The Green Bay Packers sit atop the NFC standings and look to improve to 8-2 on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts are another unfamiliar AFC team that the Packers have only faced four times in the last two decades. The last time these teams met up it was in 2016. In only four years it is amazing how much can change, Andrew Luck, Aaron Ripkowski, Frank Gore and Jordy Nelson are all over the box score from the 31-26 Colts victory at Lambeau field.
Back to the present, and the 2020 teams are vastly different. The Colts defense is anchored by All-Pro Darrius Leonard, and they have three veteran pash rushers — Justin Houston, Deforest Buckner, Denico Autry — who have all been successful getting after the QB in 2020.
Indianapolis’ defense ranks fourth in fewest points allowed, first in amount of yards allowed and first in interceptions. Green Bay’s offense thrives inside of domes — as Aaron Rodgers goes, so does the offense — and Rodgers has already expressed his excitement to play under controlled conditions this week.
Darrius Leonard also expressed his feelings about the upcoming game after he heard Rodgers dub San Francisco’s Fred Warner the best linebacker in the game.
In an interview with ESPN’s Mike Wells Leonard said,
“I seen it as soon as he said it. You hear things like that and it gives you extra motivation going to play. [Rodgers has] been in the league for a long time. For him to say that about Fred Warner, they play sometimes twice a year, so my first time I want to leave a mark. Hopefully change his mind on what he said about that.”
One matchup the Packers will look to exploit early and often is Davante Adams against the ex-Viking Xavier Rhodes. Anybody who lines up against Adams in 2020 has been subjected to abuse — rookie CJ Henderson held his own but was ultimately knocked out by Adam’s ridiculous TD catch.
Adams has been nursing his ankle injury in practice all week but signs point to him playing on Sunday.
Indianapolis’ offense isn’t as dominate as their defense, but their offensive line — led by All-Pro center Quinten Nelson — can wear teams down and put games away late. Rookie Jonathan Taylor has been battling fumbling issues and rookie woes, but he has been the most productive back for the Colts — 631 total yards, 4 TDs. The passing game has been spread out — seven players with at least 200 yards receiving — and mostly regulated due to Philip Rivers’ declining arm strength.
The key matchup for Green Bay’s defense is Kenny Clark against Quinten Nelson. Clark’s production coming off injury was minimal for a few weeks, but he finally took a huge step forward and played the best game of his season against the Jaguars.
The biggest X-factor for this matchup is Mike Pettine’s play calling. Three-man rushes don’t work against anyone, but they particularly don’t work against 16-year veteran QBs. If not pressured, or forced to throw the ball down field, Rivers will pick defenses apart. If Pettine can force Rivers to throw downfield, and Clark is able to prove his worth against an All-Pro center than the Packers will be in good position to leave Lucas Oil 8-2.
The offense will be able to put points on the board as long as they do not turn the ball over. Look for the Packers to use a ton of play-action to use the aggressive nature of the Colts against themselves, and for Aaron Rodgers to open it up down the field.
Prediction: Rodgers has been money on deep throws this year, but for some reason it feels like he has yet to hit Robert Tonyan in stride on a streak. Given the controlled conditions, I say Big Bob Tonyan gets to show off the wheels on a big touchdown catch early in the game, and the Packers roll from there.
Packers 26 Colts 20——————
Kirien is a big fan of the Packers, Beer, and Battlestar Galactica. You can follow him on twitter at @KirienSprecher.