How things could go for the Chiefs against the Colts

The Colts and Chiefs meet this weekend after very different starts, but there are only a couple ways this game can realistically work out.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts enter Sunday’s divisional matchup from two very different directions to start the 2022 season. Indianapolis will limp into its home opener, literally and figuratively, after opening the season with two straight division games. away against traditionally humble opponents. Week 1 saw the Colts kiss their divisional sister in a disappointing 20-20 tie with the Houston Texans. They followed up that Game 1 flop with another humiliating outing in Jacksonville, falling 24-0 to a Jags team trying to avoid a third. consecutive season of having the first overall pick in the draft.

The loss to Jacksonville likely opened up some fresh wounds for the Colts, who also lost at Jacksonville in Week 18 of the 2021 season, a loss that eliminated Indianapolis from playoff contention.

The Chiefs, by contrast, are coming off a high-flying season opener against the Arizona Cardinals that saw them put up 44 points, 488 yards of offense and 5 touchdown passes from Patrick Mahomes. They followed this up with a big win early in the season over their division rival Los Angeles Chargers to take their tally for the season to 2-0 heading into a game that, at the start of the season, looked like it would pose a unique test and daunting. the Colts in Indianapolis.

The difference two weeks can make in public opinion of a team and an NFL matchup is staggering. So much of how we operate, react and analyze as fans and as media lies in the here and now. This offseason it almost seemed like we didn’t even need to play games on the field in September, because the roster additions of certain teams all but ensured those teams would be unbeatable this season. Then we go into week 1 and immediately have to power up the rankings and make predictions after watching 60 minutes (in one case 75 minutes) of football on the pitch. Now, after only 11.8% of the regular season was through after the Week 2 results were in, we have about half the league facing do-or-die situations next weekend.

As much as I hate to admit it, the Colts are in that territory. The addition of Matt Ryan this offseason, coupled with high expectations for a backfield led by 2021 Offensive Player of the Year Jonathan Taylor and an offensive line led by the highest-paid shooting guard in football Quinten Nelson, many expected Indianapolis to double the corner and be the favorite in the AFC South and potentially make a big push in the AFC playoffs. While that could still happen, they need something, really anything, to start breaking through.

The Colts have started the year without All Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard, who has been out recovering from offseason back surgery, taking much of the bite out of the Colts’ defense. Promising rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce will miss Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, and he could also be without wide receiver Michael Pittman, Jr, who sat out against the Jags making the Colts’ passing attack almost useless. But, to be fair, so was his running game. Matt Ryan threw 3 interceptions in a 16-for-30 performance and Jonathan Taylor rushed for 54 yards on 9 carriers as the Jags held the ball for more than 38 of the game’s 60 minutes.

Being dominated by a quarterback like Trevor Lawrence and a team like Jacksonville doesn’t bode well for a team headed for a matchup with a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes and a team like the suddenly revamped Chiefs, but we can’t sit back. here and pretend like life is all sunshine and rainbows in the Kingdom, either. The Chiefs will obviously be without rookie corner Trent McDuffie once again. His absence was glaring against the Chargers as Rashad Fenton was exposed multiple times in the first half. The Chiefs are also likely to be without third-year linebacker Willie Gay, Jr. Gay was suspended 4 games by the NFL on Monday for his role in a domestic violence investigation that led to his being charged with a misdemeanor in January. past. The status of Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker is also unknown heading into Sunday’s game.

We know the expectations for both of them for 2022. We know what both teams have done with their 2 chances so far this season. But what does that mean? At this point, nothing.

I was listening to Arrowhead Addict’s postgame capsule after the Chargers game and heard our very own Matt Verderame say something that has been ringing in my ears for 4 days: In an NFL season, it doesn’t matter what you did or who you won (or lost) last week. There are 17 individual battles that define the war that is an entire NFL season for each franchise. Losing one week one way rarely dictates your performance the next week, and the same can be said for winning.

Look, the Colts could storm out and punch the Chiefs in the face. That could happen. The Chiefs could come out and set the sky on fire with their passing attack like they did against Arizona. That could easily happen. This could be a sloppy game where both quarterbacks turn the ball over and both teams run on a treadmill until an unexpected hero decides to make a play and turn the tide. Any way you look at it, we’re going to have two types of games that we could see on Sunday.

