The Kansas City Chiefs are too dangerous for the Indianapolis Colts to start looking ahead to subsequent playoff rounds. Good thing the rest of us operate under no such restrictions.
I'm just going to go ahead and give the Colts a win over the Chiefs. Yes, that's presumptuous. Yes, that's too quick a dismissal of the genius of Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Yes, it's getting way ahead of Saturday's 4:35 p.m. EST playoff kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But can't you see the Denver Broncos ahead?
Can't you see the potential sensory overload of the Colts traveling to Denver to try to derail beloved former favorite son Peyton Manning?
If you think the NFL loved the madness of the last couple hours of playoff positioning on Sunday, imagine how much they'd drool over Peyton vs. Colts, Part II, with playoff legacies (or at least Manning's) on the line?
Here's the catch: It's possible that game won't happen. It's possible the San Diego Chargers, the AFC's No.6 seed by virtue of being the last team holding the sixth-seed hot potato after numerous drops, will knock off the Cincinnati Bengals and end up going to Denver instead.
If the Chargers and Colts win, that would send Indianapolis to New England.
It would be Tom Brady instead of Manning, which means at least Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (who mistakenly called Manning "Tom Brady" the first game) would be mentally prepared.
Joking aside, the Colts have a difficult road to the Super Bowl -- perhaps an impossible one -- no matter where they would go for the division round if they beat the Chiefs.
The Broncos' offense is better than the Patriots, simply because Manning has so many more weapons than Brady. But while New England's defense appears to be stronger than Denver's, the Patriots allow more yards per game and more rushing yards per game. Denver allows more points, no doubt due to the fact they score so much.
If you have to play on the road in the playoffs, and the Colts must if they reach the division round and the AFC Championship (unless the Chargers surprise everyone), then you're going to play in some tough road venues.
New England is no picnic, but if the Colts beat the Chiefs, they would have to prefer to make the trip to Foxboro, Mass., for at least three reasons:
1. The Patriots have an erratic offense susceptible to the pressure Robert Mathis can produce. It consists of Brady and several spare parts.
2. The Colts wouldn't be dealing with the Mile High altitude of Denver.
3. The Colts wouldn't be facing Manning for a second time, when he often draws upon the type of information needed to pick team apart in a rematch..
True, the Colts would likely have to travel to Denver for the AFC Championship if it shakes out that way. Then again, if the Chargers beat the Bengals, they're plenty familiar with the Broncos, having split their pair of games. So who knows what might happen in a third showdown?
As strange as it seems to say, the Colts would have a better chance in the divisional round with a trip to New England. This Colts team does not have the New England past that haunted Manning for several seasons. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has the makeup and ability to run to withstand bitter cold conditions. Say what you will about the Colts' emphasis on the run, but it could come in handy in a cold-weather, points-at-a-premium game in New England. Plus, there's always the old Adam Vinatieri vs. the Patriots drama, with the distinct possibility Vinatieri could deliver another clutch moment or two.
Dare we say Tom Brady's not what he used to be? That's open for debate, but he most certainly does not have major weapons at his disposal.
It seems inevitable that any Colts' playoff run this season must travel through Denver. But it would be a more winnable game coming off a win in New England, with all the pressure on Manning and the top-seeded Broncos.
The Chiefs wouldn't dare mess up this dreaming on Saturday, would they?
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