A couple of weeks ago this game looked like it would have little relevance to any playoff seeding and that we would see this rematch in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs. However, after last weekend the Kansas City Chiefs need one Denver Broncos loss to go from the fifth seed to the first seed. The Indianapolis Colts looked like they had little chance to improve on the fourth seed after they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, however after the Bengals lost last week, the Colts have a chance at getting the third and not facing the runner up of the AFC West in the first round of the playoffs.
After starting the season as a strong defensive unit, the Chiefs have now managed to turn into the Broncos offensive force (admittedly against poor defenses) scoring 30+ points in three of the last four weeks including the Jamal Charles onslaught against the Oakland Raiders last week.
Alex Smith vs Colts Defense
Alex Smith is a QB who prefers to take safe choices rather than trying to stretch a defense with a deep pass. Smith has the lowest Average Depth of Target at 6.9 yards for QBs that have taken 25% of snaps this season. Last week against the Raiders, smith produced a perfect QB Rating of 158.3, however, this was based on 77.7% of his yards coming after the catch. Charles gained most of Smith’s yards with 175 YAC compared to Smith’s 287 passing yards. Though Smith is known as a game manager, it is somewhat unfair to call Smith a total game manager. He is capable of attempting to pass the ball deep. In week 13 against the Broncos, Smith attempted 9 passes over 20 yards.
A lot of what Smith does do well is not forcing the ball and that is not a bad trait to have when you play good defense. However, his limitations are held back by the lack of WRs. Over the season the Chiefs WRs have dropped 35 passes this season, which is 5th most for any QB. If the Chiefs WRs (outside of Dwayne Bowe) can improve their play to just average it could propel the Chiefs to a good playoff run with the improved play that Smith has shown the last few weeks.
Colts’ Run Game vs Chiefs Front 3
As we all know the Colts have been trying to find a RB that will gain yards. However, the Colts average 4.4 yards per carry. Every RB apart from Trent Richardson are above 4 yards per carry, Donald Brown leads the RBs with 5.3 yards per carry. However, even with this surprising average the offensive line has struggled to open up holes. The only player who has played 200 + snaps who has a positive grade in run blocking is Anothony Castonzo. Samson Satele has been a disaster in the run game for the Colts having the 2nd wort run-blocking grade for all Centers. Richardson is known as a running back that can break tackles, but he has been unable to take his 26 missed tackles and turn them into yards after contact. He is only averaging 1.89 yards after contact, that puts him just above Chris Johnson and Danny Woodhead. On the other hand Brown has the 4th highest Elusive Rating at 66.7, to go with his 3.24 yards after contact.
The Colts’ offensive line will be up against a front-7 where six of the seven starting players have a grade of +3.5 or higher. The only exception is Derrick Johnson, who has a -0.2 run blocking grade. The Colts will have a tough time against the defensive line of the Chiefs, all three starters grade above +13.5 in run defense, capped off with the play of Mike Devito, who is currently the fourth-highest graded 3-4 DE. Devito is a player who never gets the attention his play produces, due to fact he doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, however, over the past five season he has produced a grade above +10.0 in run defense each season.
The starting cornerbacks for the Chiefs will be Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith, with Marcus Cooper coming on when the Chiefs play their 2-3-6 personnel (Chiefs play 2-3-6, 46% of the time). Flowers is known as one of the better cornerbacks in the league, but this season has been easily the worst since his rookie campaign. This season he has been targeted every 5.1 snaps and has allowed a career high in yardage at 818. Part of the problem could be the fact that he is being used to cover the slot, a job that he has never been asked to do until this season. Sean Smith’s last season is very similar to the one he is having this year. He started the season well, looking like he is rounding into a player that his physical skill set has hinted at. However, he has had a midseason drop off. In the past four weeks Smith’s overall grade has been a -5.7, compared to the first six weeks of the season where he had a grade of +7.7.
Before the Chiefs lost their first game in week 11 against the Broncos the secondary for the Chiefs was playing very well, in particular the play of Marcus Cooper was drawing rave reviews. Since week 11 Cooper has graded below -2.0 in pass coverage four out of the five games. In the first 11 weeks of the season Cooper was allowing a reception every 10.5 snaps, the past five weeks he has allowed a catch every 6.1 snaps. If the Chiefs can get the CBs to play at their best level it will be tough for the Colts WRs to have much room to make plays.
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