At 0-4 the Colts are struggling. With the Titans racing out to a border line shocking 3-1 start and the Texans having yet to enter their yearly tailspin (its still early), the Colts' hopes of remaining competitive in the absence of their leader is quickly slipping from their grasp.
Thankfully, another lowly and disappointing team is coming to town. Ravaged by its own injuries, Kansas City may be the league's most disappointing and inept team, something that after a brutal early schedule featuring three possible playoff teams, the Colts very much welcome an easier challenge.
In the NFL however, there is no easy week and if the Colts get complacent (seems rather difficult at 0-4), the Chiefs will pounce all over them and leave The Colts one of the few winless teams remaining.
In order to avoid such a fate, these players are going to be counted on to make big plays. These are the players that must shine this week.
1. Peyton Manning:
What? He's back?!?! Sadly no... But that still doesn't mean he can't positively impact the game even in his absence. Manning's return to the sideline should give a small boost to the team. More importantly it should have a larger impact on the play of Curtis Painter. Let's be real, Peyton is the offensive coordinator. No offense to Clyde Christensen, but Manning is running the show.
If he has the headphones on, who do you think Painter is going to rather listen to? And if that is the case, Manning (or if its Christensen who really does call the shots) must call a simple game plan that eases Painter into the game and takes pressure off him early. Look for Painter to hand the ball off often in the beginning and to use screens to Garcon, short slants to Collie and then maybe if he's in rhythm and the protection holds, Painter can take a few shots downfield to Reggie. How the game is called however will go a long ways towards Painter's success on the field. If the Colts don't establish the run and can't protect Painter early, it's going to be a long painful day.
2. Joseph Addai
So far this season Addai has run the ball well. The offensive line has been uncharacteristically strong in run blocking, creating big holes for Addai to sprint through on several occasions. For the Colts to win, Addai has to play a big part in the offense, especially early.
The Colts should take a page out of Mike Martz's playbook from last week, when Forte ran for 25 times for over 200 yards. Should Addai and Carter see that many carries, good things should happen.
(Personally I'd like to see runs called on the first 10 carries).
Who right? Newly signed offensive lineman Michael Toudouze spent the early part of this season spent the first part of the season hunting deer in Northern Indiana. Fortunately though having played on the Colts in years past, Toudouze has experience and knows the system. His job today will be keeping Painter upright against a fierce Kansas City pass rush led by Tamba Hali. With the offensive line in absolute tatter, Toudouze is thrown into an ugly situation and will need to bring his A-game to give the offense and Painter a chance for success. With Tepper and Ojinnaka recently signed as well, Toudouze suddenly is one of the more experienced linemen.
Bonus: Dallas Clark
Dallas Clark has so far seen little action in the Colts' offense. It would be nice to see Clark used other than to try and block more physically imposing linebackers.
1. Fili Moala
Back in the lineup, a healthy Moala will be necessary to slowing down the Chiefs running game. Jamal Charles is out for the year for Kansas City but Thomas Jones is no slouch either. A strong push from Moala will help Freeney and Mathis further wreck havoc on the outside.
2. Ernie Sims
Ernie Sims health and return is also critical for the Colts. Indy's linebacking corps have been spectacular (in Colts terms) to date, but they are taking an absolute punishing. Kavell Connor had 18 tackles last week and Pat Angerer had 20 the week before. Already without Brackett, the Colts are thin at the position and can't afford games in which they are called on to do so much and play so physically.
Who else? These guys have been monsters since the day they entered league. If they can get to Matt Cassel early and often, the Colts have a chance to put the Chiefs away. There is something about being at home that makes these two Hall of Fame pass rushers even scarier.
Bonus: Pat Angerer
The guy has been a beast this season and is well on his way to his first Pro Bowl. Already with 50 tackles, expect another double digit performance from Angerer today.