 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 10th (21.5 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 16th (237.8 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-19th (38)
  • Running defense — 8th (101.6 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 23rd (41%)
  • Red zone defense — 11th (53.5%)
  • Time of possession — 18th (30:05)
  • Turnover differential — 14th (+2)

Chiefs:

  • Total offense — 1st (425.6 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 1st (35.3 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 3rd (309.7 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 5th (26)
  • Running offense — 16th (115.9 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 2nd (47%)
  • Red zone offense — 2nd (71.8%)
  • Total defense — 31st (405.5 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 24th (26.3 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 31st (273.4 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-1st (52)
  • Running defense — 27th (132.1 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 25th (42%)
  • Red zone defense — 31st (72.4%)
  • Time of possession — 26th (29:11)
  • Turnover differential — 6th (+9)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • This week, the Colts made the following moves: Elevated safety Rolan Milligan to the active roster from the practice squad. Placed safety Mike Mitchell (calf) on Injured Reserve. Signed defensive end Anthony Winbush to the practice squad.
  • Reich on what makes the Chiefs' offense so challenging: “I just think that they do a great job of being very multiple and very diverse. They keep offenses guessing. I think Coach (Andy) Reid, that’s been is M.O. for a long time. He’s very good at being creative and using the weapons that he has. They do have great weapons and he knows how to use them and spread the ball around. Then having a quarterback like that who is a playmaker, he’s had a tremendous year.”
  • Reich on former Colts head coach Tony Dungy visiting this week and speaking to the team: “He did. He just said a few words to us afterwards. It was great to have him out there. For me personally, obviously, him being the coach that gave me my first job. His words to the team were just proud of you guys, just have enjoyed watching you, have enjoyed watching you get better the whole year and just keep it going.”
  • Eberflus on whether Mahomes is the priority to stop for Kansas City: “Yeah, I think it’s us oriented. I really do. I think when you play a squad like this that the focus goes more to you then it ever should. I know that might sound backwards, but it’s not to me and our staff. We have to focus on our fundamentals, on what we do and how we do it. That’s the most important thing when you play a team of this caliber.”
  • Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni on the challenge of playing in a hostile environment like Arrowhead Stadium: “I think we just have to prep for the noise and prep for the hostile environment. It’s nice when you are on the home sideline that’s for sure because you don’t have to worry about that noise. Yeah, we definitely just have to prepare our snap counts to handle the noise, prepare our guys to go when the ball is snapped, prepare us for not having to hear that tomahawk chop song all game – we will try to quiet that down early. Just prepare for the noise and the communication that it requires. We always focus on our communication and always being on the same page. It’s obviously more challenging when it’s loud. So we’ll definitely rep that this week with, you can’t really simulate it because it’s so loud there but we’ll do the best that we can and really work our communication while we are doing it.”
  • Leonard on if the Colts change their approach due to the quality of opponent the Chiefs are: “No, you just go in with the same mindset. Everything is gray matter on the opposite side of the ball. As long as we go in and just play our keys and hustle to the ball, I think we will be fine.”

DIVISIONAL ROUND PLAYOFF BRACKET

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