The Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) are set to host the Indianapolis Colts (2-2) in week 5 for a primetime matchup on "Sunday Night Football." The last time these teams met in Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs jumped out to an early lead on the Colts and never looked back in a 31-13 victory in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. It marked Kansas City’s first home playoff win in 25 years.
After breezing through the competition with relative ease in wins against the Jaguars, Raiders, and Ravens, the Chiefs were finally put to the test in a sloppy Week 4 thriller against the Lions on the road. Kansas City was forced to overcome a 30-27 deficit with just over two minutes remaining. Patrick Mahomes would go on to engineer a 79-yard drive, capped off by Darrel Williams’ one-yard plunge into the end zone with 20 seconds remaining. The Chiefs would then fend off two Hail Mary attempts from Matthew Stafford to narrowly escape Detroit with a 34-30 victory and move their unblemished record to 4-0 on the season. With a win over Indianapolis on Sunday night, Kansas City would reach the 5-0 mark for the third consecutive season.
The Colts have experienced mixed results so far in the post-Andrew Luck era. Following a heartbreaking 30-24 overtime loss to the Chargers in the season opener, Indianapolis went on the road to score a 19-17 upset win against divisional rival Tennessee, before returning home to knock off Atlanta 27-24. But things took a turn in the wrong direction for the surging Colts last week. Down several key starters, Indianapolis could not overcome an early 14-point deficit en route to a deflating 31-24 loss to the Raiders at home. Still a little worse for the wear on the injury front, the upset-minded Colts will now head to Kansas City in search of redemption.
Indianapolis at Kansas City
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct 6 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Spread: Kansas City -11
Three Things to Watch
1. Patrick Mahomes looks to get back on track
It seems a little ridiculous to say that Patrick Mahomes needs to bounce back after throwing for 315 yards and rushing for an additional 54 yards against the Lions in Week 4. But when you are the reigning NFL MVP, the standards are a little higher. And despite Mahomes’ lofty yardage totals last week, he was far from being at his best, completing just 57 percent of his passes and failing to throw or run for a touchdown for the first time since making his professional debut against Denver in 2017. Ironically, the last time Mahomes did not throw a touchdown pass in a game was against the Colts in the AFC Divisional Game, although he did have a rushing touchdown in that matchup.
So, will Mahomes return to MVP form in Week 5 against the Colts?
The 13th-ranked Colts pass defense (230.5 passing yards allowed per game) has been solid in terms of limiting explosive plays. However, opposing quarterbacks have collectively earned a passer rating of 113 against them (fourth highest in the league). And the Indy pass defense did not fare well at all in its two matchups against top-flight quarterbacks, allowing both Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan to throw for over 300 yards, with three touchdowns apiece. Mahomes should be able to put up similar numbers or better.
There’s also an outside chance that star wide receiver Tyreek Hill (collarbone) could make an early return after practicing in a limited capacity this week. That would only increase Mahomes’ chances for a big performance against the Colts. But as it stands, Mahomes should have no trouble making do with Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman in his arsenal.
As a side note, the Chiefs’ running game will get a nice boost this week with the healthy return of Damien Williams, who rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown against Indianapolis in last year’s AFC divisional matchup.
2. The Indianapolis run game vs. the Kansas City run defense
The most promising aspect of Sunday night’s matchup for the Colts is that the Kansas City defense can be exploited, particularly on the ground. The Chiefs enter Week 5 ranked 31st in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (149.8) and dead last in the NFL in yards per carry allowed (5.9).
When hitting on all cylinders, the Colts’ ground attack (132.5 yards per game) is one of the most formidable in the NFL. But their success, or lack thereof, hinges largely on running back Marlon Mack, who has struggled with nagging injuries since exploding for 174 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Chargers in Week 1. As a result, his touches have decreased incrementally each week, and he has not rushed for more than 74 yards in a game since his monster Week 1 outing. Mack is currently dealing with an ankle injury that could limit him once again, and possibly even keep him out of Sunday night’s highly favorable matchup.
If Mack is unable to go, the Colts will turn to backup running back Jordan Wilkins to do most of the heavy lifting in the run game. Wilkins has played well in limited action, rushing for 97 yards on just 12 carries. Nyheim Hines will continue to serve as the Colts’ third-down back in more of a pass-catching role.
Regardless of who lines up in the Indianapolis backfield on Sunday night, the opportunity to capitalize on a leaky Chiefs run defense remains intact. The goal: keep the chains moving, keep the clock rolling, and more importantly, keep the Kansas City offense off the field.
The challenge: The Colts will not be able to take full advantage of this matchup if they are forced to turn exclusively to the passing game in a bid to play catch-up. Unfortunately, that seems like a more plausible scenario based on the Chiefs’ tendency to jump out to early leads.
3. Will Jacoby Brissett continue to exceed expectations in Week 5?
Jacoby Brissett has performed very well in Andrew Luck’s stead so far in 2019. His 10 touchdown passes are tied for the most in the league with Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson; he boasts a healthy 102.1 passer rating; and Brissett is the only NFL quarterback to throw at least two touchdown passes in each of his first four games this season.
Brissett should be able to keep the trend going on Sunday night against a Kansas City pass defense that ranks just 20th in the NFL, allowing 259 passing yards per game. The problem: Brissett will probably need to have the best game of his career for Indianapolis to keep pace on the scoreboard. And even against a fairly generous Chiefs pass defense, that will be a tall order.
It will be an even taller order if star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is once again forced to sit out with a quad injury. Hilton was sorely missed in last week’s loss to the Raiders. Brissett did well to put up solid numbers without him. However, five dropped passes, including three by tight end Eric Ebron, did not help Brissett’s cause.
With or without Hilton, Brissett will need a much-improved effort from his supporting cast on Sunday. The good news is that Ebron should have a chance to redeem himself against a Chiefs defense that has allowed opposing tight ends to rack up 32 catches for 284 yards so far this season. That also bodes well for fellow tight end Jack Doyle.
Even if T.Y. Hilton and Marlon Mack are limited, or unable to suit up on Sunday night, Jacoby Brissett and the Colts' offense should have success against the Chiefs' lackluster defense. The question is, will it be enough to keep pace with a Kansas City offense that is averaging a league-best 33.8 points per game and hasn’t scored fewer than 26 points in 22 consecutive games? The answer is no. Chiefs keep their perfect record intact in front of a raucous Arrowhead crowd.
Prediction: Chiefs 34, Colts 24
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.