Sportsbooks open Chiefs at 4.5 vs Colts; Line Rising
Indianapolis Colts (11-6 SU, 9-7-1 ATS) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, January 12, 4:35 PM EST
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Mo.
By Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Ind +5 / KC -5
Over/Under Total: 57
The AFC Divisional Playoffs kickoff Saturday afternoon with the Indianapolis Colts traveling to Kansas City to battle the Chiefs. Some of the best sportsbooks have KC as a 5 point home favorite and the play is to take the red-hot Colts plus the 5 points. Here are 3 reasons.
Indy is the Hotter Team
Frank Reich will bring his team to Arrowhead riding a 5 game winning streak and having won 10 of their last 11 games. This includes last week’s dismantling of the Texans in Houston. Indy dominated their division rival, jumping out to a 21 point lead in the first half and coasting home through the second half. Andrew Luck has been magnificent during this run and was again last week in his 7th playoff start. Luck completed 59% of his passes for an average of 6.8 yards per attempt and 2 touchdowns against Houston. The Colts have outscored their opponents by 141 in the last 10 games of the season scoring over 30 points per game during that stretch. Marlon Mack has been hampered by nagging injuries this year but is healthy now and is providing balance in the running game. He has topped 100 yards in 3 of the last 4 games. T.Y. Hilton is again the go-to guy for Luck this year gaining 1270 yards this season with a 16.7 yard per catch average. Indy has covered the spread in 4 of the last 5 games including last week when they were 2 point underdogs. Indy’s offense finished the season 5th in points scored, 10th in yards per play and 6th in passing yards and can light up the scoreboard against any defense.
Of course the best offense in the league belongs to Andy Reid’s Chiefs. They were 1st in points scored and yards per play and 3rd in passing yards. Patrick Mahomes was everything and more than KC fans could have dreamed of and is a lock to be the MVP. Fifty touchdowns and over 5000 passing yards top his stat sheet but he has a highlight film full of throws that don’t seem humanly possible. Travis Kelce has become the best tight end in the game and caught over 100 passes for 10 touchdowns this year. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill is the straw that stirs this drink. He is the fastest player in the league and is a threat to take one to the house every time he has the ball. But the Chiefs have not been firing on all cylinders over the past 6 games of the season, winning only 3 of those games. Kareem Hunt was released after week 12 and although Damien Williams and Spencer Ware have moved the ball on the ground, the Chiefs have not been as efficient without Hunt. Mahomes failed to throw for over 300 yards in week 15 and 16 losses to the Chargers and Seahawks. This offense has been sputtering since Thanksgiving and will need to kick back in gear on Saturday.
Indy has the Better Defense
Last week in the wild card round we learned that defense still matters in the NFL and Indy is definitely the best defense in this one. Indy allowed 180 points in their first 6 games (which they were 1-5 in), and only allowed 164 in the last 10 games. Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus has had such success transforming this defense that he has become one of the leading head coach candidates this year. Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Darius Leonard led the team with 163 tackles on the season and then led them last week with 13. They have created 16 turnovers during their hot streak and had an interception against Houston. The weakness of the Colts defense may cause problems this week. Indy only recorded 38 sacks on the year. The Chiefs only gave up 26 sacks so Eberflus will have to scheme some ways to pressure Mahomes or trust his zone based defense can make plays. Indy will have the best defense on Saturday but this will obviously be their biggest challenge of the year. Indy’s defense plays fast and should cause some problems for the Chiefs.
Kansas City’s defense will be in a very difficult spot this week. They were 24th in the league allowing 26 points per game and also 24th in yards per play allowed, 27th in rushing yards allowed and 31st in passing yards. Teams have moved the ball at will against KC and the Colts should have success this week. The strength of KC’s defense is its pass rush. Chris Jones has shocked the league recording 15.5 sacks on the season, leading teammates Dee Ford – 13 sacks - and Justin Houston with 9 sacks in just 12 games. Indy’s O-line will have their hands full but should be up to the task. Andrew Luck was only sacked 12 times on the season and 6 of those came in the 2 games against the Texans. However, Houston couldn’t get home last week when the chips were on the table in the wild card round. Indy’s O-line is 100% healthy which has only happened in a handful of games. Luck will get the ball out fast to start the game to make sure his line is up to the challenge and if KC can’t generate pass rush, Luck will throw the ball down the field and Indy may not punt in this game. If Indy wins at the line of scrimmage when they have the ball this will be a long day for KC.
Indy Might Be the Better Team
KC has earned the number 1 seed in the AFC by starting out on fire and racing out to a 5-1 record. At the same time Indy sat at 1-5 and was considered by some the worst team in the league. In the last 10 games of the season, KC was 7-3 and Indy was 9-1. These teams are better judged by their last 10 games than they are by their first 6 games. Indy has arguably been the best team in the AFC over that 10 game stretch and last week they looked great again. The Chiefs on the other hand have been struggling, especially against good teams. In the last 6 weeks of the season they played 4 teams that would be in the playoffs, losing to 3 of them and only beating the Ravens in overtime. KC also has the ghost of last season’s playoff loss hanging over their head when they led the Titans 21-3 at halftime only to lose 22-21. The Chiefs are not the same confident team they were early in the year that was steam rolling opponents. If KC gets behind, things could go south.
Play the Colts +5
This game should as good as any played in the NFL this year. Offense will again rule and both teams will move the ball and score points. But the Colts defense is good enough to slow down KC and keep the game close. We’re getting 5 points to take the hotter team with the better defense and offensive line. Play the Colts.