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Ben Smith

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Karma, history are with Colts

The capriciousness of it all, that’s the fuel now. And how’s that for irony?

You go to camp in sweat-blurred August and now it’s the bone chill of January, and every day between, every minute and every hour, has been an obsessive-compulsive street fair. No entity so wallows in detail, in burning the 2 a.m. oil, like the NFL. There’s a plan for everything, including lunch.

And then you get to the playoffs, where no plans frequently need apply.

And so here are your Indianapolis Colts, getting ready to play the Kansas City Chiefs for the second time in three weeks and the fourth time in the playoffs. The Colts have won all three previous playoff meetings, which means little except perhaps good karma. And they beat the Chiefs 23-7 in Arrowhead Stadium two weeks ago, which obviously means a bit more.

Though not that much, perhaps.

“I can’t predict how that thing’s going to go,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said this week. “We’re going to prepare for them the same way we did, but how the game’s going to go, how it’s going to start, how it’s going to end, I can’t predict that.”

It’s both the wise thing to say and the informed thing, the informed part stemming from Pagano’s experience with his own team this year. You can plan, see, but you can’t plan for Reggie Wayne going down or all the others who’ve gone down this year, and all the unexpected twists that ensued.

People have walked in the door on Tuesday and played on Sunday. Ahmad Bradshaw was lost and the team traded for Trent Richardson, and then it was Bradshaw’s backup, Donald Brown, who emerged as the go-to back. And after drearily treading water for two months, the Colts won three in a row by a combined score of 78-20, and now no one assumes you’re shy a few marbles if you suggest they could wind up in the Super Bowl.

The lesson here is obvious.

“You never know if you have tomorrow,” defensive end Cory Redding said, putting words to it. “(So) take advantage of right now and make the most of it.”

They’re in a good place to do that, these Colts. They’ve so far followed the requisite blueprint – a team that got hot at the right time – and if that summons echoes of the 2007 Super Bowl run, so does the fact that it’s the Chiefs coming to Indy the way they did that year, led once again by a wrecking ball running back.

In 2007 it was Larry Johnson, and the Colts stuffed him, held him to 32 yards in 13 carries. This time it’s Jamaal Charles, whom Pagano dubs “public enemy No. 1.”

“If he doesn’t touch the ball 30 times I’ll be shocked,” Pagano said.

And if the Colts shut him down, don’t be shocked, either. It’s the playoffs. Stranger stuff has happened – especially this year, to this team.

“We just played these guys two weeks ago. We know we can go out there and if we execute our game plan and handle what we have to handle, we know we can beat them,” defensive back Darius Butler said.

“Whatever it takes,” Redding said.

And Pagano?

“I think from a confidence standpoint alone, our guys feel good right now,” he said. “Offensively, defensively we’re playing as good as we’ve played since we’ve been here.”

For whatever that’s worth now.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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