Chuck Pagano doesn’t have to make his Indianapolis Colts players aware of the playoff implications surrounding the team’s road game at Kansas City on Sunday.
Much has been made of the Colts’ chances of moving up from their current position as the No. 4 seed to perhaps as high as the No. 2 overall in the AFC post-season format.
Win their final two regular season games and they have a chance to get a bye for the first week of the playoffs. But a loss to the Chiefs this week could wind up being an opportunity missed.
“They understand [the playoff seeing implications]. We talked about it. Again, it’s one game of the time. Stick to the process. But, again, we’ve got a young football team. I’m not certain that they all knew, exactly, the ramifications looking forward,” the Colts head coach pointed out Wednesday.
But first things first. Indianapolis will have a tough battle against Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“We’ll never look past anybody, obviously, but if we take care of business, we don’t have to stay at number four [seed]. We can go as high as who knows if a lot of things happen [in other games around the league],” Pagano said.
“Certainly we know if Baltimore wins out, [Indianapolis] can be the number two [seed] if we win out. I guess there’s a scenario where you could get even higher than that. But, again, our total focus – [and] our guys know it, they understand it – but our total focus is on just preparing this week and try to play the best we can and go win the football game.”
The Chiefs (11-3) have been a remarkable story this year under first-year head coach Andy Reid. Kansas City was 2-14 a year ago but are now locked in a tough AFC West race with Denver for the division championship.
“I think they’ve got a great coach, got a great staff, got good players. Obviously [Reid] brought them together,” Pagano said, adding that the biggest difference between the Chiefs in 2012 to this season is how well they are forcing turnovers.
“I think the biggest tell, other than them playing good football in all three phases consistently to this point, is that if you look at them last year at this time, I think they were a minus 27 in turnover margin. They are a plus 21 right now. It’s easy for all of us to figure out why you go from 2-14 to 11-3.”
For Indianapolis to win, their biggest objective defensively will be trying to find a way to slow down multi-talented Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.
“He’s everything. He drives the bus. Quarterback [Alex Smith] is the guy, but everything goes through [Charles]. As he goes, they go,” the Indianapolis coach said.
“[He’s got] 1,800-plus yards, second in the National Football League from scrimmage this year. Eighteen touchdowns, number one in the NFL. We saw what he did last year, 195 yards receiving. The guy is first and foremost public enemy No. 1. We got to do a great job and we better know where he’s at all times”
Should the Colts remember Charles from a year ago? Yes. He rushed 22 times for 226 yards and one touchdown, which came on an 86-yard run. Indianapolis won the game 20-13 but had to withstand a furious second-half rally by Kansas City.
So far this year he has rushed for 1,181 yards and 11 touchdowns while also catching 65 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns
“He’s a rare, rare athlete. A combination of speed and power and vision,” Pagano said. “The numbers speak for themselves and certainly we know what this guy’s capable of and what he did last year. He’s a tough kid and he’s a special, special talent. Rare player.”
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• Playoff seeding scenario — In order for the Colts to earn the AFC’s No. 2 seed, they’ll need to to win Sunday at Kansas City. They’ll also have to win again next week in the team’s regular-season finale against Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium coupled with wins by the Baltimore Ravens over New England and Cincinnati.
If Indianapolis were to win its final two regular-season games, the team would match last year’s 11-5 record. A Patriots loss to the Buffalo Bills in the final week of the regular season would give the Colts the No. 2 seed outright. Should New England beat the Bills but lose to the Ravens, Indianapolis would win the tiebreaker based on a better conference record.
• Roster moves — The Colts now have 14 players on injured reserve, which ties for the most in the league.
Inside linebacker Pat Angerer was added to the list on Tuesday and is expected to undergo knee surgery soon. Angerer has battled a gimpy knee since the start of training camp but tried to practice and play with the issue.
It was finally decided to shut Angerer down and have him undergo the medical procedure. The decision might also have ended his NFL career in Indianapolis. Angerer’s contract expires at the end of the current season.
“We ended up placing Pat on [injured reserve]. Pat was battling as you know and as was mentioned yesterday. Fighting through the knee thing. Gutting it up. As was mentioned, wasn’t making the progress that he wanted to and we needed to see,” the Colts coach said.
“Really in the best interest for Pat, long term, best thing to do was go ahead and put him on IR and let him get that knee fixed. That’s what we did.
In other roster moves, the Colts released fullback Robert Hughes from the practice squad and added linebacker Darin Drakeford to the practice squad. Drakeford has spent time with Kansas City and the New York Giants practice squads this year. He was originally signed by the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent last spring.
Running back Shaun Draughn has been added to the active roster. Draughn has previously played with Washington, Kansas City and Baltimore. His addition to the active roster helps to supplement the Colts depth at running back.
“We ended up signing Shaun Draughn to give us some depth at the running back position. Special teams-wise, he was in Kansas City a year ago with coach Mac [special teams coordinator Tom McMahon], our special teams coach. So there’s some familiarity there. Give us a little lift there,” Pagano said.
• Injury list — Sitting out Wednesday’s practice were defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot), offensive guard Jeff Linkenbach (quad), fullback Stanley Havili (knee), safety Sergio Brown (groin), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (rest), rookie outside linebacker Daniel Adongo (hamstring), and rookie offensive guard Hugh Thornton (neck).
Center Samson Satele (elbow) saw light work. Wide receiver Griff Whalen (strained calf), running back Donald Brown (stinger), cornerback Greg Toler (groin) and wide receiver LaVon Brazill (foot) all fully practiced. Toler has not played or fully practiced since he was hurt against Denver on Oct. 20.
Satele sat out the Houston game and was replaced by offensive guard Mike McGlynn, who has played two other games at center. Pagano wouldn’t say if Satele will return to center if cleared to play against the Chiefs.
“We’ll do what’s best for the team and what gives us the best opportunity to win the game,” he voiced.
• Sanford connection — Indiana State head football coach Mike Sanford was an assistant coach at Utah when Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith played at the school.
Sanford was Utah’s offensive coordinator under then head coach Urban Meyer. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is a Brigham Young graduate. Utah and BYU are major in-state rivals.
“I knew a little bit about [Smith] from college. He went to Utah. This is almost sacrilegious. But I’m a BYU guy, he’s a Utah guy. They don’t mesh normally. But it works here. His head coach was a teammate of mine. Urban Meyer was his head coach, but Kyle Whittingham was the defensive coordinator who is now the head coach there. Kyle and I were teammates,” Reid said Wednesday in a teleconference.
“I kind of had the inside scoop. I’m friends with Urban and I’m real close with Kyle. I knew I wouldn’t have a shot at him [when he was the head coach with the Philadelphia Eagles]. I didn’t need him at the time. I had a great quarterback [Donovan McNabb] at that time. But I knew the guy would be great in this offense from the sounds of it. So, I was lucky enough where when [Chiefs general manager] John Dorsey was hired here, he went ahead and made the trade and brought [Smith] here.”