Can Chiefs Overcome Their Historic Playoff Struggles?

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Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 12, 2019, 12:15 AM EST
  • The Kansas City Chiefs host the Indianapolis Colts as 5.5-point favorites in Saturday's AFC Divisional Round matchup (4:35 p.m. ET on NBC).
  • The Chiefs have gone 4-16 straight up and 3-17 against the spread in the playoffs since 1970.
  • Will this be the season they buck the trend?

The Chiefs opened the season with five straight-up wins and were 9-1 through 10 games for the first time since 2013 and only the fifth time in franchise history.

Chiefs fans could smell it coming a mile away: Kansas City is back in the playoffs for the fourth straight season under Andy Reid — a feat only Marty Schottenheimer had achieved before now.

Patrick Mahomes became the third quarterback in NFL history to throw 50 touchdowns, joining the ranks of Tom Brady (50 in 2007) and Peyton Manning (55 in 2013). Mahomes paced all quarterbacks with 11 more passing TDs than the No. 2 guy this season, Andrew Luck.

The previous single-season high for passing TDs by a Chiefs quarterback was 30 by Len Dawson in 1964 — an astounding 20 fewer than Mahomes. Kansas City also scored 565 points, which is 81 more than they’d ever previously scored in a single season.

This year has just felt different for the Chiefs. But can they overcome their horrific playoff history?

Chiefs’ Historic Playoff Struggles

The Chiefs are 4-16 SU and 3-17 against the spread in the playoffs since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, including 0-9 ATS at home. Their four playoff wins over that span are tied for the third-fewest postseason victories for any NFL team, ahead of only the Lions (one win) and Texans (three).

The absolute worst part of the Chiefs’ playoff woes? Kansas City fans have witnessed this postseason destruction first-hand.

The Chiefs have failed to cover the spread in home playoff games by an average of 8.4 points per game, including by more than a field goal in each of their past seven home playoff games and by more than a full possession (eight points) in four.

Indy A Familiar Playoff Foe

With a chance to buck history and advance to their first AFC Championship Game since 1993, the Chiefs of course have to face a familiar opponent.

Kansas City has faced Indianapolis four times in the postseason, and the results really shouldn’t be surprising: The Chiefs are 0-4 SU and 0-4 ATS, but it’s how they lost three of those games that has everyone in Kansas City on the edge of their seats.

2013-14 Wild Card Round

The Chiefs led the Colts, 38-10, in the third quarter — but Indy outscored KC, 35-6, the rest of the way.

The Colts’ comeback included a goal-line fumble that Luck recovered and ran in to cut the Chiefs’ lead to three points early in the fourth quarter. Then down six with less than five minutes to play, Luck tossed a 64-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton to give them the lead for good.

Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: T.Y. Hilton catches the game-winning touchdown against the Chiefs during the 2013-14 AFC Wild Card Game

2003-04 Divisional Round

The Chiefs led the NFL in points per game in 2003, had won 13 games for just the third time in franchise history and — similar to this season — started red-hot to open the season 9-0.

Well … the Chiefs lost to the Colts, 38-31, but the score made it seem much closer than it was: Kansas City never had the lead. Indy won wire-to-wire.

1995-96 Divisional Round

By this point in the 1995 season, success had gone to the Chiefs’ heads: They had made the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, winning 13 games for the first time in franchise history.

Many fans and backers had no reason to worry. Steve Bono, Marcus Allen and Derrick Thomas were going to save the day.

But that’s not what happened. Bono threw three picks and was actually benched on the final drive for Rich Gannon, who had 11 pass attempts that entire season before that game. Gannon did his job, though, leading the Chiefs to the Colts’ 25-yard line to set Kansas City up for this field goal to force overtime

Will This Season Be Different?

Managing expectations have never been Kansas City’s expertise.

Example No. 743: The Chiefs have won 12 or more games five times prior to this season, and these were their corresponding playoff results:

  • 2016-17: Lost straight up and against the spread in the Divisional Round
  • 2003-04: Lost SU and ATS in the Divisional Round
  • 1997-98:Lost SU and ATS in the Divisional Round
  • 1995-96: Lost SU and ATS in the Divisional Round
  • 1968-69: Lost SU and ATS in the Divisional Round

Will this finally the season the Chiefs get the mountain off their back, or will the Colts continue their reign over the barbecue capital of the world?

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