Even with the monkey off his back after Peyton Manning led the Colts to his first playoff win Sunday, the Colts have yet to win a playoff game since they beat the Chiefs back in 1997.
Last year they were thrashed by the New York Jets on the road 41-0. Now I'm not saying that's going to happen this Sunday. But the Colts are in for a rude awakening if they think they're not going to be effected by the Chiefs Arrowhead crowd and a pumped up defense.
The Chiefs have won 13 straight games at Arrowhead and they are not about to lose #14 to the Colts.
Because this team is poised, focused and has had enough ups and down the last six weeks of the season to do anything else but win the next two games and get to the Super Bowl. With Dick Vermeil on the sidelines any talk of the Chiefs past playoff failures go out the window. But Peyton Manning can't say the same with just one playoff victory on his resume.
The Chiefs defense showed enough in their vanilla attack against the Bears that they can be effective getting to the quarterback and stopping the run just enough. The Colts offensive line is very small and not that mobile. They'll have to play a perfect game just to avoid moving off the line before the snap. The crowd noise will be so loud that Manning, who likes to call audibles at the line of scrimmage, will have a tough time changing plays on Sunday.
Instead he'll need to rely on hand signals but that might not be enough to prevent the offensive linemen from jumping or moving early.
The Colts played so well last Sunday that most of the so-called NFL experts have Indianapolis winning this game by a landslide. They think, because Manning exercised four years of playoff demons last Sunday, that he can continue to do it another week in Kansas City against the Chiefs.
The critics claim the Colts 7-1 road record in 2003 was no fluke. It's not and it was very impressive. They had an impressive win against the Tennessee Titans where they took advantage of three special teams' turnovers and won the game 29-27. They beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they were trailing by 21 points late in the fourth quarter. But that game was won because the Bucs imploded and the Colts were benefit of a terrible call by the referees that gave the Colts a second chance at a game winning field goal.
The Colts played a lot of close games this year just like the Chiefs. They looked unimpressive as they barely won against the Houston Texans on the road the final week of the season. They had to score 17 fourth quarter points to win the game 20-17. If their down by seventeen points in the fourth quarter in Kansas City, their will be no comeback.
For all the positives about the 2003 Co-MVP, the negatives are equally alarming. He tends to get happy feet after he gets hit a few times in the pocket. His passes tend to sail in outdoor stadiums. It's so much easier throwing the ball in a dome stadium then in the elements outside in the cold. You add that fact with playing at the single most hostile arena in the NFL and Manning's chore becomes even harder.
If the Colts are going to win on Sunday, Manning will have to play even better than he did against the Broncos. The pressure to win his first playoff game was overwhelming and Manning accomplished that but getting to the next level in Kansas City will require a performance that not even he is capable of doing.
However playing the deveils advocate, Manning has plenty of incentives to perform well this Sunday. He's a free agent after the playoffs end for the Colts and the kind of money available on the open market if Manning leads his team to the Super Bowl could make him the highest paid quarterback in NFL history.
Nobody can question his talent, arm or abilities when he has time to throw the ball. But in today's NFL, the window of opportunity to win a Super Bowl is about three seasons. The Colts were one and done in each of their playoff appearances in 1999, 2000 and 2002. Manning was at the helm for all of those games and Sunday was his first victory.
So Manning's future with the Colts and his big paycheck are on the line this Sunday. That could be bad news for the Chiefs. That gives Manning plenty of reason to beat the Chiefs. Plus he's never lost to Kansas City at home or on the road. He's 3-0 as a starter and Kansas City has yet to find away to shut him down. But after a solid performance last week, the question will be can Manning do it two weeks in a row.
For the Chiefs defense, that is already under the microscope, they'll need to get in Mannings helmet. Hit him if he completes a pass or hit him if he can't get the pass off. If he throws the ball away, then knock him down doing it.
The Chiefs have had good success against immobile quarterbacks this season and Manning has no escapability. At home the Chiefs defense plays so much better than on the road and this game will come down to how many times they can slow down and prevent the Colts from getting into the end zone. They must make Manning work for it and don't cuplicate the Broncos sloppy and lazy coverage from last Sunday.
The Chiefs will utilize the speed of R-Kal Truluck and Gary Stills on the outside. Ryan Sims, Vonnie Holliday, John Browning, Jimmy Wilkerson, Montique Sharpe and Eric Hicks should be able to get pressure up the middle on stunts. The Chiefs linebackers should be able to blitz with ease. Running back Edgerrin James does not pick up the blitz very well as he's played soft most of the season.
But it still comes back to Manning. If the Chiefs stop Manning, they win the game. It does not matter what James does or Marvin Harrison does or any other player on the field for the Colts. They will live and die with what Manning does or does not accomplish on Sunday with his righ arm. The Chiefs need to be very aggressive, take some calculated chances but they must never let up one second on defense.
If they do, Manning will be successful in defeating the Chiefs. If that happens and the defense does not come to play, the regular season that included a 13-3 record and AFC West Championship will have meant absolutely nothing. I've always thought if the Chiefs lose in the playoffs they'd lose by one of two ways.
One a hot quarterback will beat them and Manning has proved he can do that. Two if the Chiefs defense plays too soft.
With that said, the Chiefs defense has history on their side with Manning's lack of playoff success on the road.
That means the Arrowhead crowd, the Chiefs defense and the coaches will determine if Manning overcomes his past failures on the road in the playoffs. He's never won a road playoff game. He never won a big game in the state of Florida when he was the Tennessee Vols starting quarterback either.
I know I keep beating a dead horse but I just can't see either of those two scenarios playing out this Sunday in Arrowhead stadium.
Now maybe the following week that happens, if the Chiefs win, but not in this divisional match-up. Manning is talented and gifted but winning two playoff games in a row is unlikely for someone who's struggled so mightily in the post season.