The undefeated Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Colts in Indianapolis Sunday afternoon as they try to show the rest of the league that their 3-0 record isn’t a fluke.
The Colts are trying to rebound from a last second loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and hoping to avoid falling three games back in the AFC South.
Both teams are coming off impressive offensive performances, but it’s the Chiefs defense that is riding high after a great showing against the San Francisco 49ers and they are allowing less than 13 points per game.
Here are the three players from each team that you will need to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Jamaal Charles
The Colts are one of the worst teams in the league against the run, which will bring them a heavy dose of both Charles and Thomas Jones. We have grown accustomed to seeing Charles break the big play, but against Indianapolis he will be given an even more important task: hold onto the football.
Even though he hasn’t lost a fumble since Week 13 of last season, one of the reasons Todd Haley prefers Jones over Charles is that the veteran is known for being sure handed. With the heaviest work load he has seen all year likely on tap, Charles will get to show that he can handle the dirty work as well taking delivering the flash.
Defense: Javier Arenas
Peyton Manning and the Colts offense will spread the ball around more than any team the Chiefs defense has or will see. That means no matter how well Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr play, it won’t mean anything if the rookie Arenas isn’t ready to play on Sunday.
Coming off an ankle injury he suffered against the 49ers, Arenas will get plenty of chances to prove he’s healthy as he should spend the most time on defense as he has all season.
Romeo Crennel will have to pick his spots very carefully when it comes to blitzing and with Arenas being the best of the Chiefs defensive backs on stunts, that puts him in an even brighter spotlight.
Special Teams: Dexter McCluster
Last week against San Francisco, McCluster and Arenas split the returning duties 50/50. With Arenas looking at a huge defensive workload, look for that number to be much closer to 80/20 in favor of McCluster.
Over the first three games of the season, McCluster has only returned three kickoffs and none have gone for more than 20 yards. If he is handed the extra reps on special teams, he could very well steal more returns from Arenas going forward this season.
On the heels of his impressive catch-and-run TD last week, it’s hard to imagine, but it’s possible that handling the bulk of return duties could mean even less touches on offense than he is used to. We have seen how important it is to win the field position battle and the best way for Haley to do that is to make sure his primary returner is fresh.
Offense: Peyton Manning
This is the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts… perhaps you’ve heard of him?
There are no secrets when it comes to the Colts offense. It all starts and ends with what No. 18 brings to the table. We all know how impressive his resume is and he’s currently on pace for his biggest season yet. Plus, Manning is coming off of a game in which he threw for 352 yards and he has already had a 400+ yard game this season.
Manning is the most difficult quarterback in the league to blitz against because he will find where the player is coming from and attack that weakness. He is, however, human and can be sacked. After only being taken down 10 times all of last year, the Colts offensive line has already allowed 4 sacks early on in 2010.
The Chiefs defense won’t be able to rattle Manning, but if they can keep his feet moving without being forced to blitz much, they will keep the score at a reasonable level.
Defense: DaJuan Morgan
The former Chiefs safety is far from the most important player on the Colts defense, but that doesn’t mean he won’t play a huge role on Sunday. With both Bob Sanders and his replacement Melvin Bullitt both out for the year, the Colts are once again searching for a starting strong safety. That person could be Morgan, Brandon King or even Aaron Francisco, a recently signed veteran.
The Colts have the second worst rushing defense in the league while the Chiefs are bringing in the third best rushing attack. That means the Colts will need a lot of help from whoever Sanders’ replacement is, be it Morgan or anyone else.
Special Teams: Kenny Moore
Rarely does a player go from signing on Tuesday to starting on Sunday, but that’s exactly where Moore currently finds himself.
He was without a team Monday, but after the Colts lost their return man — Devin Moore — for the season, Indianapolis signed the speedy third year wide receiver to handle return duties. While head coach Jim Caldwell has yet to officially designate Moore as his new kick returner, all signs point to that being the plan Sunday.