The"Main Thing" Begins NOW!

When training camp began last July, players, coaches and staff all had one objective for the 2003 season. Priest Holmes was very vocal about it. He made it very clear that the ‘Main Thing' is getting to and winning the Super Bowl.

That theme has carried the Chiefs thus far as they are set to battle the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC Divisional showdown! The Winner moves while the loser goes home. As the Chiefs make their final preparations for the Colts, the players have forgotten the grind of the regular season. None of that matters now.

If the Chiefs are going to defeat the Colts, prove the experts wrong and keep their Super Bowl dreams alive, then players like Priest Holmes will have to back up their comments and perform on the field.

This game is a match of two hot and cold offenses and two defenses that have had troubles shutting down opposing teams. But still this is the match-up the Chiefs wanted for their first playoff game.

The Colts bring Co-MVP quarterback Peyton Manning; star studded wide receiver Marvin Harrison and running back stud Edgerrin James to Arrowhead with the intended purpose of walking all over the Chiefs defense.

The Chiefs defense has its deficiencies but that doesn't mean Manning and company are going to run up and down the field on the Chiefs. In fact, they'll have to earn it. The Chiefs defense will be ready.

In the season finale against the Chicago Bears, Kansas City unveiled a new defense. One that attacks, moves up the field, does not move side to side. They used speed rushers at defensive end and asked their corners to play more man to man coverage. They blitzed, tackled and most of all; had fun in limiting the Bears offense to a miserable performance.

I'm not suggesting the Bears are the Colts because their not. But the Chiefs defense showed us all a glimpse of what they can be when each player in on the same page. We saw what they could accomplish when they were allowed to attack. That defense is more than good enough to help the offense and get to the Super Bowl.

On Sunday, Manning who is an architect at picking apart defenses when give time in the pocket; might see a few more wrinkles than he's used to while playing at home in the Hoosier Dome.

I'm not one who thinks the Dome or the weather has much to do with a teams success or failures on game day. I think what surface you play on has more of an impact. On turf, you can wear tennis shoes and your footing is solid. It's almost like running on glass knowing that you'll never slip and fall. But on Grass some of that speed and stability are gone. You have to take an extra second to adjust and that can be a problem for the Colts more than the temperature. Besides that angle won't be much of a factor since the weather in Kansas City could be near 60 degrees at game time.

But Manning has won on grass this season and the Colts had the best road record of any AFC team at 7-1. What's amazing is the team was only 5-3 at home. Still Manning has had some brilliant games on the road. His 21-point comeback in Tampa Bay was his most impressive performance of the season. That set the tone for a confident Manning the rest of the season.

But the Chiefs defense can take solace in the fact that if they can put pressure on Manning, they can control the outcome of the game. Manning does not like to get hit and even though he has a very under-sized offensive line in front of him, they can hold off rushers for three or four seconds while Manning gets rid of the ball.

Manning does use play action very well that gives him more time to throw the ball. But he also sells out the run. When Manning is going to use play action passes, he tends to fake the ball to the running back directly behind center. But when he actually hands the ball of to James, he tends to run toward the running back, thus the defense, for the most part, can determine if it's a straight run or a play fake. The Chiefs will need to watch that very carefully on Sunday.

One thing the Chiefs defense can't do is get caught up in all the garbage Manning does at the line, stepping back, using hand signals and trying to use quick counts to throw off the defense. The Chiefs have to be leery of that and not fall for his nonsense at the line of scrimmage.

Kansas City must get the Colts into passing situations. Though Edgerrin James is a great running back he was average this season and this game is going to be won or lost on the arm of Peyton Manning. The Chiefs need to put Gary Stills and R-Kal Truluck in the game on passing downs and let them run around the ends and make a sandwich out of Manning.

The Chiefs did that very effectively against the Bears. They also moved Vonnie Holliday inside and used Ryan Sims and Montique Sharpe up the middle. Rookie Jimmy Wilkerson was also productive. Another player who has not been getting much red ink the last several weeks has been defensive end Eric Hicks.

