Colts D poses big challenges for Rodgers, Packers

Packers

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers warms up before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

The last time the Green Bay Packers faced an elite defense, it wasn’t pretty after the first quarter.

Five weeks ago, the Packers roared out of their bye week with a 10-0 lead after the game’s first 15 minutes in Tampa.

The Buccaneers then proceeded to shut down the Green Bay offense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a 38-10 drubbing of NFC playoff contenders on Oct. 18. After victories over short-handed San Francisco and 1-8 Jacksonville, the 7-2 Packers will be tested by the NFL’s best defense when they take on the 6-3 Colts in Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon.

The marquee match-up was flexed by the NFL to the 3:25 p.m. time slot. 

The game features the irresistible force (Packers offense which averages 30 points per game with just five turnovers) versus the immovable object (Colts No. 1 overall defense, No. 2 against pass, No. 3 against run). The Rodgers-Philip Rivers match-up is another storyline, and Aaron Jones-former Badger Jonathan Taylor is an interesting running back comparison for Wisconsin football fans.

According to Friday afternoon’s injury report, Green Bay will be without running back Tyler Ervin (wrist/ribs) for the contest and defensive lineman Montravius Adams (toe) is listed as doubtful.  Listed as questionable are cornerback Ka’dar Hollman (quad), safety Will Redmond (shoulder), and receivers Allen Lazard (core), Equanimeous St. Brown (knee), and Darrius Shepherd (shoulder).

Cornerback Kevin King (quad) is on track to return to the starting line-up, a welcome addition to the defensive unit and Lazard may see action after a six-game absence and bolster the receiving corps.  Jaire Alexander (concussion/hand) may also be available to play this week.

This game will be a physical one on both sides of the ball, and play-makers are plentiful on both offenses.

While Rodgers, Jones, and receiver Davante Adams are the big three for Green Bay, Indianapolis has dual-threat running back Nyheim Hines, Pro Bowler receiver T.Y. Hilton, and Rivers.

While Indianapolis is renowned for its defense, head coach Frank Reich’s team features a balanced offense and outstanding special teams units.

The Colts defense has allowed just 18 touchdowns this season, and the ball-hawking unit has intercepted 11 passes and scored three touchdowns and two safeties.

“You can tell everybody’s on the same page and they fly around,” head coach Matt LaFleur said.  “It’s one of the faster units we’ll have played this year.  They’re physical, they know how to attack the ball.  And it’s hard to get big plays on them.”

The Green Bay run defense, which has allowed 337 yards rushing and two 100-yard rushers in the past three games, will be tested.  The return of cornerbacks Alexander and King, both sure tacklers and impact players, could be a significant difference-maker.

“But it all starts up front,” former Chicago head coach Mike Ditka said.  “It’s an attitude, a focus:  you have to stop the run to be successful in the NFL.”

The Packers-Colts rivalry dates back to 1953, when the Colts were based in Baltimore.  The franchise moved to Indianapolis in 1984, and the Colts hold a 22-20-1 edge in regular-season play.  Green Bay won the only playoff meeting:  a controversial victory in sudden death at Lambeau Field in a 1965 playoff game.

Indianapolis has won the last two meetings, by scores of 30-27 in 2012 at home and 31-26 in 2016 at Lambeau Field.  Green Bay is 0-4 all time at the RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium.

Week 11 NFL Picks

Seahawks

Panthers

Ravens

Patriots

Steelers

Bengals

Eagles

Saints

Chargers

Dolphins

Vikings

Chiefs

Buccaneers

Baltimore is a bona-fide playoff team—the 49ers or Jaguars are not.  Green Bay must upgrade play in all three phases to compete with physical Indy and the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

Colts 27, Packers 24

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