Sunday, October 19, 2008

Packers - Colts Preview

By 6:30 p.m. or so this evening, the Packers will either still be tied for first place in the NFC North or, at worst, behind by one game going into their bye week. Given the fact that there was a three-game losing streak in the midst of these first seven weeks of the season, given the change at quarterback, given the rash of injuries on this team, the Packers are probably fortunate to be in either position following the game today.

Prior to the season starting, this was -- frankly -- one of those games I looked at as falling into what I projected to be one of the Packers' six season losses.

However, a review of the comparative stats shows these two teams have been surprisingly similar so far, as evidenced by the Pack's 3-3 record and the Colts' 3-2 tally. But in reality much of the stats comparability is perhaps due more to the Colts floundering about for the first part of the season more than anyone expected. Unfortunately for our Packers, the Colts seemed to have finally gotten their act together last week versus Baltimore. Of course, the Pack ended its skid, as well, in Seattle. And we're playing at home. But that hasn't meant much lately, as Lambeau Field has been the site of two out of three of the team's losses.

The Colts main running back, Joseph Addai is out for the game. That should help minimize the run threat. But with the Colts, that's not really the main problem anyway, is it? The problem comes via someone by the name of Peyton Manning. He also is the master of the no-huddle offense, which will put much pressure on a depleted Packers defense, especially the defensive line. While the Packers were able to generate a few sacks last week against a third-string QB in Seattle, Manning gets the ball away as quickly as anyone. If KGB (remember him?) and Aaron Kampman register any sacks today it will have to come through some major breakdown on the Colts' part rather than via blitz packages or other such schemes. Blitzes could open the door for Manning to light things up. Good thing our defensive coordinator is reluctant to use them anyway.

As for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers should once again perform well. Ryan Grant, for the first time last week, seemed oh-so-close to finally breaking a big run. He will need to have his best day of the year if the Packers are to have a shot at beating the Colts today. Grant's running style, however, isn't the kind which is ideally suited to beating the quick pursuit of the Colts. A little "shake 'n bake" running ability -- quick cut backs, etc. -- are what's needed. Perhaps that will come in the form of one of the backup RBs.

Whatever it takes, the Packers must control the ball and time of possession to keep Manning off the field...that's the best defense the Pack could possibly have today.

The Colts are favored by one point. My Packer fan perspective of course has me calling for the Packers to win this one in a high scoring shootout. But my gut tells me that my preseason prediction of this one going in the Packers' loss column is probably more likely.