The keys to Chiefs vs. Colts

Scouting thoughts on Kansas City and Indianapolis ahead of their matchup

Updated: January 2, 2014, 10:55 AM ET
By Gary Horton | ESPN Insider

ColtsJamie Squire/Getty ImagesThe Colts won a Week 16 meeting at Kansas City. Will the playoff result be any different?

To preview the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs, we tasked ESPN Insider's Gary Horton with reviewing the film on the teams involved. In this edition, he provides his keys to the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, including one big play that could change the game.

Previews: PHI-NO | SF-GBSD-CINKC-IND

At first glance, this looks like a game between two teams headed in opposite directions. After lacking an identity for much of the season, the Colts enter the postseason with three straight wins thanks to a newfound confidence and some balance beyond Andrew Luck's arm. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are coming off a disappointing two-game losing streak and have looked like a different team late in the season (2-5) than they did during their surprising 9-0 start.

In Week 16, the Colts beat the Chiefs 23-7 in Kansas City. Indy played a mistake-free game, while the Chiefs were uncharacteristically sloppy with turnovers, penalties and mental mistakes. However, a healthy and rested team coached by Andy Reid makes this a very interesting game.

Can Kansas City prevail in Indianapolis on Saturday?


Chiefs' offense

This is a run-first offense by design featuring Jamaal Charles and a low-risk passing game that prioritizes taking care of the football. We see a zone-blocking scheme up front with some stretch plays, misdirection and draws. In the passing game, the backs are good outlet receivers, and the screen pass has become a huge part of this offense, with good second-level blocking and terrific production by Charles and Dexter McCluster.

When the Chiefs throw to their wide receivers, they like crossing routes and don't take a lot of high-risk throws. This is a classic short-passing game with screens, play-action and yards after the catch. Indy will play a lot of coverage schemes that will keep its defenders facing the line of scrimmage, which is a huge advantage versus the screen and creative zone runs. The Chiefs' offense realizes that a punt is not a bad outcome, and it will play the field-position game.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.