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Unusual Wild-Card Game For Colts

by Thomas Jensen on Saturday, January 6th, 2007

It's hard to believe they're here, but they're here. The Indianapolis Colts, just a few weeks removed from flirting with a perfect season for the second time in as many years, are playing in the wild-card round? 

And it's even harder to believe they're playing Kansas City, which needed quite a few breaks — and got every last one of them — to sneak through the back door and grab the AFC's final berth. 

But, either way, you're staring at this most unusual matchup that will begin the NFL postseason on Saturday. The Colts are -7 on WagerWeb.com

Because it's so early, it might not even be worth raising the issue of the Colts' playoff failures. After all, let's face it, they don't usually happen in this round. They often wait for the games to have a little more value to fall on their faces.

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That doesn't mean the Colts weren't asked about their history this week when they met reporters in Indianapolis.

"To me, January is a new year and it's a fun time. I'm happy every time we make it to the playoffs," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "It's really what our league is all about. Whether we go all the way or not, I'm going to try and enjoy it.  

Kansas City running back Larry Johnson might prevent that from happening. Indianapolis, as has been well documented, cannot stop the run like most playoff teams this season. So the last thing the Colts need to see is that hulking former Penn State Nittany Lion churning out yards at the RCA Dome.

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"This is a fun time of the year, but it?s also a very critical time to make sure that when you?re playing a game like this, you?re mentally prepared to deal with all the things that are going to happen to you and that you?re a focused, focused player," Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. "Your priorities have to change now. It?s got to be about this and only this."  

And for the Chiefs' offense, of course, it needs to be about Johnson. For the Colts' offense, it needs to be about Peyton Manning shaking that end-of-season slump and getting his team back to the divisional round. In this season, unlike last, that round would be on the road for Indianapolis, but the Colts will take it either way.

"I'm caught up in the Chiefs right now," Manning said.  

He should be. But it's not such a bad thing. Kansas City's defense, after all, allowed 110 points in its final five games and the only thing keeping that total where it is was a nine-point effort by the anemic Raiders on Dec. 23.

Whether or not that translates to a Colts' victory remains to be seen. "That's how you win championships," Dungy said, "by winning in the playoffs.''

They haven't done enough of that, obviously, in the Manning Era. But they have a chance to, at least, start a new run this weekend.

WAYNE'S WORLD: Who knows where Wayne Huizenga will find the Dolphins' next coach now that Nick Saban has returned to the SEC West, this time at the University of Alabama. Huizenga may go the NFL assistant coach route. He could go the college coach route. Heck, he could go the fired NFL head coach route at this point.

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But make no mistake. The Dolphins only went 15-17 with Saban at the helm, and it probably won't take long for Huizenga to find someone who can at least equal that.  

Especially if he tackles the coaching search like he tackled Saban's decision on Wednesday.

"It's no fun owning a team if you're not winning, I can tell you that," Huizenga said. "And we are absolutely, positively going to get back to being a winning team. And sooner rather than later.  

EXTRA POINTS: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers (foot) is wearing a protective boot this week and should be ready to go when the Chargers open their postseason run next week. San Diego is +130 to win the AFC on WagerWeb.com. … Patriots safety Rodney Harrison (knee) will miss Sunday's game against the Jets. That opens the door for veteran defensive back Chad Scott. The Patriots are -8.5 on WagerWeb.com.

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