The Indianapolis Colts (3-4) will host the Kansas City Chiefs (4-2) this Sunday as they look to get to .500 on the season.
The Chiefs present a tough challenge, however, and no game will be easy for the Colts this year given the way their defense is playing. To get a better idea of the Colts’ upcoming opponent, however, we asked some questions to Arrowhead Pride’s Joel Thorman, who was kind enough to answer them for us. Our questions are in bold, and then Joel’s answers follow.
1. Alex Smith is a very solid quarterback, and Spencer Ware has really emerged as a good running back. What should Colts fans know about the Chiefs offense and how they're playing so far this year?
It was up and down until a couple of weeks ago when they seemed to have settled into a groove. Spencer Ware is who you need to be worried about first. He has the ability to handle it 20-25 times and help the Chiefs close out games. If they get a lead, they can sit on it. Ware will also contribute in the passing game as will Jamaal Charles (if he plays on a limited basis). Alex Smith is at his best when he's throwing it 20-something times with his highly efficient passes. Get him throwing more often and the Chiefs could be in trouble. Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce are your top two targets in the passing game to be worried about. They've both had a few slow weeks so there's some hope in KC that one of them will rebound with a breakout game. Also new this year is Tyreek Hill, a speedy receiver who will get looks in the screen game as well as go routes due to his speed. The goal against the Chiefs is to make them one dimensional where they're far less effective.
2. How has the defense adjusted to playing without Justin Houston, and how has the unit done overall this year?
The pass rush has not been very good without Houston. Dee Ford is good for a couple of pressures per game and maybe a sack. Tamba Hali is still effective but not an very down player. Despite that, somehow, someway the Chiefs defense is playing really well. They held the Raiders to 10 points and the Saints to 21 points. The Colts are a similar offense so KC has the confidence to know that they can clamp down against a team like Indianapolis. For the Chiefs, it comes down to the turnovers. The Chiefs offense isn't giving many away so even one or two from the defense is a big difference maker.
3. What has been the biggest surprise for the Chiefs this year, either in a good way or a bad way?
Tyreek Hill has been fun. He'll return kicks and punts and get a dozen or two snaps as a receiver. He is one of those guys you notice when he gets on the field. He'll draw some attention. He already has two return touchdowns called back due to penalty and every time he touches the ball it feels like he's going the distance. The Chiefs will use him in the passing game, for real and as a decoy. He doesn't really have much on his route tree outside of quick screens and go routes. It's just a matter of containing him.
4. The AFC West is pretty competitive this year, and the Chiefs are very much in the mix in the division. What are the expectations among Chiefs fans for this season?
A division title and a playoff run is the expectation. Peyton Manning is retired. It might be a year early before the Raiders are a more complete team. This is the Chiefs year and it's really more than just the AFC West. The Chiefs can make an argument that they're better and more balanced than both Oakland and Denver (we'll find out on the latter in a few weeks). The Patriots are the top team in the AFC followed by the Steelers, who are now without Big Ben. After that, who? The Chiefs? The Chiefs should be looking for home field advantage and if they get that then they're capable of making a run. Ask them to go on the road to Pittsburgh or New England? I'm not picking them to win that. Chiefs fans expect a playoff berth and a playoff win or two.
5. Knowing what you do of the Chiefs, how would you attack them if you were the Colts' offensive and defensive coordinator?
When the Chiefs are on offense, I would get some pressure on Alex Smith. Hit him early and get those happy feet going. Stuff Spencer Ware a few times and you hope Andy Reid panics and starts dialing up two yard pass after two yard pass. When the Chiefs are on defense, make them first prove that they can stop your running game. (Hey, does Indy have a running game?) From there don't test Marcus Peters too often but you can peek over there and try to catch him on a double move where he is susceptible at times. The Chiefs corners won't trail anyone so stick TY Hilton over on the left side against Phillip Gaines or whoever is healthy over there.