This might be as good a chance to get that first win of 2011 as the Indianapolis Colts might get in this second quarter of the NFL season.
The Colts (0-4) welcome the similarly struggling Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) to Lucas Oil Stadium at 1 p.m. today in search of a victory that has eluded them thus far this season.
There are several reasons why Indy can come out on top in this battle of division cellar dwellers who both won their divisions in 2010 (how quickly things change in the NFL).
First of all, the Colts have come so achingly close to notching wins against quality opponents. Still fresh on the minds of many Colts fans is the gritty effort in a 23-20 loss to the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The defense swarmed to the ball most of then ight during that contest, and Curtis Painter led a touchdown drive late to tie the game before Ben Roethlisberger did what he does best, putting the game on ice for Pittsburgh.
The team put up a similar fight last Monday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, losing 24-17. Pierre Garcon turned a pair of Painter passes into long runs for touchdowns, and the team didn’t fold until Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount capped off his 127-yard evening with the dagger touchdown.
What could hurt the Colts today against Kansas City is the amount of injuries the team accumulated against the Buccaneers. Defensive tackle Eric Foster, who was lost for the season after dislocating his ankle last Monday, leaves Indy minus one of its more explosive defensive linemen, and if rookie DT Drake Nevis — he did not practice all week — is unable to go against the Chiefs, the Colts’ defensive line becomes severely depleted.
The Colts also will be without their top two left tackle options — Anthony Castonzo injured his ankle against Tampa Bay, and fellow rookie Ben Ijalana suffered a season-ending knee injury in his place. With Ryan Diem uncertain, the Colts could be looking at starting Jeff Linkenbach at left tackle and Mike Tepper at right tackle. That’s very troubling knowing Tamba Hali is on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
I’ll be impressed if the Colts’ offensive line can contain Hali, who has four sacks on the season and is the least heralded elite pass rusher in the NFL, Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian said on his weekly TV show.
The Chiefs have plenty of talent across the board on defesne, as well. Cornerback Brandon Flowers is a promising young player, and the defensive line has benefited nicely from the addition of veterna nose tackle Kelly Gregg.
Offensively, however, the Chiefs have struggled to move the ball just as the Colts have. With their top running back, Jamaal Charles, out for the season, Kansas City will have to rely heavily on the suspect arm of quarterback Matt Cassel. If Cassel can get the ball to wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin, they are capable of big plays.
It’s interesting that Painter and Cassel are going at it today. I’ve always compared the much-maligned Painter’s situation to that of Cassel’s in New England before he led the Patriots to 11 wins in relief of Tom Brady in 2008. I’ve followed that by saying Painter’s arm is much stronger than Cassel’s, which it is. If Painter can manage the game as he has done while he has played this season — and stay upright behind that offensive line — he has a nice chance to propel the Colts to their first win. Keeping special teamer Dexter McCluster at bay will help as well.Follow paulmbanks