We're gonna do things a little different on Start Me Up this week. Rather than my typical breakdown of each unit and blah blah blah, let's have some fun today... primarily at the expense of Sunday's opponent, the Indianapolis Colts.
Let's start with what we know:
-Thanks to competing in the
AFC South worst division in football, the Colts are one of four teams that have already secured their spot in the playoffs.
-Indianapolis was on the bye in week eight - which also happened to be the week immediately following Reggie Wayne's injury against the Broncos. That means there was a natural divide in their stats between the seven games Wayne was healthy and the seven games since.
-Before Wayne's injury, the Colts defeated San Francisco (by 20!), Seattle and Denver. Since then, they've lost to St. Louis by 30 and Arizona by 29.
- Bear with me as we exclude last week's 25-3 victory over the comically terrible Texans. In the six weeks prior, Indy went 3-3 and allowed an average of 31 points per game. The Colts were also the only team in the NFL that had a winning record despite also having a negative point differential.
Here are the key offensive contributors' numbers before and after Reggie Wayne went down:
Before (7 games)
136-224, (60.7%), 1,574, 10 TD, 3 INT
27, 412, 2 TDs
22, 235, 3 TD
After (7 games)
155-272, (56.9), 1,725, 11 TD, 6 INT
39-464, 3 TDs
27, 340, 1 TD
So... what sticks out to you? First thing I noticed is that Luck has attempted an average of seven more passes per game since his number one receiver was lost to injury. Possible explanations are as follows:
1. Indianapolis has surrendered early leads, forcing Luck to pass their way out of it.
2. New OC Pep Hamilton guided Luck at Stanford but is struggling to do the same in the NFL.
3. The Colts have the worst rushing attack in the league. More on this later.
What do I really think? Andrew Luck is basically the only player the Colts trust. They're going to live and die with his performances whether they like it or not, so they've heaped a tremendous amount of faith and responsibility on his shoulders. Their offense isn't balanced and they're starting to embrace that fact. What does it mean for the final few weeks of the season? Don't be surprised if Indianapolis throws the ball 50 times or more against the Chiefs. Twice.
Here's the problem with that plan (via PFF) - "(Sunday vs. Houston) was the third straight pedestrian outing for Andrew Luck, where he really did as much with his legs as with his arm. In the last three games he has combined to grade +2.0 overall, but -1.2 passing."
... Which lends to my next figure. Andrew Luck is averaging nearly 27 rushing yards a game, which is only about five yards per game less than Trent Richardson. Luck also has twice as many rushing touchdowns and averages about two yards per carry more than his running back.
Did you know the longest play from scrimmage in Richardson's career is just 32 yards? FUN.
Here's some Q&A via Twitter ... but don't tell Mellinger.
@ryanscotthall @ArrowheadPride why have the colts struggled to run the ball all year, and how does in affect their passing game?— Christian Loganbill (@cloganbill) December 18, 2013
The simple answer is because Ahmad Bradshaw got hurt and Trent Richardson runs like the 2.7 version of Larry Johnson (i .e. into the backs of his offensive lineman). The duo of Bradshaw and Richardson looked imposing when the trade was announced but only lasted one game before a neck injury landed the former Giants starter on IR. Indianapolis' run game hasn't been the same since.
Last week against Houston was the first time since the Bradshaw injury that a Colts RB amassed over 100 yards from scrimmage. Not rushing ... no, they don't have a 100-yard game from any of their backs this year. We're talking total yards. In what was easily his best game since arriving in Indy, Richardson finished the day with 64 rushing and 38 receiving with a touchdown and a fumble. Now that is a start line to brag about, folks.
(Sidebar: Remember that time everyone went gaga over both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson in their draft preparation? Yeah ... me neither. Just goes to show you how imperfect the scouting process can be.)
@ryanscotthall @ArrowheadPride how many times will Da'Rick burn us?— Ryan Boatman (@theboatshizzle) December 18, 2013
Easy partner, the kid has played in three NFL games and has a whopping eight catches. He was a draft dork darling but wasn't selected in any of the seven rounds this year. He's already on his second team (waived by the Bills during training camp) and was promoted to the active roster just over a month ago. Granted, the Chiefs pass defense has struggled over the last ... for a while. Rogers' arrow may be pointing up, but if there's anyone to worry about "burning" the Chiefs, it's Hilton.
@lukiepoo52: "What can our secondary do to keep Luck from having a big day?"
