Posted on January 11, 2019, by Travis Pulver
The Indianapolis Colts know a little bit about overcoming the odds this season. Back in Week Six, after falling to 1-5, the football loving free world was ready to write them off. They didn’t appear to be ready to do more than ‘compete’ for a better draft position.
But then they completed an epic turnaround won ten of their last 11 to earn a playoff spot.
Now, after beating the Houston Texans in the Wildcard game, they find the odds stacked against them once again as they prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs.
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As could be expected, the Chiefs are favored to win (-240 with a spread of -5.5 points). Yet, with how prolific the Chiefs offense has been behind Patrick Mahomes, it is almost surprising the odds are not steeper. But oddsmakers are likely just giving the Colts a little credit for how their defense and offense have played down the stretch.
Of course, actually beating the best scoring offense (35.3 points/game) in the NFL is not going to be an easy task. But is it something the Colts can do?
History says they can.
Back in 2013, the Chiefs were not the offense they are today, but they had one of the better ones in the league (sixth in scoring with 26.9 points/game). Indianapolis was still figuring out what they had in their second-year quarterback, Andrew Luck.
When the two teams met in the Wild Card game that year, the Chiefs were favored to win but only by a slim margin (-1.5). But at the end of the first half, with the Chiefs up, 31-10, it looked like the Colts were going to get blown out.
Then Andrew Luck led the team on the comeback to beat all comebacks; Indianapolis won, 45-44.
Of course, the situation was a little different back then than it is now. The Chiefs had better odds to win the Super Bowl than the Colts (+1800 to +3300 for the Colts). Heading into this weekend’s game, the Chiefs are considered one of the favorites (+700).
Indianapolis? Not so much (+4000). But just because the odds are steeper, doesn’t mean they can’t overcome them again. In fact, it may even be more likely the Colts upset the Chiefs this year than it was in 2013.
Yes, despite how incredible their offense has appeared to be this year.
The flaw in the Chiefs game plan all season has been their defense. They rely on their offense being able to outscore everyone while their defense slows down their opponents just enough or gets one or two stops.
Against lesser offenses, that plan worked like a charm. But when they faced teams like the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, and Seattle Seahawks, it didn’t work. Why? Because all four were able to neutralize Kansas City’s offense.
The Patriots and Rams were simply able to score more. The Chargers were able to shut down Mahomes in the second half while Philip Rivers tore up the Chiefs defense. As for Seattle, the Seahawks simply played keep away by running for 210 yards.
Indianapolis could conceivably play a game much like the Seahawks did. Marlon Mack has been a beast running the ball of late and Andrew Luck has been dissecting every secondary he has faced with incredible precision. With the Chiefs being weak against the run and pass, the hardest thing for the Colts may be deciding how to attack the Chiefs.
But to win, the Colts defense is still going to have to do something against the Chiefs offense. While they have looked great against lesser offensive teams like the Titans, Giants, Texans, Jaguars, and Cowboys, they haven’t faced a truly great offense.
So—are they up to the challenge? Maybe.
Kansas City hasn’t been the same since losing Kareem Hunt. Spencer Ware and Damien Williams have filled in admirably. But neither is as dynamic a playmaker as Hunt was. So, the Colts can focus on slowing down the passing game until the Chiefs give them a reason to worry about the run—but they will not.
The best shot for the Colts will be to keep Mahomes off the field as much as possible. If they can, then they may need the defense to stop the Chiefs once or twice to earn the upset.
Is it a likely scenario? No—Mahomes is playing too well and is getting just enough out of the running game. But a favorable call or a favorable bounce here and there and the Colts could pull off the upset of the season.