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COLUMN

Colts still a long shot for AFC's No.2 seed

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1

It would take an unlikely win at Kansas City first

Friday, December 20, 2013 - 3:28 am

There's one problem with the final two-week scenario that would move the Indianapolis Colts up to the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Actually, there are two problems, but only one is within the Colts' control.

The uncontrollable problem: The Colts need the Baltimore Ravens to win at home against the New England Patriots this week and at the Cincinnati Bengals next week. That still seems to be a tall task, since neither team is coached by Jim Schwartz. But if the Ravens and the Colts both win their last two games, Indy lands the No. 2 spot and a first-round playoff bye.

That would be a stunning turn of events for a Colts team that lost by 30 points at home to the St. Louis Rams.

“We're the fourth seed (today),” Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. “We win out and things shake out the way we hope it does, we could potentially be a two seed. So, control what we can and just try to get these two wins.”

Here's the Colts' controllable problem: They have to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday.

That could be a deal breaker, especially since this is the loss week in the Colts' win/loss/win/loss pattern now entering its eighth popular week.

Plus, the Chiefs are pretty good.

Kansas City has improved from 2-14 a year ago to 11-3 this season, led by rejuvenated former Eagles coach Andy Reid and discarded former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. The real jewel, at least offensively, is running back Jamaal Charles, who epitomizes the idea of a dual-threat player.

Charles leads the Chiefs in rushing (1,181 yards, 4.8 per carry) and receiving (65 catches, 655 yards, seven touchdowns).

“He's a rare, rare athlete,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “A combination of speed and power and vision.”

Charles rushed 22 times for 226 yards against the Colts last season, so they know he'll be coming at them. Whether they have the ability to slow him down is open for debate. The Colts have been erratic in slowing the run this season, and Charles' ability to catch passes out of the backfield and use his open-field skills makes him even more challenging.

“You cannot lose track of him at any down because he can make you pay running the ball, passing the ball, whatever the case may be,” Mathis said. “He can make you pay.”

Another issue for the Colts in facing the Chiefs is that there's a possibility the teams will meet again in a first-round playoff game in Indianapolis on the first weekend in January. The AFC race is muddled. If the Colts don't rise to the No. 2 spot, they could face a number of teams, including the Dolphins or, in one scenario, the Bengals.

“Certainly we know if Baltimore wins out, (we) can be No. 2 if we win out,” Pagano said. “I guess there's a scenario where you could get even higher than that.”

For the Colts to reach the No. 1 seed, they'd need the Denver Broncos to lose at Houston and at Oakland. That could happen if the Broncos start using Matt Prater at quarterback.

Colts vs. Chiefs, Part II, seems most likely.

“I'm not quite sure of all the scenarios and what happens and where,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. “I think you're sort of aware of it, about the different possibilities. That takes a backseat to this game this week and what it means.”

Here's what this week's game means: The Colts must play well on the road, against a good team, with one of the best coaches in the game running the show for Kansas City.

The Chiefs defense hasn't been quite as good as it was the first half of the season, but their offense has picked up the pace. The Colts remain unpredictable from week to week.

It's possible Indy is primed for a surprising finish and an unexpected high seed. More likely, this week will be an early preview of their first-round playoff game. No more, no less.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.