The first option: a festival of ugly and sloppy races in which both teams fight to get to 20 in points. The second? A one-sided blowout in which one team absolutely outclasses the other, possibly before we even reach the halftime break.

I have reduced these two types of game results to 3 results that can be obtained. This may seem obvious at this point, and I know I’m going against my “you can’t predict the future by looking at the past” but you can certainly spot trends and identify strengths and weaknesses.

Outcome 1: Colts win a close game after dominating the running game

We all know how we got here. Jonathan Taylor looked like himself in Week 1 rushing for over 130 yards and a touchdown against the Texans. Michael Pittman, Jr had over 120 receiving yards and a touchdown. So why couldn’t the Colts do much offensively against the Texans? Well Matt Ryan turned the ball over twice and dropped it 4 times total and couldn’t put it down none The rhythm develops for the Colts in the first half.

If Ryan can take care of the ball and the Colts get their running game going early, dictating the physicality of this game from the start, the Chiefs’ defense could experience the proverbial first “punch in the mouth” of the 2022 season. Very well the feeling of going to Nashville and watching the Titans beat the Chiefs to a pulp last year, this game could have a similar feel if Chris Jones and the Chiefs defense went in expecting the Colts to give up.

Quinten Nelson and the Colts’ offensive line are likely to come out aggressive after an embarrassing effort in Jacksonville. This unit could cause problems for a Chiefs defense that will fill the void left by Willie Gay with a rookie in Leo Chenal and likely a predominant special in Elijah Lee or Darius Harris.

Outcome 2: The Chiefs hold on to a close road win

Everything I said right on top of this? Same thing, except in this scenario Indianapolis lets the Chiefs get too close. But it is not easy.

The Chiefs start sloppy. The script for the first 15 is a dud, and the offense can’t make things work as it tries to force the issue through the air. We feel like we’re looking at the second half of the AFC Championship against the Bengals again.

Yet while the Colts set up the run essentially every week because that’s all they can do, KC does the same thing behind a game offensive line and running back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire who looks like he’s out to prove something. in 2022.

As we’ve learned over the last 4 seasons, if you let Patrick Mahomes get the ball late in games that are within a score, which has been almost every Chiefs game in the Mahomes era, he’s likely to make you pay. . Even if he starts slow, he can find a way to beat you late.

For the sake of historical accuracy, let’s say the Chiefs drive down the field late against the Colts, get a free play when Deforrest Buckner jumps offside during a hard Mahomes count that erases a Kenny Moore free-play pick, and they find Travis Kelce for a free play. late game closing touchdown.

Outcome 3: The Chiefs stay the course and dominate the Colts

This is the most favorable and most likely, in my opinion. Even though Patrick Mahomes didn’t play his best game against the Chargers, he still had 235 passing yards on 68.6% completion and 2 touchdowns. Yeah, that’s a bad game for Patrick Mahomes. And yes, that is amazing.

The astronomical expectations for the Chiefs wore off a bit before 2022 for a number of reasons, but the explosion of the gates has started the Chiefs and Mahomes hype train moving forward once again in 2022. With an offense that is deep in all areas. and a running game that appears to be becoming a force almost equal to a vaunted passing attack, the Chiefs appear to be on a collision course with another deep playoff run.

The absence of Shaquille Leonard as the brains and heart of the Colts defense essentially makes the unit about as useful as a triggerless weapon against a Chiefs offense that has the ability to pick Indy apart from every angle of the game. offensive.

Defensively, the Chiefs will need a major effort from Chenal, Nick Bolton and the entire front 4 rotation to make this happen. Whatever they do defensively, they can’t let Willie Gay’s expected absence take away from the effectiveness they’ve found to stop the race so far in 2022. This will be a huge test not just for the players, but for the defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, linebackers coach Brendan Daly, and even defensive line coach Joe Cullen.

No one knows how this one will play out just yet, but I bet we can count on one of the above scripts to play on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

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