Here we are, on the precipice of the Chiefs’ biggest game in 20 years, and it doesn’t really feel like it. Oh sure, the fountains are bloodbath-red, and there are roving hordes of local news people standing in a frigid Indianapolis parking lot trying to stay chipper, but something about this feels… off.
Maybe it’s because a loss feels like a foregone conclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone I talked to today said, “yeah, I’m excited to watch, but…”
And there’s a lot hanging on that “but.”
Maybe this is mostly because this very same Chiefs team got throttled like a well-tuned motorcycle just a couple of weeks ago by these very same Colts. It’s hard to look at this team, and look at THAT team, and walk away saying, “well, shit. If that lopsided loss was IN Kansas City, I can only imagine what it’ll be like in Indy…”
But fear not, sports fans. It isn’t impossible for the Chiefs to come out victorious. Not by a long shot. Let ‘s grant some hope right here and now. Sure, this might be so much ass-blown-smoke, but for a town tormented for years by shitty sports franchises (except for Sporting KC—god bless those kids), sometimes you gotta look on the bright-side of life. (This is the part where you imagine the whistles from “Monty Python.”)
This is a remarkably different team with Houston. It just totally, inarguably is. We all remember how this team had a TOTALLY dominant defense for the first half of the season and everyone was like, “OH MAH GAWD, THIS D IS UNSTOPPABLE!” and then in one fell swoop, Houson got hurt and Tamba Hali got hurt and all of the sudden, “HOLY CHRIST IS THIS DEFENSE ATROCIOUS. I JUST PUKED UP MY BBQ AND BOULEVARD BEER BECAUSE I’M FROM KC AND THAT’S ALL ANYONE EATS/DRINKS.” It was that bad. And then Hali came back, and oh shit, the defense STILL sucked.
Look, I’m not saying Houston is BETTER than Hali; I think at this juncture, it mostly seems to be a push. Together, however, they are a more fearsome pairing than Jeffrey Dahmer riding a velociraptor. So with both of them back on Saturday—and I know Hali is questionable, but I get the feeling he’d have to be missing a foot to not play—this defense is instantaneously ten-times better.
And by “everyone,” I mean “Jamaal Charles.” After having last week’s bizarre spectacle against the San Diego Chargers off, Charles probably hasn’t felt better all season. The week before The Back Up Debacle, in the aforementioned loss to these very same Colts, he only carried the ball 13 times (but amassed 106 yards doing so). The week before that, when he scored FIVE TOUCHDOWNS against the Oakland Raiders, he only carried the ball eight times.
After being pushed hard through the early part of the season—perhaps ridden like some sort of horse used for work, or something—he’s had a relaxing last couple of weeks. There’s no reason he can’t carry the ball 20+ times tomorrow, and do so with terrifying effectiveness.
The Chiefs are the team they are this year because of their ridiculous turnover margin. Teams who win the turnover battle win, period. In their week 16 loss to the Colts, the Chiefs turned the ball over four times, their high mark of these season. (And it could have been much worse—the Chiefs recovered three—yes THREE—of their own fumbles.)
Yes, part of this was due to the Colts CAUSING the turnovers, but part of this was uncharacteristically (this year, at least) sloppy play by the Chiefs. It was an anomaly in a season built on cautious ball-handling and ball-hawking, something that is highly unlikely to happen again.
So here’s my prediction, KCC: I think this game is close. I think there are multiple lead changes early, but KC widens the gap in the 4th. When the dust clears, I think the Chiefs win their first playoff game since Montana was throwing a hat-trick and I was busy trying to convince my pants to buy me AC Slater jeans.
Chiefs 35, Colts 21