The Kansas City Chiefs will hit the road to take on the Indianapolis Colts Sunday in search of their second victory of the season.
Following two terrible losses to the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions to start the season, the Chiefs looked better in a loss to the San Diego Chargers before finally breaking through against the Minnesota Vikings last week in Kansas City. Now they will try to keep the Colts winless the way they did to the Vikings.
Despite not yet winning a game in the absence of Peyton Manning, the Colts have not been an easy out. Indianapolis was blown out in Week 1 against the Texans by 27 points, but followed that up with three losses by a total of 18 points.
A loss to the Colts would push the Chiefs right back into the chase for Andrew Luck with tough games with the Raiders and Chargers on deck.
Here are three players from each team to keep your eyes on.
Which Cassel will show up on Sunday? The ineffective one that we saw for most of the first four games or the fiery leader that was around for most of 2010 and the second half of the win over the Vikings?
The Chiefs fortunes against the Colts and going forward will depend on the answer to that question. If Cassel is unable to regain the form he showed during his Pro Bowl season it won’t matter much who the team has healthy, this season will have no chance to turn around. However, if Cassel can show he just got off to a slow start, the offense can open up the playbook and in turn eventually get back to an effective running game.
Defense: Wallace Gilberry
Tamba Hali has been a beast for the Chiefs defense once again this season, but unfortunately has once again not received any help rushing the passer. Kansas City’s second leading pass rusher last year was Gilberry, who was able to record seven sacks, but he has only gotten to the quarterback once so far in 2011.
The Colts are dealing with multiple injuries along their offensive line, likely forcing them to double team Hali in most passing situation to try and compensate for losing their left tackle. With even more attention than normal being shifted towards the AFC’s best pass rusher, there’s no better time for Gilberry to step up and deliver for the Chiefs.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
Like Cassel, the Chiefs kicker rebounded from a lackluster start of the season with a great performance against the Vikings. Succop finished a perfect 5-for-5 on field goal attempts, including two over 50 yards.
Offense: Pierre Garcon
The Colts nearly beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week thanks to big plays from first-time starting QB Curtis Painer to Garcon. The fourth-year receiver only caught two passes in that game, but they were both touchdowns of 87 and 59 yards, respectively.
With Reggie Wayne still garnering the most attention from opposing defenses, Painter will once again look to Garcon to try and break things open. Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr better be ready to run with Garcon.
Defense: Robert Mathis
When it comes to the Colts defense you have to pick your poison between Mathis and Dwight Freeney. Both players have to be accounted for on every play if you plan on keeping the quarterback upright.
Mathis has had at least one sack in three of the four Colts games, including last week against Josh Freeman and the Bucs. He also had four tackles against an improving Bucs offense and along with Freeney will give tackles Branden Albert and Barry Richardson headaches all day long.
Special Teams: Pat McAfee
Only three punters have kicked the ball more often than McAfee thanks to a struggling Colts offense.
His 46.3 average is 12th best in the league, but he does give returners the chance to do some damage. McAfee and the coverage unit have already allowed one punt return touchdown and their net average is one of the worst in the league.
As a fun side note, McAfee is the Colts actual “liquored up” kicker.