WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
What can be expected from Brodie Croyle in his first start? It's difficult to guess, but know this: the Chiefs have big, big matchup advantages in this game with Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez, who dwarf every defender Indianapolis puts into pass coverage. Randy Moss absolutely victimized the Colts' secondary a couple weeks ago (nine catches, 145 yards), and he even missed some opportunities with dropped balls.
Everyone knows what the Colts want to do on defense – play Cover 2, and they do just that a majority of the time. Indy's safety tandem, featuring Bob Sanders and a young, underrated player in Antoine Bethea (three interceptions this year), have talents perfectly suited to the scheme, so don't expect the Chiefs to hit anything deep tomorrow unless there's a completely blown coverage.
Where the Chiefs can win is over the middle of the field with Bowe and Gonzalez, and hope for yards after catch (though the Colts tackle incredibly well). The offensive line will have to give Croyle time, however, and that's where the real problem lies, even with Dwight Freeney out.
The Chiefs don't have a right tackle on the roster who can match up with Robert Mathis. He's only 245 pounds, but lightning quick and about as fast as defensive ends come in this league. Look for the Chiefs to double team him early, as left tackle Damion McIntosh can most likely handle Simeon Rice, claimed off waivers a few days ago to replace Freeney, on the other end. Indy's interior pass rush will also be a problem for the Chiefs, as across the board the Colts employ deep rotation of quick, athletic defensive tackles who get off blocks extremely well. One note – the Colts rarely blitz, so at least the Chiefs have that going for them.
WHEN THE COLTS PASS
Life has been difficult for Peyton Manning without the services of Marvin Harrison over the last three weeks. Manning is completing only 56 percent of his passes, and the Colts are struggling to throw the ball down the field. Compounding the problem is issues in protection – last week against the Chargers the Colts were down to their third-string left tackle, and then Ryan Diem went down with an injury.
The good news for Indianapolis is that they should have tight end Dallas Clark back for this game. He'll work in the slot most of the time, and expect to see the Chiefs put safety Jarrad Page on him the majority of the afternoon, as they did in last year's playoff game. Don't be surprised to see Reggie Wayne there, however, as the Colts have been moving him around in Harrison's absence, trying to get him open.
It will be interesting to see if the Colts have solved their issues in pass protection (starting left tackle Tony Ugoh should return this week). If not, Jared Allen and company should be able to apply plenty of pressure. And if that happens, the Colts are going to be in trouble, because right now their receivers simply aren't playing up to par. Whether it's Aaron Moorehead not tapping his feet down, or Anthony Gonzalez dropping a touchdown pass, it's been a problem for Indianapolis. They've been forced to run the no-huddle offense less and less lately.
Look for the Chiefs to match up Patrick Surtain with Reggie Wayne the majority of the time. And word to Kansas City's safeties – don't bite too hard on the play action. Manning loves to look deep off the fake. Even if the deep game hasn't been in sync for the Colts lately, Bernard Pollard and Greg Wesley have been burned big time on play-action passes this year.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
A year ago, the Colts were horrible against the run. This year, they've improved to a respectable level (4.0 yards per carry allowed). What's the difference?
In a word, tackling. The Colts are still a small defense, but they tackle incredibly well, as we noted above. They don't have a defensive tackle that's going to take up a bunch of blocks up front, but all of their linemen get off blocks quite well – simply put, every defender Tony Dungy puts on the field takes an active role in run defense, and they all swarm to the football like angry hornets. There's so much speed all over the field, it's scary.
In order to run on the Colts, the Chiefs have to dump the stone-age offensive gameplan they brought into last year's playoff game. The Colts have been susceptible to the draw this year, so if Mike Solari is smart, he'll spread Indianapolis out and give the ball to Priest Holmes, who's always been a great draw runner. The Chiefs might have a decent advantage running over McIntosh's side this week, as he'll line up against Simeon Rice, who's shoulder still isn't 100 percent. He's not close to the player he once was – it was clear during his brief stint in Denver.
WHEN THE COLTS RUN
With Indy's passing attack slowed recently, the ground game has picked up the slack. Joseph Addai has flourished this year, and he's making guys miss every week, not to mention running with power and great vision. After an absolutely horrid performance against the Broncos a week ago, in which the Chiefs kept missing tackles on Selvin Young, this is a scary matchup.
It's the same old story for the Colts in their running game, however. Stretch left, stretch right, spread the defense out and run it up the middle. All of Indy's linemen move quite well, and they'll test KC's run defense. The Chiefs will have to be well-disciplined this week, or Addai will have a huge game. The Colts bring in Kenton Keith for short-yardage duty.
The Chiefs will have a new kick returner this week in Jeff Webb, who brings more speed to the table than Eddie Drummond. That could be a good thing against a Colts' coverage unit that's struggling right now – they rank 24th overall and have given up two touchdowns already. Indy's punt coverage unit is dead last. The Chiefs also have a big advantage in punters tomorrow, as the Colts were looking to replace Hunter Smith this week.
After losing two in a row, the Colts will surely be looking to prove something as they return home. Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards is 2-3 lifetime against Tony Dungy.
The Chiefs will get a first down before halftime Sunday, but it's difficult to pick against Peyton Manning in Brodie Croyle's first career start. The Chiefs will struggle to run the football again, and that spells doom inside Indy's dome.
Colts 23, Chiefs 13
Film Review: Chiefs vs Colts
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