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KC Chiefs NFL playoff preview: Chiefs at Colts, Wild Card Weekend

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When: Sat. Jan 4

Time: 3:35 p.m. CT

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

TV Broadcast: NBC-TV: Dan Hicks, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan (Field reporter).

Radio Broadcast: Over 60 radio stations on the Chiefs Radio Network; Mitch Holthus and Len Dawson, commentators; Kendall Gammon – sideline reporter. Chiefs Spanish Radio: La Gran D (1340 AM); Play-by-Play: Enrique Morales, Color Commentator: Oscar Monterroso, Sideline Reporter: Ricardo Soto.

Westwood One Radio: Kevin Kugler, James Lofton, Hub Arkush (Field reporter).

SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 92 (KC), 86 (Ind.). XM: 88 (WW1), 225 (KC), 86 (Ind.).

If you’re a Kansas City Chiefs fan listening to radio and TV this week, you’re probably wondering why the Chiefs are wasting the time and money to travel to Indianapolis to play the Colts in this week’s Wild Card playoff game.

After all, according to all the experts, with only one win this year over a playoff team (a 26-16 win over Philadelphia in Week 3) and because the Colts crushed the Chiefs two weeks ago 23-7 at Arrowhead, there is NO WAY the Chiefs will win Saturday. The Colts should just prepare to fly to New England or Denver for the next round instead of game-planning for KC.

Of course, the same kind of experts said the Oklahoma Sooners didn’t belong on the same field as Nick Saban’s guys and would lose to Alabama by 3-4 touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl too. With all apologies to the talking heads that dismiss KC’s ability to win a football game, is it OK if Andy Reid and the boys at least attempt to stop the Indianapolis juggernaut?

Here are three things Chiefs fans should be watching for during Saturday’s game if the Chiefs are going to win:

“Dear Defense, see those things coming out of your shoulder pads? Those are your arms. Please USE THEM TO FREAKING TACKLE THE OTHER TEAM!!”: Chiefs fans are a forgiving bunch and can accept losing a game if the effort by the players on the field matches the passion the fans have. (See last week’s Chargers game for example) The reason the fans were more upset about the Week 16 loss to Indy than any other loss of the season was that (among other things) the defense looked like they forgot how to tackle. Donald Brown is a completely average NFL running back (trust me, I’ve had him on my fantasy squad for three years), but against the Chiefs, he looked more like Hall of Famer, Walter Payton. His 51-yard touchdown run in the second half was the game-breaker for the Chiefs and the fact that no defender even attempted to wrap him up and tackle him sent most fans into orbit.

This week, the Chiefs need to get back to their swarming style of play they exhibited during the first half of the season when their defense dominated. Swarm to the ball and gang-tackle the ball carrier. Get back to leading the NFL in giving up the fewest yards after the catch, which the Chiefs did earlier in the year. Sure, they gave up a few big plays even when they were red-hot on defense, but they gave up one or two a game – not ten. Make sure if Brown or Trent Richardson gain 100 yards rushing, it takes 30 carries to do it.

Remember that Andrew Luck isn’t Peyton Manning – yet: It’s no secret that former Colts QB Peyton Manning absolutely owns the Chiefs and has owned them for his entire career. Andrew Luck is a good QB right now with a bright future, but he is NOT Manning yet at this stage of his career. Statistically he is … Alex Smith. Smith’s stat line for 2013 in 15 starts: 308-for-508, 3,313 yds passing, 23 TDs, 7 ints and a 89.1 quarterback rating. Smith also had 431 yds rushing and 1 rushing TD. Luck’s stat line (16 starts): 343-for-570, 3,822 yds passing, 23 TDs, 9 ints, and a QB rating of 87.0. He also had 377 yards rushing with 4 rushing TDs.

The point is, while Luck’s upside is terrific, the Chiefs need to attack him and force him into mistakes. Having a healthier Tamba Hali joining the returning Justin Houston as outside pass rushers would be nice, but the Chiefs have the ability to hold this Colts offense down. Other than wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, there are no explosive difference-makers on Indy’s offense. The Chiefs can’t be afraid to blitz Luck the moment they get off the team bus this week.

Jamaal Charles can’t do it on his own … probably: Without doubt, the biggest game-changing player on the field will be Charles. Colts defender Robert Mathis led the league in sacks and is having the best season of his stellar career, but even he can’t touch what Charles can do if the KC running back gets on a roll. However, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has come out and said that stopping Charles is the Colts biggest priority in the game. He even respectfully called Charles “Public Enemy #1” during a press conference with Kansas City reporters on Thursday.

If the Colts are going to sell out to stop Charles, then it is up to the duo of Dwayne Bowe and Dexter McCluster to pick up the slack. Bowe got his bell run during the previous Colts game and sat out the San Diego game while he recuperated from concussion symptoms. He practiced all week and should be good to go. McCluster has completely recovered from his ankle infection and should be extra-pumped after being named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for December. It’s the playoffs and someone needs to make a difference other than Charles.

Bowe hasn’t broken 100 yards receiving all year so this would be a good time for him to do it. Ten catches or multiple touchdown receptions would be OK too. It’s time to earn that big contract he got during last off-season.

We’ve all seen the effect McCluster’s kick returns have on a game throughout the year, but if he is able to do similar things on offense, it will just open things up for Charles and a Chiefs victory.

Prediction: No one has ever come up with a good explanation about what happened at Arrowhead two weeks ago, but it was the Chiefs worst overall performance of the year. The X-Factor for KC is head coach Andy Reid, who has taken a team to the playoffs in nine other seasons and has won at least one game seven times. The thought here is that Reid’s decision to rest 20 of 22 starters last week pays off and the Chiefs clean up their act against the Colts. With fresh legs and a new focus, the Chiefs do NOT have three turnovers or give up five sacks like they did last time and they break a 20-year playoff victory drought.

Score: Chiefs – 27, Colts - 16.

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