Free releases, free releases, free releases. I honestly don't know what Bob Sutton, Emmitt Thomas and / or Al Harris are teaching these guys, but it sure seems like the Chiefs cornerbacks don't like to get their hands dirty. Just once I'd like to see Marcus Cooper rough-up the man in front of him in the five-yard area. Same goes for Sean Smith and Brandon Flowers. This is supposed to be an attack and cover defense but it hasn't really looked like it for weeks. All I seem to notice are the Chiefs players trailing in man-to-man. This is especially concerning against the Indianapolis receiving corps. T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Da'Rick Rogers all possess lethal speed downfield ... and I do mean lethal.
Let's talk some defense.
The Chiefs and Colts have both had three-game stretches in which they surrendered over 100 points. Kansas City allowed 103 to the Broncos, Chargers and Broncos. Indianapolis, on the other hand, they allowed 105 points to the Rams, Titans and Cardinals.
I'm about to throw a lot of numbers at you, so pay attention.
Denver has the most points per game on offense in the NFL at 38.2 and San Diego is scoring 24.5 per game. Add those together and you get a total of 100.9 points in a three-game stretch and the Chiefs allowed 105 (+4.1).
Somehow the Cardinals (24.4), Titans (23.3) and Rams (22.6) managed to score 105 points (+34.7) against the Colts when the combined average was just 70.3 total points.
I actually like quite a few players on the Colts defense. Robert Mathis leads the NFL in sacks with 16.5. Former CFL stud Jerrell Freeman has been a machine in 2013 with well-over 100 tackles, four forced fumbles and 3.5 sacks. Their 3-4 is anchored by veteran defensive linemen Cory Redding (former Ravens starter), Aubrayao Franklin and Ricky-Jean Francois (former 49ers starters). Corners Vontae Davis, Greg Toler and Darius Butler have played reasonably well and Antoine Bethea is still one of the best safeties on Earth.
So what's not working? They've been pretty opportunistic most of the year, leading to a +7 turnover ratio. At times, their pass defense has been downright stifling. That leaves the run defense, where the Colts are 27th in the NFL. Allowing an opponent to control the line of scrimmage and have success running the ball is very problematic even in a passing league.
If you've missed the last few episodes of Amateur Hour, you probably haven't heard HisDirknesS's take on what the Chiefs need to do against Indy this week: Establish dominance.
Asking Andy Reid to commit to the running game for 60 minutes is a waste of time. With that in mind, it's hard (for me) to understand how offensive linemen are actually supposed to assert themselves. I'm anything but an expert on this, but doesn't pass blocking always seem like wall-off defending rather than actually brutalizing an opponent? The only way to build confidence in the trenches is to attack and you don't do much of that when you're moving backwards. Andy ... run the ball, bro.
How do the Chiefs establish dominance defensively? The Colts throw a lot. Like a lot a lot. Kansas City has to put Andrew Luck on his keister all afternoon. It's no secret the pass rush has been getting stoned lately. I mean ... never mind. Just go with it. It finally looks like Justin Houston will see at least some reps against the Colts and don't kid yourselves, every snap he takes over the next two weeks is remarkably valuable.
Playoff scenarios are fun to talk about but putting them down on paper is a catastrophe. You'll hear a lot of talk about how the Chiefs and Colts will likely meet in the Wild Card round of the playoffs ... I don't care about that and neither should you. There are too many possibilities to consider right now, so let's just go win a football game.
Kansas City has played better than any team in the league the last two weeks and I don't think they've hit their peak yet. Just last week the Patriots, Broncos and Bengals all lost and only New England looked competent for more than a quarter of their game. The AFC is W-I-D-E open.
Sunday at noon, the Chiefs and Colts square-off in what might be the last game at Arrowhead Stadium this season. Rumor has it many of you don't have to work until after Christmas, so that means you're required to leave it all out there. Your voice, your money, your dignity ... come home with nothing left. Show the Chiefs how thankful you are for such an amazing season. Get loud, stay loud and drink heavily.
Chiefs 33 - Colts 19 - Ryan 1 (last thing before I go...)
Listen to Amateur Hour. We'll go LIVE shortly after the game concludes and (at some point) talk to none other than Joel freaking Thorman about what he ate/saw/heard/asked/etc on gameday. Look for the link on Twitter and right here on ArrowheadPride.com.
See you Sunday, Red Team.
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