It's almost here. The Indianapolis Colts host the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild card round of the playoffs on Saturday at 4:35 eastern time on NBC. To help better prepare for the game, I asked Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride some questions about the Chiefs and their game Saturday against the Colts (to see my answers to Joel's questions, head here). A big thanks to Joel for taking the time to answer the questions.
1. Probably the biggest knock on the Chiefs is that "they haven't beaten anybody." What do you say to those statements, and why do you have confidence that the Chiefs can win some big games in the playoffs, starting this Saturday against the Colts?
Joel Thorman: "To those people I would say ... well, you're right. The only playoff team the Chiefs beat was the Eagles, way back in Week 3. Nick Foles wasn't Nick Foles by that point. The Chiefs lost to the Broncos and Chargers twice each and, as you know, the Colts in Week 16. Why I'm not completely discouraged by that is that the Chiefs played most of these teams very tough. They lost in Denver by 10 and had a shot to tie the Broncos late in the fourth quarter at Arrowhead. Both Chargers games came down to the wire. The loss to the Colts, 23-7, was actually the biggest loss of the year for the Chiefs. So it's not like they're getting blown out by these playoff teams. The Chiefs have made it this far because they're a smart team who usually doesn't make mistakes. Obviously that didn't happen last time around. I do not expect the Chiefs to turn it over four times in this game, which will help keep it close. The Colts may win but I don't think it will be by more than a score."
2. The last time these two teams met, the Colts won 23-7. What do the Chiefs need to do different or do better this time around?
Joel Thorman: "Tackle. That's a pretty generic suggestion but the Chiefs missed 17 tackles last season. According to Pro Football Focus, they were a top 10 tackling team. That game is an outlier. The Chiefs have to tackle much better. They also have to avoid the turnovers. Alex Smith simply doesn't turn it over that often so I would not expect multiple turnovers from him. If the Chiefs can tackle like they have been all season, and protect the ball like they have been all season, the game will be much closer."
3. Early on this season, the Chiefs pass rush was phenomenal, but it seems like it has cooled down recently. Is this a fair assessment? Is it purely because of the injury to Justin Houston? Ultimately, will the Chiefs be able to generate pressure on Andrew Luck on Saturday?
Joel Thorman: "The Chiefs pass rush is the big question. The Chiefs were straight dominant in the first half of the season but that has cooled off quite a bit. The Chiefs are hoping to have Justin Houston and Tamba Hali back on Saturday. Houston, who hasn't played in five weeks, will definitely be back. Hali, who missed the last two weeks with a knee injury, is questionable. So there's still some uncertainty there with him. Without the Chiefs pass rush, their secondary looks very average. With it, they tend to create more turnovers. I do think the Chiefs will be able to generate some pressure on Andrew Luck but the Colts will have a plan to prevent it as many other teams have done in the second half of the season. Count me down for a sack, maybe two, and a handful of pressures on Andrew Luck. Even if the Chiefs make just a play or two, it can be a difference-maker if it results in a turnover."
4. It's clear that Jamaal Charles is the key to the Chiefs offense, but can you talk about just how important he is to the success of the offense and the type of season he has had?
Joel Thorman: "In any season without Peyton Manning, Jamaal would be a serious MVP candidate. He accounts for more of the Chiefs yardage than any other player. He leads the team in rushing, receiving and touchdowns. He does it all. The offense goes through him, plain and simple. The Chiefs are a different team when he is not making plays, something Colts fans know from the last meeting. The only way Charles has been slowed this season is by Andy Reid's own playcalling. Give him enough touches and he will break one off."
5. We all know about Charles, but outside of him, what is the most important player or aspect of the game for the Chiefs on Saturday?
Joel Thorman: "Alex Smith. Mostly due to the turnovers from the last game. Alex Smith has been fairly consistent this year so I don't expect other-worldly numbers from him. But I do expect him to be efficient. He has been throwing the ball down the field more lately but the Chiefs have also been losing a lot more lately. I want to see him find Dwayne Bowe early and often, continue to feed Jamaal Charles via the short passing game and occasionally stretch the field to your pal Donnie Avery. If Alex Smith has a good game, the Chiefs have a shot. They have no shot if he has a bad game."
Bonus Question: What's your prediction?
Joel Thorman: "27-23, Chiefs. The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game since January 16, 1994. The Chiefs will be motivated to end that streak."