Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET, at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis – TV: NBC
*TV announcers: Dan Hicks, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan
*Keys to the game: The Chiefs played easily their worst game of the season in a 23-7 home loss to the Colts just two weeks ago. Kansas City turned the ball over four times, didn’t produce any turnovers and Indianapolis enjoyed a more than 16-minute edge in time of possession. Bottom line, everything went so wrong for the Chiefs in that game that it can almost be scrapped for the rematch.
Kansas City finished the regular season with a plus-18 turnover margin, and RB Jamaal Charles has fresh legs after sitting out last weekend. He’ll attack the Colts’ run defense, which improved over the past month but still ranked 26th in the NFL. Look for QB Alex Smith to take what the defense gives him, settling for underneath throws, moving the chains and looking to bore the crowd out of the game.
The Colts made a habit of digging deep holes on almost a weekly basis through much of the regular season, but they don’t want to be cornered into a one-dimensional attack against a Chiefs pass rush bolstered by essentially a bye week to get fresh – although Indianapolis enters with an offensive line as healthy as it has been since the start of the season. RB Donald Brown had a 51-yard scamper in the first meeting and Trent Richardson should figure into the passing game as the Colts look to temper the aggressiveness of the Chiefs’ outside rushers.
*Matchup to watch – Chiefs ILB Derrick Johnson vs. Brown/Richardson: Johnson led the Chiefs in tackles for the fourth consecutive season, but he was also credited with seven of K.C.’s 17 missed tackles during the regular-season meeting. The Chiefs must bottle up the Colts’ pedestrian ground game so they can get after QB Andrew Luck and attempt to force field-flipping plays.
*Player spotlight – Colts WR Da’Rick Rogers: The undrafted rookie doesn’t always run the right – or most precise – routes, but he has added downfield speed and a willingness to make tough catches in traffic. He has 14 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns in four games.
*Fast facts: Only 28 of the 53 players on the Chiefs’ roster have postseason experience, leaving 25 first-timers. … The Colts have won the three previous playoff meetings by a combined score of 71-46.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
The Chiefs have a seven-game playoff losing streak – including three to the Colts – a roster full of postseason neophytes and lost at home to Indianapolis just two weeks ago. That’s a lot of demons to exorcise in one game, but Kansas City gets it done on the strength of a defense that is finally healthy and attacking the league’s fifth-worst run defense.
*Our pick: Chiefs 23-20