Nov. 09, 2016
In a battle of banged up teams, the Green Bay Packers host the Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field. Green Bay missed a number of key players last week against Atlanta, but are expected to return cornerback cornerback Quinten Rollins, linebacker Clay Matthews and wide receivers Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb. Even with the return of Rollins, the Packers will still be without top two cornerbacks Sam Shields and Damarious Randall. With Indianapolis being so horrible at defense, this has the makings of a shootout. The last time these two teams met was in Andrew Luck’s rookie season, and Indianapolis won 30-27 at Lucas Oil Stadium. This is a big game for the Packers, as they need it to stay in the division race. A win could jump start a winning streak with winnable games at Tennessee and at Washington following this game. This will be the last game at Lambeau for a month, as they have three consecutive road games. Since I live in Indianapolis, Green Bay needs to win for me to have bragging rights.
When Green Bay runs the ball...
The Packers did not run the ball well last week in Atlanta, or really try to run it at all without Montgomery and Cobb. Both should be back for the game. It is hard to gauge Green Bay’s effectiveness when running the ball since the Packers have only had Montgomery be the main running back for one game and Chicago did not know how to prepare for it. The Colts come in to the game 21st in the league at rush defense, allowing nearly 115 yards per game. Indianapolis has also allowed seven rushing touchdowns on the ground so far. This one is tough to tell which team actually has the advantage since the Packers are using an unconventional way of running the ball, while Indianapolis has a poor rush defense. I think Montgomery will have some running lanes, but will only have 10-12 carries to avoid overuse.
When Green Bay passes the ball...
For as much as everybody is wondering what is wrong with Aaron Rodgers, he still is third in the league with 17 touchdowns and just has four interceptions. Still, we have not seen vintage No. 12 yet for a full game. He has shown flashes of 2014 Rodgers, but not as many as we are accustomed to. He is No. 18 in the league in pass yards per game, behind players like Russell Wilson (who is having a really bad year), Ryan Fitzpatrick and Joe Flacco. However, in his last two games, he has 572 yards passing with seven touchdowns and no picks. That run should be able to continue against Indianapolis’ 30th ranked pass defense. The Colts have also allowed 14 touchdowns, while having only two interceptions, which is last in the league. The ball will be given to Rodgers and he will be asked to lead the team to the win. I expect him to put the ball in the air 35-40 times unless Green Bay jumps out to a huge lead and coasts to a big victory. Since Montgomery is also a wide receiver, I expect him to be heavily involved in the pass game as well, The Colts also average giving up five catches and 51 yards receiving to running backs. Vontae Davis is questionable and starters Mike Adams and Kendall Langford are out. Rodgers should be able to carve up this Indianapolis defense.
When Indianapolis runs the ball...
Indianapolis is in the bottom half of the league in running as well, ranking 22nd in rush yards per game with just under 100 yards per game. However, the Colts are middle of the pack in rush yards per attempt. Frank Gore does not have a ton of attempts, but he still is effective. He only has more than 80 yards twice on the year, but averages more than four yards per carry, including 4.4 in his last five. However, Indianapolis will be without a pair of offensive lineman, Jack Mewhort and Joe Reitz. Green Bay ranks second in the league in run defense, allowing just 74 rush yards per game. Knowing those stats, it would not be surprising to see Andrew Luck drop back to pass 40 times since the Packers are still banged up in the secondary. Since Indianapolis is down two starters on the offensive line and the Packers are No. 2 in run defense, I would give the edge to the Green and Gold.
When Indianapolis passes the ball...
I mentioned Green Bay is banged up in the secondary. Look for Indianapolis to take advantage, much like Atlanta did last week. Luck is ninth in the league in pass yards per game, while Green Bay is 16th in passing yards defense but 25th in opposing quarterback rating. Luck has turned the ball over eight times (five picks and three fumbles) and has been prone to turnovers over his career, so the defense needs to be aggressive and look to create turnovers. Getting Rollins back would/will help. LaDarius Gunter did a tremendous job defending Julio Jones last week, but Green Bay would be better off with him defending Philip Dorsett and have Rollins cover Indianapolis star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. But look for Luck to take shots with Hilton all day long against Rollins. The Green Bay pass rush needs to get home or force Luck into poor decisions. Matthews being back will help in that area. If the Packers are able to put pressure on the Indianapolis quarterback, Green Bay will be in good shape.
Both teams have weapons at kicker. Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri is 18-of-18 on the year and has an NFL record for most consecutive field goals made. Crosby is great in his own right. He has not had as many attempts as Vinatieri, but he has made 13-of-14. His long is only 46 yards this year, but he obviously has the leg to hit from well beyond 50. The Colts have a huge edge in punting, as Pat McAfee is one of the best in the league at punting, while Green Bay’s Jacob Schum is No. 31 in punting average. Green Bay has the edge in returning, but not enough to make up for the edge Indianapolis has in punting.
I expect this to be a shootout. Both teams will pass the ball effectively against banged up secondaries. But I think Green Bay will be able to get to Luck a few times and force some turnovers. Trevor Davis could also be an X-Factor. He had a 55-yard punt return last week in Atlanta, and is a threat every time he touches the ball. The home team has won the last six meetings between the two, and I expect Rodgers to make a few more plays to help Green Bay come out on top and make it seven.
Prediction: Packers 34, Colts 24