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Indianapolis Colts Vs. Green Bay Packers: What To Watch For Friday Night

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Week 3 of the Preseason: the Dress Rehearsal. This is normally the week where starters play into the second half, they run a few more different formations, and use this as the final tune-up before the regular season starts. Unfortunately for the Colts, however, is that the starting Quarterback for Week 1 will not be playing tonight, whether it be Kerry Collins or Peyton Manning.

Last year the Packers obliterated the Colts in Week 3 of the Preseason, scoring 59 points on the Colts at Lambeau Field. It should have been the first sign that it just wasn't going to be the Colts year. Tonight we get to see a "rematch" of sorts, and honestly, it could end up very similar to last year. Everyone should fully expect the Colts to not score many points tonight (they've only scored 13 so far in two preseason games, and the Packers have a better defense than both teams), but nobody should whine about it. The Colts have made it a (bad) habit of not caring about Win/Loss record in the Preseason, so you shouldn't as well.

What we can do, however, is look at specific parts of the game, and look for continuing positives, or some improvements in certain areas that'll carry over:

  • Continuing improvement in the Running Game: Clearly the Packers defense won't have to respect the pass too much, but I think the Colts should spend more plays tonight running the ball, especially with Donald Brown, Delone Carter, and the first team Offensive Line. Word is Ryan Diem will play RG Friday night, so Jeff Linkenbach should get the start at RT. I'd really like to see Ben Ijalana get some snaps with the rest of the starters, but I'm not getting my hopes up. A solid 4.0 to 4.5 per carry, along with a couple short yardage pickups, will make me happy. The Colts may need to have these guys step up their game considerably in short order.
  • Continued Solid Pass Protection: Both Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky have had ample time in the pocket to make plays, with most sacks coming because of holding the ball too long, or good coverage down the field. It's tough to tell whether the Packers will play a vanilla 3-4, sending 4 or 5 guys on passing downs, or mix it up with blitzes from all over. I hope it's the latter, so we'll see how the line does against them.
  • Pressure on Aaron Rodgers: Despite the fact that Rodgers has joined the elite at the Quarterback position, he was still sacked 31 times last season, more than twice what Manning did, and Rodgers only played 15 games. The Packers return four starters on the Offensive Line from last year's Super Bowl, so the opportunity should be there to get some pressure. I'm especially interested in seeing Drake Nevis out there creating havoc, as well as Jerry Hughes. Please give him a few plays standing up.
  • Fewer Second-Chance Yards / Better Tackling: I think this is a direct result from teams no longer being able to have two-a-day practices. They aren't able to hit each other nearly as much, which makes it tough to practice tackling. It also was a back-breaker against Washington last week, giving up lot of yards after first hit. Green Bay's receivers are big and physical, so I want to see the Linebackers and Secondary have their tackling cleaned up. It should separate who makes the team and who doesn't.
  • Red Zone Defense: The Colts were middle-of-the-pack last season in the Red Zone, but much better at home (51.7%) than on the road (73.2%). The Colts only gave up one TD in four trips last week, and the TD came on a third down after first and goal inside the 5. I'm going to pay close attention to Kavell Conner, who has been great in run support, but out of position in pass coverage. I want to see if he's worked on that this past week.
  • Covering Punts: Pat McAfee has been blasting punts, which opens up opportunities for big returns before the coverage team gets down there. I'd like to see no returns longer than 10 yards, and few missed tackles. Several teams we've seen a Colt or two down there to cover, but either whiff or trip over themselves. It's a great advantage to have a punter who can kick it 60 yards down the field, but it does no good when the return is 25 back the other way.
  • The game will be televised nationally on CBS at 8:00 ET, and we'll have an open thread up sometime later this evening. No need for streams tonight, and I get to watch in HD (finally). I think there will be a decent crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium, mainly to see the opposing team, but still good to have butts in seats. Hopefully we see good things in these six areas, even if we don't see it on the scoreboard. What else are you looking for tonight?