Thanks to Andrew Luck, Indy morphed from the worst team in the NFL to a playoff contender in just one offseason. KC can only hope to mimic their rebuilding efforts when it starts at season’s end.
Where: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
When: Sunday, Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 113 or online at Audio Pass
Betting Line: Indianapolis by 7, according to Bovada
What’s at Stake?
For the Colts, a wild-card spot is on the line. They can’t choke against the Chiefs because if they do, Week 17 against the Houston Texans would become a must-win game. And considering Indianapolis just fell to Houston by double digits, it’s safe to say it would love to avoid that.
Kansas City, on the other hand, needs a loss to lock up the first-overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. A win would move them to 3-12 and gift the two-win Jacksonville Jaguars with the selection, which KC can’t afford to let happen.
Colts Injury Report (via ESPN, as of Dec. 17)
Kavell Conner (hamstring), LB, Out
Tom Zbikowski (knee), S, Out
Delone Carter (ankle), RB, Out
Coby Fleener, TE, Probable
Chiefs Injury Report (via ESPN, as of Dec. 18)
Brady Quinn (ribs), QB, Questionable
Fantasy Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em and Sleeper
Start: Reggie Wayne
Terrified of starting Wayne in your championship game against the Chiefs’ seventh-ranked pass defense after he caught just three balls for 14 yards last week against the Houston Texans?
Don’t be. Some numbers lie, like the ones that hide the fact that KC has allowed the ninth-most touchdowns through the air this season and allow opposing quarterbacks to average passer ratings of 99.3—the highest in the league.
Sit: Dwayne Bowe
No matter who ends up starting at QB for the Chiefs, there won’t be a respectable arm attempting to get Bowe the ball. He hasn’t caught more than four passes in a single game since Week 9.
Sleeper: Vick Ballard
Kansas City fields the 27th-ranked run defense in the NFL. Combine that with the fact that Ballard has rushed for 199 yards in his last two games, and he’ll be in position to put up satisfying fantasy numbers.
What They’re Saying
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star reported that NBA head coach and cancer survivor George Karl warned the Colts’ Chuck Pagano of returning to coaching too early, explaining:
All I know is, one month after my last radiation treatment, I wasn’t really healthy. There’s no way I could have coached. My instincts, my reactions and my mind was cloudy. Having to make quick decisions, figure out things before they happen—things coaches have to do—I think that would have been very difficult.
Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star also reported there’s a possibility that Ricky Stanzi will make his first NFL appearance on Sunday.
Colts Player to Watch: Andrew Luck
Luck has turned the football over a whopping 23 times this season. When he digs himself a hole, though, he’s phenomenal at climbing his way out as he’s pulled off six fourth-quarter comebacks as well.
Luck is simply must-watch television, even against the Chiefs.
Chiefs Player to Watch: Jamaal Charles
Charles has been the only bright spot on KC’s offense this entire season.
Despite the Chiefs having no passing game that defenses are forced to respect, he managed to average 117.2 yards per game from Week 10-14. Last week, though, he only gained 10 yards on nine carries against the Oakland Raiders.
If Charles fails to bounce back, the game won’t even be competitive.
Key Matchup: Ricky Stanzi vs. Darius Butler
Who knows? Stanzi could shock the world and shred the Colts secondary.
More likely, though, is Butler, who leads Indy in interceptions, and the rest of the defense giving the former Iowa Hawkeye nightmares.
On the Hot Seat: Romeo Crennel
Crennel won two of the three games he played the role of head coach in last year.
This year, he has won two of 14 and showed no signs of being able to turn the ship around. Will Kansas City really give him enough time to draft “his guy” at QB and develop him?
If the Chiefs lose out in pathetic fashion, not likely.
Indianapolis is the more talented football team. It also needs the win much more than the Chiefs do.
In reality, Kansas City is benefited by a loss. If the Colts don’t win by multiple scores, they shouldn’t expect to make much noise in the playoffs.
Indianapolis by 10
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.