Even though it is the shortest week you can have for this round of the playoffs, it will seem a long one, full of excitement combined with anxiety for Chiefs fans as they hope that 2019 will start off as the best playoff time for K.C. since 1994. Many, many of their fans were not able to enjoy that run to the AFC championship game, and only have had to endure the excruciating post season failures of the past 25 years. And one of the prime purveyors of doom is first up in the form of the Indianapolis Colts.
The Chiefs playoff history, even further back to the only Super Bowl triumph in their history almost fifty years ago, is enough to cause anxiety in and of itself. But now that the opponent is known in the form of the Colts, dark memories cloud the bright horizon created by Patrick Mahomes and the electric 2018 version of the Chiefs. It’s now 2019 and that regular season excellence is nice…..but now it’s time to purge.
The Chiefs, as I’m sure you are painfully aware, hold the NFL record for consecutive home playoff losses at six, and hopefully not counting. Indy is responsible for two of those. The Chiefs are 1-10 in their last 11 playoff games, and the Colts are responsible for forty percent of that misery. The two home losses to Indianapolis reflect what has become too familiar to Chiefs fans when they have had a playoff team….one platoon football. In 1996 as a top seed, they lost 10-7. In 2004, they fell in the epic “no punt” game 38-31.
You dollop on the last playoff meeting between the two, the ludicrously blown four touchdown lead in a 45-44 loss, and the Colts as Bogey Man is as clear as day. But this year all is supposed to be different, right? Of course, then Saturday the Colts went out on the road and roasted the Texans with a formula that couldn’t seem more tailor made to pull an upset of the Chiefs.
Clearly the Chiefs worst unit is the rushing defense, allowing a pathetic 5.0 yards per carry. So naturally, the Colts went out and ran for 200 yards against the conferences best rushing defense. The Chiefs only strength on defense is their pass rush. So of course, the Colts didn’t allow a sack against the Texans star studded defensive front, and in fact Andrew Luck has only been on his back just 18 times this year. Even escape wizard Mahomes has been sacked 43 times.
Alrighty then, lets try and compartmentalize all that bad matchup stuff and just focus on the good things, It’s not so hard, chin up, let’s do it together. No matter the opponent or the location, the Chiefs have scored, 35 points a game, and no less than 26 in any outing. They have been better on defense on their home field, although the offense ripping off big leads, and lesser quarterbacks being the victims, does mitigate that a bit.
The Colts first year head man Frank Reich, who won a Super Bowl last year as the offensive coordinator of the Eagles, looks like he might be a fine coach in the long term, but still, we are talking about a rookie against Andy Reid. You would think that would be a significant advantage for the Chiefs. The Chiefs have, as usual, been a fine special teams unit this year. Very reliable, if not so far explosive this season. The Colts didn’t even expect to be playing playoff football after a 1-5 start, so you could make the case this is all gravy to them. But now with a playoff win under their belt, they might really sense the possibility of a dream season.
It’s a matchup of the hottest story of the season overall in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, against the hottest team in football in Andrew Luck and the Colts. You could have hoped for a playoff paper tiger like the Texans, but this is what we now have. Demons were going to have to be exorcised, and ghosts vaporized, in order to write a Super Bowl story anyway for the Chiefs.
The Colts might be the prime post season nemesis, but they not the only one. They ARE the only multiple offender, but perhaps the losses have stung more than ones to the Steelers, Patriots or even Broncos because the expectation of victory was far higher. The expectation of victory likely should be at a peak right now, but the history is undoubtedly muting it.
I think that any Chiefs fans who is saying that it is all completely different because of Mahomes, and doesn’t feel the foreboding created by past hopes crushed, is whistling past the graveyard. But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a healthy dose of optimism to balance that a bit.
It’s a double-edged sword. If the Chiefs were to get toppled Saturday, it would be wrong to say “Same old Chiefs”, because this IS year one with what appears to be a generational quarterback. But it also shouldn’t be a case where another home defeat as a significant favorite should be just tossed aside with a cavalier “We’ll get ‘em next year”. Chances as gilt-edged as this don’t come around too often. The Chiefs earned their number one seed, but it also true they have done it in an AFC not nearly as potent as in recent years. That’s a good thing.
Maybe the best thing at play here is the Chiefs league leading offense that produced 130 more points than anyone else in the conference. The average score of the first weekend’s four playoff games was 21-15. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs getting caught up in a game like that, and even if they do, it’s even harder to imagine them being the team with the 15.
I know, I know, everybody’s offense purrs more against the Chiefs than they do against everyone else. Two recent Chiefs opponents, the Ravens and Chargers, battled each other Sunday and totaled a mere 472 yards. When they each visited Arrowhead in the past month, they combined for 728. So yeah, that’s a thing.
The Colts put up 422 on the road at Houston in their playoff win. The Texans defense is infinitely better than the Chiefs, so it’s quite hard to imagine that the game on Saturday is going to bear any resemblance to the 2019 playoff games that have gone before. That’s OK, shootouts are the Chiefs forte.
But it, of course, guarantees nothing. The Chiefs did average 37 points a game in their losses. Frankly, I don’t think they will hit that number, or their season average Saturday, since the Colts will have the ball more. But the Chiefs will have it enough.
Chiefs 31, Colts 27……Step one!