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Colts punt coverage a promising matchup for Leodis McKelvin

By Tim Graham

One of the Buffalo Bills' best players is about to go up against one of the softest opponents.

Leodis McKelvin, the AFC's reigning special-teams player of the week, is the NFL's top punt returner this year. The Indianapolis Colts have one of the feeblest coverage units.

McKelvin is averaging 21.9 yards a punt return with two touchdowns. The Colts are allowing an average return of 13.7 yards, 30th in the league. They've also allowed a touchdown on 19 returns.

Colts punter Pat McAfee ranks 11th in gross average at 47.7 yards, but has a net average of 37.9 yards. He has sent only one of his 39 kicks out of bounds, which could indicate some prime opportunities for McKelvin.

By comparison, Bills punter Shawn Powell has sent 11 of his 34 punts out of bounds in seven games. The Bills have the highest percentage of out-of-bounds punts in the NFL.

McKelvin was diplomatic in previewing the Bills-Colts matchup on punt returns.

"How they're playing on special teams is totally different than how they rank," McKelvin said. "They're a solid group.

"Just like the Houston special-teams corps. When we played them, it was the same thing. People were saying in their newspaper they rank really low and they have a dynamic returner coming in, and that would be a problem. But they didn't have a problem on special teams."

The Houston Texans entered their Week Eight game against the Bills ranked 24th on punt returns and 23rd on kickoff returns.

McKelvin averaged a relatively modest 9.3 yards on four punt returns and a pedestrian 18.5 yards on two kickoff returns.

The Bills also have a favorable matchup with the Colts on kickoff returns. McKelvin is tied for seventh in the NFL at 28.3 yards a return.

The Colts rank 23rd on kickoff coverage at 25.3 yards a return, although 54 percent of their attempts have been touchbacks. The league average is 48 percent.

"They'll be ready to come up for it," McKelvin said, "ready to answer the challenge that their coaches put forward.

"We just have to hold up our end of the bargain. If we have to deal with squibs, we have to make sure we're ready when the time comes to help the offensive out with field position."

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |