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How the Indianapolis Colts Can Light Up the Chiefs in Wild Card Showdown

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How the Indianapolis Colts Can Light Up the Chiefs in Wild Card Showdown
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The Indianapolis Colts enter the playoffs as one of the hotter teams in the NFL, winners of three straight games in convincing fashion.

One of those victories came in Week 16 at Kansas City. The Chiefs come to town this week for the rematch, and if the Colts want to duplicate their 23-7 win from two weeks ago, they needs to add a new wrinkle or two to what was a very successful game plan.

In that game, the Colts dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The defense allowed only a first-quarter Jamaal Charles touchdown run in an effort that was the team's best since downing the Broncos back in Week 7.

From there, the offense took over, led by quarterback Andrew Luck and tailback Donald Brown.

Andrew Luck vs. Chiefs
Comp. Att. Pct. Yards TD INT Rating
26 37 70.3 241 1 0 96.8

Week 16

Granted, Luck's 241 passing yards and 6.5 yards per attempt aren't eye-popping numbers. However, the Colts employed an uptempo, short passing offense that had the Kansas City defense out of sorts for much of the game.

Not only did this attack prove effective in moving the football, it also allowed the Colts to dominate time of possession to the tune of a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

This is absolutely an area where it would be madness to fix what isn't broken, but you can rest assured that the Chiefs will make adjustments. So must the Colts.

In fact, the best adjustments are the ones that take advantage of the adjustments the Chiefs make.

That's where taking the top off of the offense comes in.

After only sacking Luck once while watching the second-year pro pick them apart in Week 16, you can bet that Christmas money you just got the Chiefs will prioritize getting Luck's jersey dirty.

The return of outside linebacker Justin Houston will help, but the Chiefs will probably dial up more stunts and blitzes in an effort to get more pressure on Luck.

The Colts can make them pay for that if they get receivers T.Y. Hilton and Da'Rick Rogers matched up in man coverage with young cornerback Marcus Cooper.

Cooper has been wearing a bullseye for most of the season, and with good reason. The rookie ranks 75th among cornerbacks in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). It was Cooper who Eric Decker abused to the tune of 174 receiving yards and four touchdowns back in Week 13.

Play fakes, double moves—you name it, Cooper has fallen for it this year. The Colts need to test him deep.

Of course, to test Cooper deep Luck will need time for the pattern to develop, and play-action deep is at least partly dependent on getting some sort of a running game going.

Luckily, the Colts have been successful in both regards recently.

The offensive line, which has been shuffled around for much of the season due to injuries, is getting healthy at the right time. That line, which ranks sixth in the NFL in pass-blocking according to Football Outsiders, has allowed only three sacks (one in each game) over their three-game winning streak.

The running game hasn't been as consistent, but its performance two weeks ago offers even more room for optimism.

Colts RBs vs. Chiefs
Player Att. Yards Avg. TD Rec. Yards TD
Richardson 16 43 2.7 0 3 15 0
Brown 10 79 7.9 1 2 31 1

Week 16

The Colts rushed for 135 yards against the Chiefs at Arrowhead, an increase of over 20 yards over their season average.

Donald Brown, in particular, was especially effective.

Of course, it's not like that's some huge shock. Brown has routinely outperformed Trent Richardson since Richardson joined the team in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.

And that brings us to the second offensive key: Get the ball to Donald Brown.

How many carries should Donald Brown get vs, the Chiefs?

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The Chiefs can be run on. A defense that ranked among the best in the NFL earlier in the season has slipped all the way to 22nd, allowing over 120 yards a game on the ground.

However, even against that defense Richardson managed all of 2.7 yards per carry. It was the seventh game in which Richardson gained fewer than three yards a carry since joining the Colts.

In the playoffs, every touch in every possession carries more weight. There's no point wasting them turning 1st-and-10 into 2nd-and-8.

The Colts have already shown they can beat the Chiefs. Handily, in fact.

However, beating a team twice in one season carries with it added difficulty. Doing so twice in three games doubly so.

The Denver Broncos have already done it to the Chiefs. With these adjustments to a game plan that worked the first time, the Colts can do it too.

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