Last week, the Colts came up short to the Bucs, this week they take on perennial whipping boy, the Kansas City Chiefs. Since 1990, the Colts have dominated the Chiefs, beating them 9 times in 10 games. Now the teams square off in a matchup featuring a combined 1 win. Here's what to watch for this week.
1. Watch the thin blue line. It's getting hard and harder to remember who is even playing for the Colts offensive line anymore. With Diem and Castonzo likely out, the Colts are left with Jeff Saturday's beard playing right guard. Yes, they shaved his beard, put the clippings in a helmet, and asked it block. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The Colts line looked like it was beginning to gel, despite giving up a lot of pressure early in the season. With Ijalana out on IR, the Colts look to possibly be going with guys like Quinn Ojinnaka, Mike Tepper, Michael Toudouze, Joe Reitz, and an old T-shirt Tarik Glenn left behind. The good news is that the Chiefs have 5 sacks on the year: 4 by Tamba Hali (who is awesome) and 1 by everyone else (who are not). Kansas City is a bottom five pass rushing defense. If the Colts can block one guy, they might be able to run an offense.
2. Watch the thin blue line. As long as I'm going to trot out tired cliches to be the point headers, I might as well be completely gratuitous about it and use it twice. This time I mean the defensive line. The Colts already lost Eric Foster in gruesome fashion, and are now facing a hobbled Drake Nevis and Fili Moala too. The Indy tackles have been strong this season, but the curse of Corey Simon is still alive and well in Indianapolis. The Colts have held opposing offenses in check in part by limiting the running game, but that will be a challenge as they trot out the likes of Ricardo Matthews again.
3. Watch the original Curtis Painter. How hard is it to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback on the fly? Just ask Matt Cassel. Cassel filled in for Tom Brady in 2008, and led the Pats to 11 wins. He did go to a Pro Bowl last year, but has yet to fully replicate his success in the New England. Cassel is a competent passer, but currently runs the 31st ranked passing offense by DVOA. Cassel may go on to have a long career, but it's most likely that he'll be forever remembered along with Curtis Painter as half a trivia question. Before replacing Brady, Cassel had thrown 39 career passes in 3 years. Painter had thrown 28 in two. Cassel struggled early, but the Pats won 3 of his first four games that year. Still, seven of his first nine games he posted a passer rating under 90, before going over 100 in five of his final seven starts.
4. Watch guys even the Colts can cover. Kansas City has the worst wideouts in football. Seriously, their leading receiver is Dexter McCluster with 17 catches for 52 yards. Duane Bowe, who everyone has been waiting to breakout for years, has just 16 catches in four games. He's basically Pierre Garcon in a red jersey. Steve Breston is a basically a punt returner who sometimes catches passes. The Chiefs wideouts have good yards per catch, but not many catches. Indy has struggled with the intermediate passing game, but the Chiefs receiving corp is truly abysmal. Indy has to clamp down on this passing game.
5. Watch the culture clash. We all know that Jim Caldwell has never met a punt he didn't like, but Todd Haley has never met a fourth down he didn't want to go for. One of the most aggressive coaches in the league, Haley has shown a willingness to go for fourth down with abandon. Colts fans should take note, however. Despite his awesome set of cajones, Haley is just 15-21 as a head coach. There are rumors he is disliked. He has trouble keeping coaches on his staff. He's basically bad at the people management side of football. He's the anti-Caldwell. It just goes to show that there are other skills involved in running an NFL team besides knowing that punts are turnovers.
6. Watch for the return of the gratuitous point. One of my favorite aspects of Eyes in the Backfield has always been the random joke point. Unfortunately, I haven't been in a laughing mood this season. Couple that with Kerry Collins conveniently low jersey number, and there hasn't been any room for humor. Now Curtis Painter is playing quarterback, and if that's not reason enough to laugh, I don't know what is. His jersey is seven, and that means more work for me. So, as long as Curtis is the quarterback, I'll get up a little early on Fridays and give you a full seven points. One of them will be a throw away, though. It should be funnier on average than this point this week, but I'm not promising anything.
7. Watch the arrival of the QB win stat. If the Colts can't win this week, they may well go a long time without a W. This team has played with so much pride and fire, that I have to believe they keep it close. I don't believe in Painter (as everyone knows), and the line is bad, but I'm hoping Dwobert Frathis comes through and Indy wins 10-9. It will be amusing to see everyone's reactions if the Colts win, especially if Painter plays poorly. My guess is that the "he just wins game" crowd shows up in droves.