Hicks lost his father this week to a longtime illness and he might just have one of those emotional games where he's unstoppable. His Father was a big Chiefs fan and Hicks will be very motivated to have a stellar playoff run for his Dad.

The Chiefs need a solid contribution from linebackers Shawn Barber and Scott Fujita. If they get anything out of rookie linebacker Kawika Mitchell, that would be a bonus. Mitchell has struggled playing middle linebacker in place of the injured Mike Maslowski.

If the front four can get pressure on Manning with the assistance of the linebackers, then the Chiefs secondary should be able to pick off a few errant passes from Manning. Kansas City must disguise some of their coverages but the cornerbacks need to force the Colts receivers out of their routes. Manning can't perform an exorcism on the Chiefs defense if the Colts receivers are forced out of their pass patterns. Manning is not much of a free lancer and he's at his best when the routes are run perfectly. When they are altered, then he struggles.

On offense the Chiefs must use more ball control offense and utilize running back Priest Holmes two out of every three downs. The Chiefs failures in consistency on offense are a direct result in giving up too soon on the running game when it stalls.

Holmes is the type of back that can carry the Chiefs all the way to Houston. They need to rely on him against the Colts. Indianapolis as a unit can't stop the run and have been exploited more times than the Chiefs. They are very under-sized on the defensive line and Kansas City's heralded offensive line should be dominant. Expect the Chiefs to take advantage of the Colts over aggressive nature. Kansas City will be able to execute screens to Holmes and Derrick Blaylock.

The Chiefs defense like its offense lives and dies with one player. Defensive end Dwight Freeney led the Colts with 11 sacks. Outside linebacker Marcus Washington was second on the team with six sacks but the Chiefs should be able to pass block against both of the Colts defensive playmakers.

Left tackle Willie Roaf should be able to neutralize Freeney and the Chiefs are very good at picking up blitzing linebackers. Trent Green with that offensive line should be able to give Trent Green more than enough time to get the ball down field to Tony Gonzalez and company.

But where the Chiefs excel over the Colts is on special teams. Dante Hall is overdue to make a big play. The Colts are not very strong in covering kicks but have an exceptional field goal kicker in Mike Vanderjagt. He has an edge over the Chiefs Morten Andersen in range. The Colts place kicker can still boot a 50-yard field goal with ease where Andersen has a range of no more than 40-yards.

With all that said, this game is not very hard to figure out. Stop Manning. Stop Holmes. Whichever team stops the top dog on offense, will have the edge. If that happens, then someone else will have to step up and make plays on offense for both teams. The Colts and Chiefs each have players who can do just that.

But this is the playoffs and the Chiefs have more to prove in this game than the Colts; that gives them the edge. Indianapolis already has the monkey off their back based on their thrashing of the Broncos last Sunday and they might be a bit looser. The Chiefs have three decades of post season disappointment to overcome and they might be more ravenous than the Colts.

If the Chiefs can play with passion, then they'll have a great shot at getting to the Super Bowl. My opinion is whichever team wins this game on Sunday will be the AFC participant in the big game in Houston. This year great offenses will overcome great defenses in the AFC. On Sunday whichever teams offense gets into high gear the fastest will win this track meet.

Nick's Notes:

* Sunday will be the Chiefs 34-year anniversary of the Chiefs 23-7 Super Bowl IV victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

* Of the last ten playoff teams to win a game by 30 plus points, stand only 2-8 the following week. The Colts 41-10 victory over the Broncos last week does not bode well for their chances to win this weekend at Arrowhead.

* Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is undefeated in his career against the Chiefs. His 3-0 record includes two regular season victories at Arrowhead.

* The Chiefs are 5-0 this season the following week when they hold an opponents to less than 14 points the previous week. The Colts are 5-2 the week after they score 30 or more points in a game.

Fearless Prediction :
Kansas City 33 – Colts 19


WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories