I’m shedding a tear as I write this, but thankfully the Packers are not playing the Colts at Lambeau Field on Sunday. This team could you use a good, old fashioned indoor game on a fast track, to see if they can get their mojo back. Not to mention, the Colts are built to play an ugly game in bad weather, while the Pack are built to play indoors…but I digress.
They’re stepping up in class this week, after facing two one-win teams and a seriously undermanned 49ers team in their last three games. Let’s hope they rise up and play to the level of their competition, because the Colts are a very solid team on both sides of the ball and on special teams. But they’re not a great team and the Packers are equipped to bounce back from last week’s near disaster.
Indy is led by its defense, which leads the league in yards allowed and is near the top in points allowed. When they traded for DeForest Buckner before the draft, they added an elite D-lineman who now anchors a terrific front seven. Linebacker Darius Leonard is just the latest in a line of great linebackers the Pack has faced in recent weeks (Eric Kendricks, Fred Warner, Joe Schobert/Myles Jack). He’s the emotional leader of the defense and has Aaron Rodgers on his hit list, after Rodgers deigned to call Warner the best linebacker in football.
If the Packers hope to win this game they have to run the football better a whole lot better than they did last week. Derrick Henry gained over a hundred yards against them last week and averaged almost five and a half yards per carry. Yes, I know, he’s Derrick Henry, but Jones is solidly in the next tier of backs and the defense will have to respect the pass a lot more than it did last week.
The biggest question right now is whether Davante Adams plays, and if he does is he anywhere close to 100% with that ankle injury. He has had a lot of success against Xavier Rhodes in the past and the former Vikings corner is having a resurgent season, after the Purple kicked him to the curb. We also have no idea if or how much Allen Lazard will play. He’s been activated from IR but Matt LaFleur is making it sound like they will ease him back in very carefully. Maybe that’s a ruse, but the Pack could really use their top three receivers on the field against this defense. The offense sounds like it will be without Tyler Ervin again and Robert Tonyan is trying to fight through an ankle injury.
The Colts’ offense is middle of the road in all respects. They don’t have a skill position player that scares you to death and Philip Rivers is nearing the end. But they have a stout offensive line that protects him and Rivers rarely holds the ball for more than 2.5 seconds. He gets rid of it quickly, with lots of slants and screens–he’s only been sacked eight times all season.
His biggest weapon Sunday will likely be running back Nyheim Hines, who had 115 yards against the Jags, 70 on the ground and the rest through the air. He will share the rock with former Badger Jonathan Taylor who seems lost right now. He gained 12 yards on seven carries last week and seems like he runs with a blindfold on. He can’t seem to identify the right running lane right now and just crashes into his linemen looking for a hole.
The Colts’ young receivers are starting to shine as their veteran begins to fade. TY Hilton has been very quiet all season–he has yet to score. But youngsters Michael Pittman and Zach Pascal are gaining confidence every week. Pittman, the rookie from USC, was drafted at the top of the second round and was one of the WRs the Pack could have considered with their first pick.
It sounds like both Jaire Alexander and Kevin King will be back for this game, giving the Pack the edge in both matchups. The pass rush needs to show what they showed late last week and do all they can to make Rivers uncomfortable. By the way, he’s 1-3 against the Pack, finally breaking through last season with the Chargers.
The Pack’s defense has crept into the league’s top ten, though it doesn’t really feel like it. They still need to get more takeaways and get tough in the red zone–the Colts are not one of the better red zone offenses, so this is an opportunity to force field goals.
I like this matchup for the Pack and will extremely confident if I knew Adams was 100%. Yes, the Colts have had three extra days to prepare and are coming off a big division road win in Nashville, but the Packers seem to bounce back strong after poor performances. The Colts defense is legit, but the best passers they’ve faced this season are Matthew Stafford and Joe Burrow (both threw for more than 300 yards and Burrows played at Indy).
Rodgers doesn’t have to worry about the weather conditions and he may have the healthiest offense around him since week one. He knows this is a test his unit needs to pass to send a message to the rest of the NFC. I think they pass the test.
Packers 27 Colts 24