This week there is one simple message the Indianapolis Colts need to take to heart: Win, and you’re in.
It’s that easy. And, on paper anyhow, it shouldn’t come any easier than against the woeful Kansas City Chiefs.
The numbers are pretty ugly for the Chefs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nmgice3ieZ4): 32nd in offensive points per game (13.9), 31st in offensive pass yards per game (180.9), 32nd in passing touchdowns scored (8), 25th in points per game allowed (26.2), 23rd in passing touchdowns allowed (25), and t-29th in passes intercepted (7). The lone bright spot for the Chiefs during this 2-12 season has been running back Jamaal Charles, who has run for 1,230 yards (6th best in the NFL), averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
In fact, the Chiefs are so bad that right now they sit where many saw the Colts at after fourteen games: Dead last in their division and likely vying for the number 1 overall draft pick in 2013. Instead, the Colts have become the surprise team of the year, and with a win Sunday will finish their unprecedented journey into the NFL playoffs. And that’s not the only good thing that can (and likely will) happen for Indianapolis at Arrowhead Stadium:
- Andrew Luck: The rookie quarterback has had his ups and downs like any rookie starting every single game his first season should, but has for the most part been everything and more that the Colts organization and fans could have hoped for. He’s already passed for the most yards in a game by a rookie against Miami in week 9 (433 yards), won the most games by a rookie quarterback taken #1 overall in the NFL draft in his first season (nine), and has the rookie record for most fourth quarter comebacks (six). He’s also owns the Colts record for most passing yards by a rookie (3,978 yards, Peyton Manning’s previous club record was 3,739). If Luck passes for just 22 yards, he will become the second rookie ever to hit 4,000 yards in his first year. The only other rookie to do so was Carolina’s Cam Newton last year. If he hits for 74 yards passing, he will break Newton’s record of 4,051 yards, and maybe replace Cam as his mom’s favorite player. Luck also has a potential Pro Bowl berth on the line. In the last numbers I saw for the Pro Bowl, he was the third ranked quarterback behind Manning and Tom Brady, and ahead of established vets like Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger.
- Reggie Wayne: The surprise free agent (re)signing of the off season continues to have one of the best seasons of his career in terms of catches and yards. During Indianapolis’ 2-14 season last year, with guys like Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins, and Dan Orlovsky throwing to him, Reggie still managed to catch 75 passes for 960 yards, though those would be his lowest totals since the 2003 season. With a new coaching staff, and a new quarterback, most thought A) Wayne would bolt to a new team in the off season, or B) be too old/slow to be an effect target for Luck. Both of those have been proven wrong. Wayne has averaged 6.9 catches per game and amassed 1,234 yards in 14 games. With just three catches against Kansas City, Reg will hit the 100 catch mark for just the fourth time in his career, and is on pace to accumulate the second most yards in his career.
- Chuck Pagano: Ok, I’m cheating a little bit on this one since it really has no effect on this game, but I’m including it anyway. The Colts organization got some huge news earlier this week regarding head coach Chuck Pagano. In case you forgot or somehow missed it (which is hard to believe with as much press as it has received this season) Colts first year and first time head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with a form of leukemia during Indy’s bye week back in week 4. He’s been away from the team for most of the time since, though we’ve seen him at a few games now and made one memorable and moving post-game speech after the team’s win over Miami. Well on Monday, Pagano’s doctor at the IU Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis medically cleared Pagano to return to the team. He will not be on the sidelines for the Chiefs game, but is likely to return to action on December 30th against the Texans at home.
It’s going to be a big game for the Colts in just about every way imaginable, and though the numbers would seem to favor Indy, there are a few things that could lead to a possible stumble. One of those is the aforementioned Charles. The Chiefs running back has the potential to do the kind of damage to the defense that Arian Foster did, especially with the Chiefs passing game being so terrible. We should see a heavy dose of Charles early and often, and unless the Colts are able to stop him and/or get a large enough lead early on, it could get nerve-racking for fans to watch.
Another issue is the Colts performance in road games, specifically Andrew Luck, and road games normally don’t get much tougher than they do at Arrowhead. The Colts have won three of their seven previous road games, but in those seven games, they have averaged 21.7 points while giving up an average of 26.4 points. Not to mention that of Luck’s 23 turnovers (18 interceptions and 5 fumbles lost), 17 have come in road games. That’s a pretty big percentage. This year, though, with the Chiefs struggling so much, it would be hard to imagine the crowd will be much of a factor.
The Colts are going to have to find a decent balance in this game, something that has been lacking for the most part for much of the season. However, in both their previous games against Houston and Tennessee, they have been able to run the ball more effectively than they had prior. That is due to rookie running back Vick Ballard rewarding the coaching staff’s confidence in him with a 99.5 yard average in those two games. The Colts should focus on getting Ballard going early against the Chiefs 25th ranked run defense. If that happens, Ballard, Wayne and Luck could have a big day against Kansas City.
Great googily moogily.
My 5 Predictions
Luck – All signs point to a big day for Luck, but every time I’ve called for one… well, let’s just say it hasn’t exactly happened. The Colts are still going to have major issues blocking, as they will be without starting center Samson Satele, and back-up center A.Q. Shipley and right tackle Winston Justice are both listed as questionable. Let’s say Luck completes 62% of his passes for 225 yards, two scores, and an interception.
Ballard – Ballard will probably be the most important guy on the field for the Colts in this one. They’ll need him to keep KC’s defense honest, and on pass plays, they’re going to seriously need his help if/when the Chiefs blitz. I see Ballard having another strong game, gaining 110 yards on 23 carries, and he finally gets a chance to carry the ball (and score) at the goal line with Delone Carter out.
Brady Quinn – This one is a tad bittersweet for me. Quinn was one of the best quarterbacks to play at the University of Notre Dame (whom I also blog about here on iSportsWeb), so to see his NFL career turn out the way it has is disappointing to say the least. With that being said, I think he can play fairly well against the players the Colts are going to bring to Arrowhead. They will still be without S Tom Zbikowski, and still have Darius Butler and Vontae Davis manning the corners. And Quinn does still have Dwayne Bowe to throw to. I can see Quinn getting 250 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Jamaal Charles – Charles will get his yards. The Colts defense gives up 124.7 yards per game and have allowed 12 touchdowns on the ground this year. If the Colts can contain him early, that will be a huge boon for them. But Charles is a good player on a terrible team, and good players produce regardless of their situations. Charles will outrun Ballard, getting 125 yards and a touchdown.
Final Score – Though there are possible stumbling blocks for the Colts, I think they realize what they are playing for and come out with their A game. Indianapolis wins it, 27-14.
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