The Kansas City Chiefs stayed undefeated longer than anyone any team, winning their first nine games, but their results are conspicuously light on victories over top-shelf opponents.
They were swept in their division by Denver and San Diego, and two weeks ago lost at home to Indianapolis, 23-7.
The Colts have won three in a row, limiting Houston, Kansas City and Jacksonville to a combined 20 points.
Indianapolis was knocked out of the 2012 postseason with a first-round loss at Baltimore, and, quarterback Andrew Luck said, should be able to draw on that experience in these playoffs.
“I think that mistakes carry so much more weight,” said Luck, when asked what he learned from last season’s one-and-done performance in the postseason.
“You can’t come back after the game and say, ‘Alright All right, we made these mistakes. Let’s fix it next week and get back on track.’ It seems like mistakes are so much bigger. I think you really have to take care of the football, convert third downs, get first downs. If you’re in the red zone, you have to score points.”
Kansas City’s defense should get a boost from the return of outside linebacker Justin Houston, who is back after suffering a dislocated elbow in a Nov. 24 loss to San Diego. He got off to a roaring start, with 11 sacks in the first 10 games.
Fellow linebacker Tamba Hali suffered a sprained ankle in the same game, although he didn’t miss a game because of it. Inconsistent play by its defense is partly the reason Kansas City lost five of its final seven games.
Houston and Hali finished the season tied for 11th in sacks with 11 each.
“Our tackles have played well for the most part all season,” said Colts Coach Chuck Pagano said.
“So it will be a huge challenge for both of those [tackles] to get those guys blocked.”
Player to watch
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles has scored six touchdowns in the last five games, including a 13-carry, 106-yard performance in the recent loss to the Colts.
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which is are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
Category KC IND
Points scored | 26.9 (6) | 24.4 (14)
Points allowed | 19.1 (5) | 21.0 (9)
Pass offense | 208.8 (24) | 232.8 (17)
Rush offense | 128.5 (10) | 108.9 (20)
Pass defense | 247.6 (25) | 231.9 (13)
Rush defense | 120.2 (22) | 125.1 (26)
Sacks | 47 (6) | 42 (11)
Penalty yards | 48.3 (10) | 36.0 (1)
Turnovers |+18 (2) | +13 (3)
The Colts have gotten past their problem with slow starts and can draw on their brief playoff experience from last season. They made light work of the Chiefs in Kansas City two weeks ago, although this game figures to be closer. COLTS 24, CHIEFS 21