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Defensive Burning Questions heading into the Playoffs

Intro: With the Colts regular season now complete, here’s a look at some burning questions at the defensive position groups heading into January.





INDIANAPOLIS –Now it's onto the defensive side of the football for a group that is carrying some serious momentum into the month of January.

Some injuries flared up in Week 17, but the unit appears to be pretty healthy heading into the playoffs.

Here's a look at some burning questions at each defensive positional group…

Can the Colts defensive line regain its health and stuff the run?

Right out of the gate, the Colts will face the best running back in the AFC.

Cory Redding (shoulder) and Ricky Jean Francois (foot) appeared to be back at practice yesterday and their health will be crucial in stopping Charles, who admitted on the Indianapolis conference call that if you stop the run, you stop the Chiefs.

Of the top 10 rushers in the NFL, only two reside in the AFC but it's Charles 5.0 yards per carry that has the Colts on high alert this week.

Fili Moala, Ricardo Mathews and Josh Chapman filled in admirably last week and no matter the health of the starters up front, the Colts depth will be needed to neutralize one of the game's most electric players.

Will the Colts linebackers continue their exceptional play come postseason?

The Colts have one of, if not the, leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year in Robert Mathis (19.5 sacks, 21 quarterback hurries and eight forced fumbles).

But it's what the other Colts linebackers have done lately that has been critical to the defensive turnaround.

Jerrell Freeman turned in a Pro Bowl type year and has been a game wrecker with 5.5 sacks while leading all inside linebackers with eight forced turnovers.

Next to Freeman, rookie Josh McNary has seen his reps increase significantly and has contributed with quarterback hurries while finding a role on passing downs.

Opposite Mathis, Erik Walden has quietly had a solid year for the Colts defense. Walden, who has seven games of playoff experience, has nine quarterback hurries and three sacks in 2013.Is the Colts secondary going to have its starting unit together for January?

The Colts top three cornerbacks did not appear to be participating during the media portion of Tuesday's practice.

None of the injuries are serious though and that's critical considering the passing offenses that lie ahead if the Colts can advance past the Wild Card Round.

Darius Butler has resurrected his career with the Colts and led the team with four interceptions and 15 pass deflections on the season.

The safety duo of LaRon Landry and Antoine Bethea has been very steady in the latter part of the season.

Bethea has gotten after the quarterback from a blitzing standpoint and ended the season with two interceptions, the most he has had in a season since 2009.

Will the Colts special teams units be able to control field position in the playoffs?

The Colts return units have transformed into LaVon Brazill at kick returner and Griff Whalen at punt returner.

While Brazill and the kick return unit is still searching to break one, Whalen has the Colts long punt return of 2013 with a 51-=yarder against Houston.

Sergio Brown returned to practice on Tuesday and while Darrius Heyward-Bey was in sweatpants, the Colts could have a lethal gunner duo if those two are healthy on Saturday.

The Chiefs lead the league in field position so Pat McAfee's franchise record of 27 punts inside the 20-yard line will be a weapon.

Adam Vinatieri was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice in 2013 and set a single season career-high with 35 made field goals (35-of-40 on the year).

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