The Saturday GPS: Road, history, scoring machines next up for Colts, Cowboys
GOLD JACKET DOUBLEHEADER
INDIANAPOLIS @ KANSAS CITY, 4:35 p.m. (EST)
The line: Chiefs by 5-1/2
The weather: Snow, high of 34
The story: The Chiefs are up against two opponents Saturday … and the Colts might be the easier to overcome. The other is history, and it’s never really favored the Chiefs. Not here. And maybe not now. They’ve lost 11 of their last 12 playoff games, including their past six at Arrowhead, while coach Andy Reid dropped six of his last seven postseason starts. But that's not all. Kansas City is 0-4 in January vs. the Colts. Basically, January and the Chiefs go together like Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. OK, so that was then, and this is now … and now the Chiefs have this season's most dangerous quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and the third-highest scoring offense in NFL history. But Indianapolis, not Kansas City, is the hottest team out there. The Colts won 10 of their last 11. The Chiefs are 3-3 since releasing Kareem Hunt. One other problem: Kansas City has a defense that leaks like the Titanic. Granted, the Chiefs can pressure the pocket. In fact, they tied with Pittsburgh for the league lead in sacks. But the Colts allowed the fewest sacks this season and produced 400 or more yards in eight games. Which means … yep, which means if the Chiefs can’t get to Andrew Luck, history will be made. Again.
Something to consider: Reid is 17-3 after byes.
DALLAS @ L.A. RAMS, 8:15 p.m. (EST)
The line: Rams by 7
The weather: AM light rain, high of 62
The story: Kansas City isn’t the only one battling history. So are the Cowboys. They lost five straight divisional-round playoff games, and if you think that’s a lot … it’s only because it is. They haven’t won a divisional-round playoff game since 1995, the last time they won a Super Bowl. Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith and Charles Haley were playing then, and all graduated to TV or the Hall of Fame … or both. But this could be different because these Cowboys are balanced. They can run. They can pass. And, most important, they can play defense. OK, so Dak Prescott showed up on this week's injury report with a knee problem. Thigh cut (Prescott's diagnosis) or knee sprain (Jason Garretts's read) ... it doesn't matter. He’s going to play, and he … and the Cowboys … believe they’re going to win, partly because they won eight of their last nine and mostly because they can run the Rams to death. L.A. allowed a league-worst 5.1 yards per rush, and that’s the surest way to minimize Todd Gurley, back for the first time in a month. You simply move the chains, keep the ball and play with a lead. Yeah, I know the Rams were 7-1 at home, but they were 5-3 down the stretch and lost two of their last four. This is a team opponents seem to have figured out. Worse it could be winding down when it should be ramping up.
Something to consider: Seven of the Cowboys’ 17 games this season have been decided by three or fewer points. Dallas is 5-2 in those games.
BEATING THE ODDS
(All picks are made vs. the spread)
RON BORGES – Indianapolis (+5-1/2). First because the Chiefs couldn’t beat these guys when they were 13-3 (1995, 2003) and, second, because it always works out for New England.
CLARK JUDGE – Dallas (+7). Cowboys can play defense. Rams can’t. Check, please.
RICK GOSSELIN – Kansas City (--5-1/2). The Chiefs are 0-4 vs. the Colts in the playoffs, but in every one of those games they didn’t have the better quarterback. Now they have the best one in the game.
THE SATURDAY OMG
Dallas is the first playoff team in 31 years not to have a starter over the age of 30 … or the first since the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 3, 1988.
THE SATURDAY PLAY LIST
INDIANAPOLIS RB MARLON MACK. He scored touchdowns in his last five games.
KANSAS CITY DE CHRIS JONES. He had a sack in 11 consecutive games this season, the longest streak since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
INDIANAPOLIS TE ERIC EBRON. He aims for his fourth road game with a TD catch.
DALLAS RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT. He aims for his third playoff game with 125 or more yards rushing.
L.A. RAMS DT AARON DONALD. He has four sacks in his past two games and had an NFL-best 20.5 sacks and 25 tackles for losses this season. He also has 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in his last six home games.
FIVE THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
- Since realignment in 2002, home teams have won divisional-round playoff games 67 percent of the time (43-21).
- Indianapolis converted 48.6 percent of their third downs, their best percentage since 2009 -- the last time they went to a Super Bowl.
- The Colts and Eagles are looking to become the first No. 6 seeds to reach the conference championship round since Green Bay did it in 2010.
- Patrick Mahomes (50) and Andrew Luck (39) have the most combined regular-season touchdown passes in the Super Bowl era by quarterbacks facing each other in a playoff game.
- With a victory, the Rams' Aaron Donald would join Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Taylor as the only players since 1982 to produce 20 sacks and advance to the conference championship game in the same season.
Follow on Twitter @clarkjudge@TOF