INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts had a nine-game jump from 2-14 in 2012 to reach the Wild Card playoffs last year.
That was where the season ended, but Indianapolis replicated the 11-5 mark again this year and is back on the same stage.
Saturday’s opponent, Kansas City, has made that same jump from 2-14 to 11-5 and like the Colts of last year finished second in its division and hits the road for the playoffs.
Indianapolis wants to make this the end of the road for the Chiefs and hopes this is the first of four steps that lead to the ultimate goal.
Three straight years the Super Bowl champion has been a Wild Card winner. Last year, Baltimore topped the Colts to turn the hat trick.
The Colts want to become the 10th Wild Card winner to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. They were the fifth to do it in 2006, when their first step came at home against the Chiefs, and here are SEVEN VICTORY KEYS:
TIGHT-FISTED – In 2013, there were seven teams with turnover ratios at plus-10 or better. Six of those seven teams are in the playoffs. Ten of the 12 playoff teams have positive or neutral ratios, and the only two on the negative side (Green Bay, San Diego) are the lone participants without 10-plus wins. It’s simple, ball security equals success. The Colts and Chiefs met two weeks ago tied for the NFL lead for the fewest turnovers (14). Indianapolis wrestled the ball away four times in a 16-point win. Kansas City (plus-18) and the Colts (plus-13) top the AFC with turnover success. This game again should come down to which team plays to its strength.
GET UP, STAY UP – The last two home games have featured game-opening touchdown drives by an offense that executed quickly with some up-tempo mixed in with the run. A team that endured a six-game stretch of first-half woes in November and early December snapped out of it late, and Indianapolis enjoyed 20-3 halftime leads over Houston and Jacksonville because of early execution. Leading for 54 and 55 minutes of those games and never trailing set so many other positive things in motion, including a juiced stadium crowd. That was a blueprint that led to 22- and 20-point wins and would be a great formula against a Chiefs team that can control the ball if it is executing.
YO, VINNY – In a league where almost half the games this year were decided by seven points or less and where more than one-fourth were decided by three points or less, the Colts, who are 14-2 under Pagano in games decided by seven points or less (5-1 in 2013) go to battle with
STAY WHO YOU ARE – Observers around the team have noticed how calm and professional players are this week. It has been a three-week revival after players gathered together in a bonding session with accountability as the crux of the meeting. Results have followed, along with confidence and unity of purpose. It is evident, and Pagano said yesterday that along with playing soundly that some fun must be had. This is not a specific thing to quantify, but in crunch times intangibles can come into play. Whatever ‘it’ has been for the Colts for the past three weeks, have ‘it’ on Saturday.
QUOTE TO NOTE (
“(You) win and keep winning. That’s what it’ll do for us. If we can protect the ball and take the ball away, that most definitely puts some W’s in the column, and we’ll keep it going.”