Standing O Sports

4 Keys To The Kansas City Chiefs-Indianapolis Colts Game

© Charlie Riedel/AP/Corbis
For the Colts:
Make Alex Smith throw the football: If you’re indianapolis, you want Alex Smith throwing the football to win the game. Indy needs to find a way to contain Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs running game — if they don’t it could be a long day. If I’m the Chuck Pagano I would stack 8 in the box and dare Alex Smith to beat me deep all game. Alex Smith has completed only 27% of his passes when throwing 20 yards are more down the field (total of 10 completions on 36 attempts). In fact, the only area of the field that Alex Smith has a completion percentage above 60% is when he is throwing behind the line of scrimmage. Smith is a safe quarterback; he’s a smart quarterback. He won’t lose you the game, but he won’t win you the game either. If the Colts can find a way to contain Charles both in the running game and as a receiver in the flat, I like their chances of winning.
Balanced attack:  In order for the Colts to win, Andrew Luck needs to be great — there’s no denying it. But everyone knows that. It should almost be assumed. But the key is not to rely on Luck too much. It’s about quality rather than quantity.  In their 11 wins, Andrew Luck averaged 33 pass attempts, while in their 5 losses, Luck averaged more than 42 pass attempts.  The problem? The efficiency wasn’t there. He threw 7 touchdowns to 7 interceptions and completed less than 60% of his passes. The key for the Colts is a balanced attack. Though they’re not known as a running team, Indianapolis averaged 125 yards rushing on 29 carries in their 11 wins. When the Colts lose, it’s because they gave up in the running game. In their week 16 matchup against the Chiefs, Indianapolis ran the ball 34 times for 135 yards, while Andrew Luck threw it 37 times, completing 70% of his passes. That’s efficiency. That’s balance. That’s the formula Indianapolis needs to win.
For The Chiefs:
Contain the Colts pass rush: If the Chiefs want to win this game they are going to need to stop Robert Mathis and the Colts pass rush. As I mentioned in my Wild Card Weekend Picks (link), the Chiefs offensive line is one of the worst in the playoffs. They’ve given up 41 sacks this season, that’s more than any other AFC playoff team. The Colts 5 sacks in week 16 cause a lot of problems for Alex Smith who finished the game with a 57.6 QB rating. In order to win on the road, the Kansas City offensive line has to give Smith time to find the open guy. Yes, they will run the ball, but Smith is going to have to make plays as well to keep up with the Colts offense. And if Indianapolis is smart, they will make Smith win the game for the Chiefs. In any case, KC needs to give Smith time. This is a key matchup to watch and one that could have a huge effect on the outcome of the game.
Get Jamaal Charles the ball: Jamaal Charles is the first player to lead a playoff team in both rushing and receiving since Roger Craig did it in 1985. Get him the ball. It’s that simple. He’s the best player on your team, in fact he’s probably the best player on the field today. Do whatever you need to do to get him the ball. He should be getting at least 18 carries in the running game and 8 targets from Alex Smith — probably even more than that. In the Chiefs 11 wins this year, he has averaged 135 total yards and has scored a total of 15 touchdowns.  In the team’s 5 losses, Charles has averaged 98 total yards and has only 4 losses. Specifically, I would aim to get Charles the ball in the passing game. That is where he is most dangerous. Screens, wheel routes, and check downs will play a big role in this game. They’re high percentage plays that will get the ball out of Smith’s hands fast. If Charles is able to run the ball well and have success in the flat, it will go a long way in helping the Kansas City contain the Colts pass rush. A good running back keeps good pass rushers honest.
The most important matchup to this game will be Jamaal Charles vs. the Colts defense. Indianapolis will try everything to stop him, while Kansas City will aim to get him the ball early and often. If the Colts can keep Charles under 100 total yards, they will win the game. This will be a very interesting matchup to watch throughout the game.
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