Indianapolis Colts vs Kansas City Chiefs: What to Watch For
The Indianapolis Colts host the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday, two teams that haven’t faced each other since January of 2014, a game that Chiefs fans would like to forget ever happened.
The Colts managed to salvage their season last Sunday with a fourth quarter rally against the Titans. The Chiefs are thinking playoffs at 4-2 and need to win to keep pace in the AFC West.
The last time these two teams met, Andrew Luck literally went full Superman and willed the team to victory. T.Y. Hilton gave the Chiefs secondary third degree burns (13 receptions, 224 yards, 2 TDs) and the defense made just enough plays to lead the nearly historic comeback. And, oh by the way, that was in the playoffs way back in 2014 (at the end of the 2013 season).
Luck and Hilton were bright-eyed young second year players back then in what feels like a lifetime ago. Now they’re considered highly paid veterans and are living up to their respective contracts.
Here’s what to watch for on Sunday:
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- Hero. Let’s be honest, Luck is going to have to be a hero for the Colts to win. This is going to be a theme all season long and he’s shown that he has the ability to play at that high level the team desperately needs. He ranks second in Pro Football Focus’ quarterback grades. Last week was arguably Luck’s best of the season, given the offensive injuries. While there is good news on that front (Luck gets a couple receivers back), he still has to be sharp against a pass defense that ranks top 10 in efficiency in the NFL.
- Stop the Pass. The Chiefs are a better passing than running team this season. They have decent balance, but are relying on Alex Smith who has been about average (as always) in 2016. The Colts need to continually change up their coverage this week and throw a lot at Smith on Sunday. More blitzing and press coverage will throw off the timing of Reid’s offense and pressure Smith into a mistake. Stopping Travis Kelce will be key but likely a pipe dream considering how terrible the Colts linebackers have been in coverage.
- Discipline. The Colts are the third most penalized team in the NFL this season. Those penalties seems to occur at the worst moments too (like Josh McNary‘s hit that wiped out a turnover). Compounding this problem is that the Chiefs are one of the least penalized teams in the NFL. Say what you want about Andy Reid, but he has a well disciplined team. The Colts can’t afford to beat themselves this coming Sunday, they already have enough issues to contend with.
- Special Teams. The Colts have an advantage here with Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee. But they would be wise to avoid return man Tyreek Hill at all costs. His numbers would be significantly better if two touchdowns hadn’t been called back on penalties. Hill has consistently flipped field position for the Chiefs and is overdue to break a punt return for a touchdown.
This game feels like another toss up for the Colts. Both teams have to come away with a win, but for very different reasons. The Colts margin for error isn’t very high (despite an atrocious division) and they have a number of tough opponents left on the schedule. The Chiefs on the other hand have to win just to keep pace with the rest of their very competitive division.
The Colts have the minor advantage of being at home and having a much, much better QB. Expect another tight game with the team having the ball last coming away with a win.