12 Things to Watch For in Sunday's Colts-Packers Game
This week, even the cheese will be orange as everyone thinks about Chuck.
Before the bye the Colts dropped a tough one to the Jaguars. It was only a couple of weeks ago, but it feels like the world has moved on a little since then. The devestating news about Coach Pagano's cancer rocked the locker room and put the game in perspective, at least for a moment. Ready or not, it's back to action on Sunday. Here's what to watch for.
1. Watch for hashtags. It's all about #Chuckstrong this week in Indianapolis. Regardless of what happens on the field, it will be a memorable day as Colts fans unite to honor Chuck Pagano. People were just getting the chance to know and like the new coach. How the players and fans respond will be a powerful reminder that some things are bigger than football.
2. Watch for the speed. The Packers haven't been the best at protecting Aaron Rodgers over the years. It's not slowed Rodgers down much but it's imperative that Robert Mathis continue his streak with a sack or two if the Colts are to have a shot. A good interior rush, a couple of well-timed double-A gap blitzes or just a bit of magic from Freeney and Mathis could force a couple of turnovers and change the course of the game.
3. Watch for the future. The best analog for Andrew Luck isn't Peyton Manning, but rather Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has already done the kinds of things that Luck will hopefully do some day. Their style of play is quite similar, and seeing them both on the field at the same time is a treat.
4. Watch for Fleener, Fleener, Fleener. The Packers will provide hefty pressure on Andrew Luck given the ramshackle offensive line. If Luck is to have any success he's going to need his release valve, his safety net. Fleener and Luck are at their best when Luck is out of the pocket and Fleener is making adjustments to get open.
5. Watch for the ankle. Hey, Dwight Freeney's healthy! Oh, no he's not! Hey, he's going to play! Oh, it's only for a few snaps. I find the entire thing incredibly suspicious. Freeney has no motivation to go out and play hurt. With no contract beyond this year, he can only lower his free-agent value. I'm not saying he's flopping at all, but I am saying the Colts have given him no reason to fight and push to come back as soon as possible.
6. Watch for the run? Yes, that was a question mark there. The Packers aren't a good running team but a guy like Cedric Benson is just the kind of match the Colts won't like. Don't be shocked if the Packers setup the pass by firing Benson through the swiss cheese run defense. Once Rodgers has a safety in the box it could get ugly.
7. Watch for pink. Yes, orange is the color for leukemia, but the NFL has decided that ALL of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Colts fans have been rocked by Chuck Pagano's tragic news, but when you see pink stripes on everything that moves, you can't help but remember the second most common kind of cancer.
8. Watch for the throwing, my God, the throwing. With Vontae Davis and Justin King likely out, Aaron Rodgers may just keep passing until his eyes bleed. Can you imagine that? A bloody-eyed Rodgers firing strike after strike against a hapless secondary until the Indy DBs just curl up on the turf begging for the horror to stop. Finally Rodgers tires and fires a pass that hits a simpering corner in the head, marking the best play of the day for the Indy secondary. Sigh.
9. Watch for Seth Olsen's twin from Hell. The Colts have announced that not only will Joe Reitz be missing another week, but Seth Olsen will also be sitting out, warranting the third string left guard to start. A questionable release of Trai Essex last week now looks even worse. After seeing Seth Olsen treat opposing defensive linemen to free milk and cookies on the way to the backfield for the last three weeks, can you even imagine somebody worse starting? That's the reality now. I would advise keeping your eyes on the right side of the field on Sunday.
10. Watch the legend. Thanks for the memories, Jeff Saturday. Frankly I don't entirely understand the logic in letting him walk last year. I guess they wanted the compensatory pick for 2013. Saturday is easy the most beloved non-skill player in Indianapolis history, and the fans should welcome him back with joy.
11. Watch Clay Matthews. Not only is the pass rushing terror second in the league with seven sacks, but PFF has him third among 3-4 OLBs in hurries with 11. He moves around a lot and will likely victimize each lineman throughout the day, but the majority of his snaps still come from the right side. Will Anthony Castonzo be able to hold his own? He's allowed a lot of pressures, but is yet to yield a sack.
12. Watch for the slaughter. I'd like to believe that emotion wins football. It doesn't. Unfortunately, wanting it worse than the other guy won't change the fact that he's just a lot more talented. It would be an amazing, unforgettable day if the Colts win, shades of 1997 for sure. I hope it happens, but I won't bet on it. Packers 48 Colts 20.
Great point about Luck and Rodgers. it is natural to compare Luck to Manning because of the situation... but in actual style of play and projection for the future, Luck is much more similar to Rodgers.
The Vegas line for the game is Packers by 7, which seems way, way too low. I can't imagine any scenario were the Packers score less than 38 points and would not be surprised if they break 50. Does Vegas know something we don't?
Also, I have seen no evidence that Fleener is at his best when forced to adjust. In fact, I haven't seen any evidence that Fleener is even able to adjust his routes to get open at this point.
@Kyle Rodriguez Yeah, this. I hate to say it, but I've seen little creativity or adjustment to defenses on his part; what catches he's gotten were either the result of the design of the play or his height.
That said, I don't want to give the impression that I expect magic out of a rookie 2nd rounder; what's important is that he plays solid, not creative. On the other hand, you'd have figured he'd have gotten more targets than he has so far. I fear that he's not adjusted to either the speed in the pros, or the playbook. Or both. Anyway, if he starts adjusting, then good, but I haven't really seen it happen yet either.
@paulcareyjr I would have thought that before we found out that Reitz, Olsen, King, and Davis will all be out.
Scary game, this one. I hope Luck can still walk when it is over and doesn't have Clay Matthews jersey number imprinted onto his chest. Packers D isn't great, but the interior OL potential of Link-Shipley-McGlynn is scary.
And I DO think Freeney is dogging it.
@EconolineVan freeney dogging it makes zero sense. what has freeney done to make you think he would do such a thing anyway.
Essex looked bad to me, maybe it was because he had not really been her that long, but he didn't prove to me in the game that he was much better than the alternatives, and edge goes to them since they know the playbook better.
Also pretty sure you are right about the passing, it should be crazy.
Finally I think Luck may scramble in the backfield all game, GB pass rushers are pretty relentless here is for hoping he does not take too many hits, and I am not sure that Fleener will be the answer, could be but we will see, Luck seems to hit all his guys depending on the games, sometimes targeting Wayne, others Fleener, others Avery.
Emotion can help (the MNF game by the Ravens in 2007 against the Pats after Sean Taylor's death is an example). But emotion and personal tragedies can also have the opposite effect just as easily (Colts after Dungy's son's suicide, Packers after Philbin's son's death).