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The Colts come off their Bye week facing one of the best Offenses in the NFL, all while playing with heavy hearts for their Head Coach.
This was not the Bye week the Colts had in mind after their gut-wrenching 22-17 loss to the Jaguars nearly two weeks ago, with the news that Head Coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia. To a team that seemed to be starting to find itself under its Head Coach, it's a heavy burden to bear, as each and every person over on 56th Street will have Pagano on their minds Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Visiting Indianapolis will be the Green Bay Packers, who are 2-2 on the season, and saved me in my Survivor pool last week, beating the Saints 28-27. The Packers have "underachieved" early on this season with just a .500 record, but their losses were to the 49ers (#1 in the Winning Stats Power Rankings), and the Replacement Refs in Seattle (ok, they didn't play well, but nobody does in Seattle). They finished 15-1 a year ago, so they didn't just fall off the planet this year. They are still quite good, despite their early season record.
Even though the Packers haven't visiting Indianapolis since 2004, there will be a very familiar face returning Sunday, future Ring of Honor member Jeff Saturday. I remember when Edgerrin James returned with the Seahawks back in 2009, and the standing ovation he got was fantastic. I fully expect the crowd to give Saturday the same welcome back home. I'm also hoping they show the lone TD of his career, complete with Bob Lamey's call, which might be my favorite radio call of all time.
The Colts and Packers have played 41 times over their history, and hold an identical 20-20-1 record, with the Colts holding a 4-3 edge since moving to Indianapolis. Four years ago was a Ron Winters nightmare, a game where Tim Jennings was torched, and Peyton Manning had two interceptions taken back for touchdowns, a 34-14 loss at Lambeau Field. The last time the Packers visited the Colts, we had an old-fashioned shoot-out between Manning and Brett Favre (it was 21-14 after the first quarter), a 45-31 Colts win. Could we have a game like that Sunday with Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck?
How do these two team match-up statistically? Let's take a look at the Winning Stats and find out...
Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Packers:
|Orange Zone Eff||59.8%||12||50.6%||14||74.7%||1||58.9%||23|
|Avg Start Pos||28.1||23||31.7||23||29.5||17||26.3||3|
|3 and Outs||2.84||9||4.52||8||2.53||5||3.96||16|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.990||22||1.195||5||1.365||31||1.362||3|
Keys to the game:
- As is the story in most NFL Football games, Turnovers look to be quite important Sunday. Both defenses have been pretty poor at forcing Turnovers this year, and the Packers have been really good at taking care of the football, ranking 2nd in the NFL. Don't be surprised if there aren't any turnovers, or if there are, they play a large role in the outcome.
- The Colts have been victimized by the big play this year, and especially so against the Jaguars, ranking 31st in Yards / Play. I'm surprised to see the Packers fairly low on offense in this category, especially with Rodgers under center. Expect big plays from the Packers, and it'll be slightly easier to take.
- If the Packers get inside the Colts 35 yard line, it's going to be bad news for the Colts. The Packers are #1 in Orange Zone Efficiency, and #2 in Red Zone Efficiency. If the Colts can somehow hold the Packers to Field Goals, they'll have a chance to win.
- The Colts Offense has been at its best this year on 3rd/4th Downs, and they'll need to continue that Sunday, if only to keep the Packers Offense off the field. Never thought I'd be saying that about the Colts, but that'll need to happen for the Colts to win.
- The Packers Defense has struggled at RB Success Rate so far this season, which means it's time for the Colts Offensive Line to improve dramatically and get Donald Brown and Vick Ballard going. Again, the Colts will need to control the football, and score points at the end, to win.
When you listen to the media, they make it sounds like the Packers have really struggled this year, and I think most of that stems from Rodgers throwing the ball, which as you can see from their 16th ranking in Adjusted Net Passing Yards / Attempt, has a bit of truth to it. My guess is that low number is based on Rodgers being sacked 16 times so far this season. However, the Packers are doing everything else pretty well, and still have the very dangerous offense that we saw last year.
For the Colts to win, they'll have to play better than they have in the first three weeks (which are freakishly consistent), especially on Offense. I know it's a little backwards thinking, since the Packers offense will be the strongest unit on the field, but I think a shootout is the only way the Colts stay in the game. They'll need long, time-consuming drives, which end in touchdowns. I think just one turnover will be bad for the Colts, and two will be catastrophic. I think the Colts will play an inspired game for Chuck Pagano, but the Packers will just be too good in the end, winning the game in the 4th quarter with a late TD drive.
Packers 34, Colts 27