NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
Underdogs have been killing it on Wild Card Weekend the past few postseasons, and that continued last week as all four covered and three of them won outright. The only one I predicted to win was Indianapolis, and the Colts were 21-7 victors in Houston. We recommended Andrew Luck & Co. not even on the spread but the moneyline and also under the total, so that was a great result. Try and remember that when I recap my other picks in the other Divisional Round previews.
The Kansas City Chiefs have to be thinking, "WTF!?" They are the AFC's top seed yet now have to play the hottest team in the NFL in the Colts on Saturday afternoon in the Divisional Round. Since starting 1-5, the Colts (only third team ever to make playoffs after a 1-5 start) have lost just once. In my mind, this is the most interesting quarterback matchup of Divisional Round Weekend in Luck, who used to be the "next great thing" against Patrick Mahomes, who is the current "next great thing." Now we just wait for Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in 2021!
It's the first playoff meeting between these franchises since the Wild Card Round in Indianapolis following the 2013 season. That game was memorable for all the wrong reasons for Chiefs fans as Kansas City blew a 28-point lead and lost 45-44. Luck was magnificent in throwing for 443 yards and four scores (also three picks) while even scoring on a 2-yard fumble return. T.Y. Hilton had 13 catches for 224 yards and two scores. Other than those two, really no key skill position players still going strong for either side. Alex Smith was just as good as Luck that day in throwing for 378 yards and four scores. No Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce back then.
The Colts are 4-0 all-time in the playoffs vs. the Chiefs.
Colts at Chiefs Betting Story Lines
It sounds as if every head coaching opening in the NFL is going to be filled by someone other than Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Good news for Indy coach Frank Reich, but it's a freaking shame Eberflus isn't getting more love as he has worked wonders on that Indianapolis defense.
His game plan last week was to make Deshaun Watson beat the Colts from the pocket and essentially by throwing to anyone other than DeAndre Hopkins. Indy also kept a shadow on Watson, usually linebacker Darius Leonard, the likely Defensive Rookie of the Year. It all worked wonders as Watson threw for 235 mostly meaningless yards and Hopkins was held to five catches for 37. No Houston running back had more than 18 yards on the ground - Watson led with 76. The Texans didn't get their TD until early in the fourth quarter.
Luck meanwhile, continued his excellent play with 222 yards and two scores, but what makes him so dangerous now is rising second-year running back Marlon Mack, who had 148 yards and a TD on 24 carries. Now that Indy offense goes against a Chiefs defense that ranks No. 31 in yards allowed, No. 27 in rushing yards allowed and No. 24 in points (26.3 ppg). Maybe there has been a top seed previously with a defense this bad, but I can't remember one.
So, it's all going to be on Mahomes, who knows he probably has to score 30 to win. The Chiefs often do as they lead the league in scoring easily and scored at least 30 12 times. That said, the offense wasn't QUITE the same since the release of 2017 rushing king Kareem Hunt. The 89 combined touchdown passes between Luck (39) and Mahomes (50) from the regular season are the most ever in a playoff matchup. Of course, Mahomes has zero playoff experience.
Kansas City did get some good injury news on Tuesday as receiver Sammy Watkins and the heart and soul of that defense, the rare times he's out there, safety Eric Berry, both practiced. Watkins has played in just one game since injuring his foot in a Week 9 game. Berry didn't play in the Chiefs' first 13 games of the season or Week 17 because of a heel injury.
Colts at Chiefs Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Kansas City is a 5.5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 57. On the moneyline, the Chiefs are -235 and Colts +195. On a few alternate lines: Chiefs -2.5 (-190), -3 (-160), -3.5 (-135), -6.5 (-102), -7 (+125) and -7.5 (+145). Indianapolis is 9-7-1 against the spread (6-3 on road) and 8-9 "over/under" (4-5 on road). Kansas City is 9-6-1 ATS (4-4 at home) and 10-5-1 O/U (3-4-1 at home).
The Colts have covered seven straight vs. teams with a winning record. The Chiefs are 2-5 ATS in their past seven in January and 1-5-1 ATS in their past seven overall. The under is 9-1 in Indy's past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. It's 5-1 in KC's past seven playoff home games. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-2 in the previous eight.
Colts at Chiefs Betting Prediction
The last regular-season meeting was in 2016 when the Colts lost 30-14 at home in Week 8. Smith left that one injured and none other than Nick Foles was great in relief. Indy had zero running game back then and nowhere near as good a defense.
Kansas City is an almost impossible 1-11 SU & ATS in its past 12 playoff games. It has dropped six straight at home. Last year's collapse vs. the Titans was inexcusable. Still, it's such a tough atmosphere to play in and it has to end at some point. Chiefs win by a touchdown, so give up to 6.5 and go under. Something like 30-23.
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