The 11-3 Kansas City Chiefs will go ahead against the 9-5 Indianapolis Colts today, but without linebacker Justin Houston and left tackle Branden Albert. Houston has been sidelined with a dislocated elbow from the Chiefs’ Week 12 game against the San Diego Chargers, and Albert has been dealing with a hyper-extended knee. Frank Zombo has been filling in for Houston, and Donald Stephenson will play in Albert’s place.
Together with Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali, Houston made the second half of a very lethal duo — the two were setting NFL-wide records for sacks and combined sacks earlier in the season, and Houston’s absence comes at a critical time for Kansas City.
The Chiefs have already clinched for themselves an AFC Wild Card for the playoffs, and they can still win their AFC West championship, so they will be on their best game today. Zombo and Stephenson have done well as fill-ins, but they are not Houston and Albert, and Kansas City will want to set a solid precedent against AFC South champions, the Colts, as they will most likely meet them again in a Wild Card playoff game before long.
If nothing else, the Chiefs will fight to maintain the momentum they picked up with their devastating wins over the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders the past two weeks, after three straight disappointing weeks of losses to division rivals the Denver Broncos and the Chargers.
The most impressive thing about the Chiefs as they bounced back from their three loss weeks has been how solid quarterback Alex Smith has looked in working with running back Jamaal Charles and the rest of the Chiefs’ offense. They scored 11 offensive touchdowns in their games against the Redskins and Raiders, and beat the two teams by a combined 60 points. Smith is completing a higher percentage of his passes and excelling more at getting the ball down the field, and Charles has been stealing the show by going above and beyond for his team. This past week, he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after his stellar performance and five touchdowns against the Raiders.
It’s yet to be seen how the Chiefs will do against the Colts without Houston and Albert, but if nothing else, if the Kansas City offense keeps pushing forward as they have of late, they should give Indianapolis a good run for their money. The Colts have allowed 40+ P/PG in their past two games on the road.
The Chiefs’ defense will need to get their verve back as well, however, as they have allowed more than 425 yards per game in five of their past six matchups, and more than 30 points in three of their past four games. Earlier in the season, the Chiefs’ defense was much less forgiving, keeping teams at 17 P/PG or less.
Either way, it will be an interesting game and prelude of things to come for both teams as the postseason nears.