Manning and The Colts Only Slightly Favored Over Johnson and The Chiefs

Team Page: Kansas City :: Indianapolis

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The Indianapolis Colts know they have a reputation for underachieving in the playoffs. They're hoping to change that this season.

The AFC South-champion Colts open their fifth straight postseason Saturday when they host Larry Johnson and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Oddsmakers have made Indianapolis -7 point spread favorites (NFL Odds) for todays playoff game, the over/under has been set

at 50.5 total points (NFL Sports Books).

The Colts (12-4) have reached the postseason seven of the last eight seasons and have won four straight division titles. However, they were routed 41-0 by the New York Jets in the wild-card round of the 2002 playoffs, lost at New England each of the next two seasons and fell at home to Pittsburgh least season despite starting the year 13-0 and earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

"Yes, you are judged by that," coach Tony Dungy said. "That's how our league is set up, and that's how you win championships, by winning in the playoffs."

Last season, the Colts were the runaway favorites to win the AFC. This season, though, they struggled down the stretch before a 27-22 win over Miami on Sunday wrapped up their first perfect home season since 1958.

"I think we're definitely under the radar," Dungy said. "But that's not really a good thing. Usually when everyone thinks you're playing well, it's because you are."

The most glaring problem this season has been Indianapolis' rushing defense, which ranks last in the NFL with 173.0 yards allowed per game. The Colts were the only team in the league to allow all 16 of their opponents to rush for at least 100 yards and gave up 5.3 yards per carry, breaking the previous franchise record that stood since 1953.

Indianapolis' defense will get tested right away against Johnson, who broke his own team record from a season earlier with 1,789 rushing yards. Johnson also carried the ball 416 times, breaking the NFL mark of 410 set by Atlanta's Jamal Anderson in 1998.

"We've got to get ready for him," Dungy told the Colts' official Web site. "He's a great back. We'll have our hands full."

Johnson ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs' 35-30 victory over Jacksonville on Sunday.

"It just means that I know I can carry the ball through an entire season, and you have something to gauge me by," said Johnson, who admitted he'd rather not run the ball 400 times "every season."

"Now you know you don't have to worry about tiring me out, because you know how far I can go."

Even with Sunday's victory, the Chiefs (9-7) needed a series of improbable results to earn the AFC's sixth and final seed. New England beat Tennessee, Pittsburgh upset Cincinnati and San Francisco shocked Denver to give Kansas City just its second trip to the playoffs in nine seasons.

All three losing teams were playing on their home field and Clark Hunt, the chairman of the Chiefs, even wondered if his father and the team's founder, Lamar Hunt, who died on Dec. 14, had something to do with the results.

"I've had some people in the locker room suggest that maybe my father had a hand in that," the younger Hunt said.

First-year coach Herman Edwards, who also took the Jets to the playoffs in his first season with New York, made it clear Monday that he doesn't want anyone calling his team lucky.

"Let's don't get this thing twisted and think we backed into this deal," he said. "We didn't lose. We won. We won the game we were supposed to win."

The Chiefs have not won a playoff game since Jan. 1994, when Joe Montana led them to a 28-20 win over the Houston Oilers. Cornerback Ty Law, who was on New England's three Super Bowl winners, is the only Kansas City player with any significant success in the postseason.

Quarterback Trent Green, who missed eight starts with a severe concussion earlier this season, has started only one game in the playoffs - Kansas City's 38-31 loss to the Colts in the 2003 postseason.

"We have seven starters who have never been in a playoff game. Seven starters," Edwards said. "This team we are playing has been in the playoffs five years in a row. They understand the tempo, they understand the mode. They understand what's getting ready to take place.

"We have some players who have been in playoff games. But when you say seven of your starters never have, that's kind of new."

The Colts, meanwhile, are hoping their explosive offense can make up for their patchy defense. Indianapolis ranks second in the league with 26.7 points per game and quarterback Peyton Manning ranks second with 4,397 passing yards.

Manning threw two touchdown passes in Sunday's victory over Miami and has 275 for his career, giving him sole possession of seventh place on the all-time list. Montana ranks eighth with 273, and John Unitas ranks sixth with 290.

Manning has completed 72 percent of his passes and thrown for 769 yards and nine TDs with no interceptions in his last three games. Still, most of the talk leading up to Saturday's game will concern his 3-6 record in the playoffs and his failure to guide the Colts to a Super Bowl.

"A lot of that is how games play out," Dungy said. "If you get behind and you're throwing because you have too, they can run pass-rush stunts and blitzes without regard for the run."

The Colts have won each of the previous two postseason meetings between these teams, winning at Kansas City in 1996 and 2004. However, the Chiefs won the most recent regular-season matchup, beating Indianapolis 45-35 at home on Oct. 31, 2004.

Dungy and Edwards are meeting in the postseason for the second time, with the first matchup being the Jets' rout of the Colts in the 2002 playoffs. The Chiefs are 0-3 all-time at the RCA Dome.

By: Michael Cash - - Email Us

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