One win is all the 2012 Indianapolis Colts need to clinch a playoff spot. Sure, there are numerous other ways for the Colts to get in, and in fact they essentially are already – but the simple answer is just to win. Just win and you’re in. What the Colts have done this year is nothing short of amazing and is perhaps the best story in sports this year. Winning on Sunday would secure a double-digit win season for the Colts and would also mean that after a 2-14 season and an incredibly tumultuous offseason, they would make their return to the postseason.
But we are also getting ahead of ourselves. That one win is needed, and it could come when the Colts travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. The Chiefs stand at 2-12 (tied for the worst record in the league) and have looked even worse. Their two wins came in overtime against the Saints in which they never led until the game winning field goal and then also over the Panthers the day following the terrible tragedy surrounding Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide in which the team rallied together and played inspired football. In the two games since, however, the Chiefs are 0-2 and have been outscored 45-7, including being shut out 15-0 last week by the Raiders.
The Colts travel to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to play those Chiefs, who despite their lowly record and poor play could pose a threat to the Colts. That said, the Colts should win this game no matter what. Here are three keys to make sure that happens:
1. Stop the Run
The Chiefs’ rushing attack is led by Jamaal Charles, who on the season has rushed for 1230 yards and 4 touchdowns while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. When playing well Charles is among the league’s best backs. Added to that concern is the fact that inside linebacker Kavell Conner has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game and Jerrell Freeman missed practice Wednesday with an injury. That would lead me to assume that no matter Freeman’s availability, both Pat Angerer and Moise Fokou will see significant playing time. As far as backups go they are about as good as they come, but the level of production that the starters (especially Freeman) have played at will be hard to replicate. Last week the Texans did a great job of blocking the second level and getting the linebackers, leading to yet another 100+ yard day for Arian Foster against the Colts. The injured linebacking core will be a big thing to watch, as the Chiefs’ best (and some would say only) offensive attack comes from Charles and the run game. Stop that and you basically stop the Chiefs’ offense.
2. Andrew Luck on the Road
I feel like I say this every road game (and I probably do) but Andrew Luck must play well on the road. If only to show that he can and inspire confidence in himself, he needs a good day. He doesn’t have to carry this team over the lowly Chiefs by any means, but he has yet to play a complete game on the road. Against Detroit he worked his magic at the end but for the first 55 minutes he stunk. Last week he took a huge step forward in that he didn’t turn the ball over at all (the first time he has done that on the road and only the fourth time total). He didn’t play overly great overall Sunday, but he was turnover free – and that is a huge step. He needs to continue to work on that and build on the foundations he is laying. After all, the Colts’ next road game after Sunday will come in the playoffs. Have to be ready by that point. Consider this a final tune-up for Andrew Luck and this young team to playing on the road.
3. Stay Focused
There is so much that could distract this Colts team right now. Christmas falling just two days after the game. Andrew Luck in a heated rookie of the year race. Chuck Pagano returning on Monday. The playoffs right around the corner. A young team just getting worn down as the season goes on. I mean, there is so much to focus on besides the game, and it doesn’t help that the team they are playing has two wins all year. The Colts shouldn’t have trouble with the Chiefs – that is, unless they overlook them. Indy must keep their focus on the next game, as they have done all year. If they do that, I see no reason as to why the Colts won’t come out on top on Sunday.
My prediction: Colts 27, Chiefs 13