12 Things to Watch For in Sunday's Colts/Chiefs Game
It's not a fat joke, ok? Andy Reid looks like a walrus. I can't help that.
Last week, the Colts returned to the winner's circle with a convincing win over the Houston Texans. With just two weeks to go, Indy faces their last big test before the playoffs. They visit Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in what is likely a playoff preview. Here's everything you need to know about the game.
1. Watch for the irony. If the Colts beat the Chiefs the odds go way up that the Colts don't have to play the Chiefs in the playoffs in two weeks. Then again, if the Colts beat the Chiefs, they should be thrilled to play them again in the playoffs because they know they can beat them. But if the Colts lose to ensure the matchup with the Chiefs, they'll also lose the impetus to play them. Trippy man.
2. Watch for the hot hand. Andrew Luck is apparently breaking out of his mini-funk. After the injury to Reggie Wayne, Luck had a rough stretch of games, but six touchdowns to just one pick with just one sack over the last two games have things looking up. I had to do a significant rewrite of my piece that compared him to Peyton Manning because his season stats changed so radically over the last 14 days. It's a good sign for the Colts. If Luck catches fire now, anything is possible once the calendar flips to 2014.
3. Watch for the turnaround. Just a year ago, the Colts beat the Chiefs on their home field to clinch a playoff spot. Now Kansas City has gone from the first pick in the draft to a playoff team. Sound familiar? The fact is that it's not that difficult to turn around an NFL team. I still hear the Colts argue from time to time that they are just in the second year of a rebuild as if they get extra credit for that. They don't. If you haven't seriously turned around your team in two and at the most three seasons, it's time accept that the new regime will soon be the old regime. What the Colts and Chiefs have done isn't that rare. Even Jacksonville will be back in another season or two.
4. Watch the most overrated unit in football. The Chiefs defense is a mythical creation born out of the media's need to explain an undefeated record. Back when KC was winning every game, no one wanted to come out and say it was because of the crappy teams they were playing. Instead they invented a myth that the Chiefs had some awesome defensive squad. Over the last five games, KC is giving up 28.8 points a game. To put that in perspective, the Colts have allowed 25.2 (which also sucks). KC is just 10th in DVOA on defense. They are a pretty ok unit. Nothing more.
5. Watch the reason to believe. Don't look now, but the offensive line might be coming together. It's funny how taking Satele out of the equation suddenly has the Colts protectors looking competent. The line hasn't pass blocked well all year, but they've taken far far more crap than they should have. It's not a good unit, but there's plenty of evidence that they are credible run blockers at least. If the offensive line has indeed gelled 16 weeks into the year, there's reason to believe the Colts could make a postseason run.
6. Watch the roller coaster. Vontae Davis continues to alternately great and terrible marks from week to week. In some ways, he's the symbol for the entire club. Davis has some of the best graded games of the year. He was fantastic against Andre Johnson last week, but he was also terrible against him a few weeks before that. Indy as a whole has the most inconsistent defense in football. The offense isn't much better. This is a team that has to put together consecutive solid performances at some point, but it has been since Weeks 4 through 6 that they've played well for more than a game at a time.
7. Watch the focal point. Jamaal Charles has over 1,800 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns with two games left to go. He's averaging 4.8 yards a carry and nearly 50 yards a game in the air. Against the Colts last year, he hung 226 on them. So, yeah. He's gonna be an issue. He's had at least 70 total yards in every game this year and even in his worst rushing game of the season, last week he still posted 195 yards receiving and five touchdowns. Normally, I'd offer up some kind of analysis of how the Colts can stop him, but I'm honestly not certain they can. Hopefully, he'll get tired after a few long runs and have to come out of the game.
8. Watch for the devil you know. Donnie Avery went to the Chiefs and has posted 564 yards on 37 catches with two scores. He has a DVOA of -2.2% and a catch rate of 55%. He's not very good.
Damien Heyward Bey has 29 catches for 309 and a score. His DVOA is an unholy -26.2% with a catch rate of an apocalyptic 45%.
Those numbers are positively Satanic. Avery practically destroyed the Indy offense by himself last year, and Ryan Grigson managed to replace him with someone worse. Wow.
9. Watch for "just pointing it out". Indy is 11-2 against the Chiefs since 1990. They've won six times at Arrowhead in seven games. Three times they've eliminated the Chiefs from the playoffs. One of the only two losses came in the 2011 season. The Colts own Kansas City. I mean, I'm just pointing it out.
10. Watch for the mistaken identity. I'm not totally certain Craig Stadler and Andy Reid aren't the same person. Honestly, if it turned out that Stadler had witnessed a grizzly murder in the clubhouse and was placed in Witsec and developed a second career tutoring Donovan McNabb would you really be surprised. Maybe he got the yips, and went into football. Only now he still gets the shakes inside the five-yard line. He keeps confusing Alex Smith and Justin Leonard. Ok fine. Reid is isn't Stadler. He's really the Kool-Aid man. I was trying to avoid the obvious and you ruined it. Thanks a lot. Jerk.
11. Watch the historic advantage. So the Chiefs have one of the best DVOAs in history on special teams. Most all the value comes on kick and punt returns, so Pat McAfee will have to earn his money this weekend. This is actually one of the reasons I see Indy upsetting KC in the playoffs. You can neutralize that advantage with a good day from your punter. This is another reason to avoid punts, by the way. If the Colts can keep the return game in check, it will go a long way toward evening things out.
12. Watch for the thumping. While I still believe the Colts can beat the Chiefs in the playoffs, I think Kansas City puts an Arizona/Cincinnati style whipping on the Colts. I don't think the Colts can beat a quality team on the road. Chiefs 42 Colts 27.