Nick Athan: The Chiefs, after starting the season 3-0, will leave Indy in first place in the AFC West win or lose. But the Colts, currently at the bottom of the suddenly competitive AFC South, can't afford to get too far behind the Houston Texans. So is this a must win game for Indy?
Eric Hartz: I don't know if I'd call it a "must-win" at this point, as I believe most NFL teams would take a 2-2 record when three of the first four games are on the road. So, it's not panic time. But a loss would put the Colts at 2-3, with road plenty of tough road trips (at Tennessee, Philadelphia, New England, Washington) coming up, so they do need all the home cooking can can muster up. Indianapolis hasn't lost a meaningful home game since Week 3 of 2008 (last year's Week 16 loss against the Jets notwithstanding) so the Chiefs will have their work cut out for them.
Athan: There is no question that the Colts possess two of the game's best pass rushers in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. But last Sunday at Jacksonville they couldn't get a single sack on Jaguars quarterback David Gerrard. What makes the lack of production even more puzzling is the fact Jacksonville posses a line of lesser talent than the one the Colts will face on Sunday against the Chiefs. So what's wrong with Freeney and Mathis?
Hartz: I would argue that there's nothing wrong with them. It just becomes much, much tougher for the Colts to win if they don't get pressure on the quarterback. The pair has always been streaky, and Jacksonville did a nice job of moving David Garrard around and away from the two on Sunday. The Jaguars deserve credit for their game plan and execution.
What's more concerning for the Colts defense is how much they struggle when Freeney and Mathis aren't getting pressure, giving up over 400 yards passing to Kyle Orton two weeks ago (while sacking Orton once) and allowing 31 points to a struggling Jacksonville offense on Sunday.
The Colts defense is at its best when it has a lead and can turn Freeney and Mathis loose. If that doesn't happen, they have to rely on Peyton Manning to play near perfect. Thankfully, they can rely on Manning to do so, but a couple of rare red-zone turnovers gave Jacksonville the chance to win in the end on Sunday.
Athan: The Kansas City Chiefs currently boast the third best rushing attack in the NFL. The Colts currently rank 29th in rush defense. But they're starting to get their passing attack on track behind Matt Cassel. With the team already missing starting safety Bob Sanders and then losing his backup, Melvin Bullitt, for the season on Tuesday, how vulnerable have the Colts become in their defensive secondary?
Hartz: It certainly is a concern. Not only are Sanders and Bullitt out, the man that would have stepped in, Jamie Silva, was lost for the season in August. The team has scrambled to find bodies to fill the position, using DeJuan Morgan on Sunday in Bullitt's absence. Rookies Brandon King and Mike Newton could also get a shot, and the team re-signed Aaron Francisco, who was with Indianapolis for the 2009 season, earlier this week.
Also troubling is the play of the cornerbacks. With Kelvin Hayden and second-year corners Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey back, the Colts seemed solid at the position. But all three players have struggled at times, and Hayden is coming off one of his worst games in memory vs. the Jaguars. Lacey also blew a coverage on a crucial play that allowed Jacksonville to get in field goal range Sunday.
The constant in the defensive backfield is Antoine Bethea, who has been solid for the most part, but the Indianapolis secondary has certainly looked questionable in the early going, which is puzzling for a unit regarded to be a strength before the season started. I still think the Chiefs' game plan will be to run at the Colts until they prove they can stop it, but Cassel may be able to find some holes if Kansas City wants to throw.
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