The first game of the 2014 NFL playoffs will be a matchup from just two weeks ago. The No.4 seed Indianapolis Colts are set to host the No.5 seed Kansas City Chiefs on wild-card weekend.
In Week 16, Indianapolis ended Kansas City’s hopes of winning the division and getting a first-round bye. The Colts went on the road and defeated the Chiefs. It was a dominant effort by the winners of the AFC South, as they outgained their opponent by 80 yards, and held them scoreless after a Jamaal Charles touchdown less than four minutes into the contest.
"The way we opened up, marching down the way we did, it felt like things were going to be the way they've been," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said after the loss. "We really didn't get into a rhythm after that, didn't execute in any area, and then the turnovers. The turnovers hurt you."
Andrew Luck made few mistakes, completing 26 of 37 pass attempts for 241 yards, one touchdown pass and no interceptions. It’s no surprise that the Colts won with such a performance by Luck. In the team’s 11 wins, the quarterback has thrown just three interceptions. In five losses, he’s been picked off twice as many times.
Luck played well against the fifth-ranked defense in the NFL, but Kansas City’s overall numbers don’t indicate how they performed at the end of the 2013 season. In their first nine games, which saw them go undefeated, the Chiefs never allowed more than 17 points. Over the final seven games, they surrendered at least 23 points in all but one contest.
According to most Las Vegas casinos, the Colts are 2.5-point favorites. That means, despite struggling at the end of the year and losing five of seven, the Chiefs would be favored on a neutral field.
One reason for Kansas City to be feeling confident is Andy Reid’s record after bye weeks. While the Chiefs had a game in Week 17, the head coach rested his starters because the team was already locked in as the first wild card team. Before losing to the Denver Broncos after this year’s bye week, Reid was 13-1 in such situations as a head coach.
“I don’t know if there’s a secret to that," Reid said earlier this season. “If there is, I can’t give it to you. I don’t know what that is. “I’ve always given [players] time off to get themselves back. Rest, relax and take care of any business you need to take care of and come back ready to go for whatever is left of the season. Now, the league has made part of that mandatory. The new CBA that the league has given the players an extended time where the coaches have to let them go. But, I was doing that quite a little bit before then.”
The Colts were 6-2 at home in 2013, but the Chiefs have been an even better team on the road, going 6-2 away from Kansas City.
Prediction: Kansas City 23, Indianapolis 17