INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts embrace these daunting midseason exams.
First, they tried to comprise reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. Then they contended with 2019 dashing champion Derrick Henry. On Sunday, the Colts face a 3rd consecutive problem — slowing down two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ potent offense.
Ace this one, and Indy can be properly on its approach to claiming the title of NFL’s stingiest protection.
“You possibly can inform all people’s on the identical web page they usually fly round. It’s one of many quicker items we’ll have performed this 12 months,” Inexperienced Bay coach Matt LaFleur mentioned. “They’re bodily, they know easy methods to assault the ball. And it’s onerous to get huge performs on them. So we’re going to must do an amazing job.”
In the intervening time, the Colts (6-3) sit on the high of the category.
They’re No. 1 in total protection, No. 2 in opposition to the go, No. 3 in opposition to the run, No. 4 in scoring protection and No. 6 in turnover differential. They’re tied for second in interceptions with 11, have scored three touchdowns and had two safeties. And for the primary time in years, it’s the protection that has helped Indy seize a share of the AFC South lead.
However Colts coach Frank Reich, a longtime NFL quarterback, is aware of simply how troublesome Rodgers might be on opposing defenses.
“He could make each throw from each arm angle and he will get it out quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Reich mentioned. “He may give that little flick of the wrist to get that factor out. His ft don’t must be proper, due to his arm energy he can put the ball wherever he desires. Then he can lengthen performs.”
Whereas Rodgers stays the chief of the Packers (7-2), LaFleur has tried to alleviate a few of the burden on his quarterback. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have emerged as a dynamic duo out of the backfield, and Davante Adams is among the league’s high receivers.
Collectively, they’ve pushed Inexperienced Bay to the highest of the NFC North and the Packers are the primary staff in NFL historical past to common 30 or extra factors per sport whereas committing 5 or fewer turnovers by 9 video games.
The query is whether or not the Packers run protection will enhance after permitting 337 yards dashing and two 100-yard runners over the previous three video games.
Rodgers will poke and prod the Colts protection, looking for areas he can exploit. Indy expects nothing much less and intends to face as much as the most effective.
“I do know he’s searching for weak spot,” mentioned defensive finish Justin Houston, the 2014 NFL sacks champ. “He’s going to attempt to assault you, ensure you’re taking part in sound soccer, attempt to get the line of defense to leap offside. He’s recognized for his onerous counts and when you will have that a lot expertise, it’s like having a coach on the sector. We’ll have our arms full.”
A month in the past, Philip Rivers’ critics questioned whether or not the 38-year-old quarterback was holding again Indy’s offense.
However over the previous 4 weeks, Rivers has performed at a excessive degree. He’s 106 of 159 (66.7%) with 1,168 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. The eight-time Professional Bowler is predicted to make his 234th consecutive begin, tying Eli Manning for the Tenth-longest streak in league historical past. And if he finishes with a passer score of 100 or higher, he’ll tie former Packers star and Corridor of Famer Brett Favre for No. 4 on the league’s all-time checklist with 108 video games with a score of at the least 100.
For Rivers, it’s enjoyable to face gamers of Rodgers’ stature.
“I’ve at all times appreciated and thought it was particular going in opposition to a quarterback like him,” Rivers mentioned. “Going again by the years from the Favres to the (Peyton) Mannings, with Drew (Brees) and (Ben) Roethlisberger and Eli (Manning) and I may hold going — (Tom) Brady. I’m not deliberately leaving anybody out. It’s particular.”
For Rodgers, it’s turning into previous hat. Rivers would be the seventh quarterback in his 30s or 40s that Rodgers has performed this season. He’s already gone up in opposition to 32-year-old Kirk Cousins twice, 32-year-old Matthew Stafford, the 41-year-old Brees, 35-year-old Matt Ryan and 43-year-old Tom Brady.
WINLESS IN INDY
Within the Nineteen Sixties, this was one of the vital compelling matchups in soccer. However because the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984, it’s been a one-sided highway present for the Packers. They’re 0-4 all time on the RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium, shedding 30-27 in 2012, Andrew Luck’s rookie season, throughout their earlier go to.
Inexperienced Bay and Indy each have robust offensive traces and it’s mirrored within the numbers. Indy has allowed a league-low 9 sacks this season. The Packers have allowed 11, tied for the third-lowest complete. And with Packers left sort out David Bakhtiari getting back from a damaged rib final week, each traces needs to be at full energy Sunday.
SERIES RECORD – Colts lead 22-21-1
LAST MEETING – Colts beat Packers 31-26 on Nov. 6, 2016 at Inexperienced Bay
LAST WEEK – Packers beat Jaguars 24-20; Colts gained at Titans 34-17
AP PRO32 RANKING – Packers No. 4, Colts No. 11
PACKERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (6), RUSH (11), PASS (6).
PACKERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (9), RUSH (12), PASS (13).
COLTS OFFENSE – OVERALL (15), RUSH (20), PASS (10).
COLTS DEFENSE – OVERALL (1), RUSH (3), PASS (2).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – The Packers are tied with New Orleans for the NFC’s greatest report, however Inexperienced Bay holds the tiebreaker after beating the Saints on Sept. 27. … It’s the primary time since 1996-97 the Packers have been 7-2 in consecutive seasons. …. Inexperienced Bay has overwhelmed its first two AFC South opponents, Houston and Jacksonville. The Packers host Tennessee on Dec. 27
… QB Aaron Rodgers has thrown 26 TD passes and simply three interceptions, marking solely the second time an NFL participant has thrown for at the least 26 touchdowns with three or fewer interceptions by 9 video games. Rodgers had 28 TD passes and three interceptions in 2011. … Aaron Jones has 38 carries for 109 yards one landing in his final three video games.
… WR Davante Adams shares the NFL lead with 9 TD catches regardless of lacking two video games due to a hamstring harm. Adam Thielen of Minnesota and Tyreek Hill of Kansas Metropolis even have 9. … The Packers activated WR Allen Lazard from injured reserve this week. Lazard missed the earlier six video games with a core harm.
… Inexperienced Bay is the primary staff in league historical past to common 30 factors or extra and have 5 or fewer turnovers by its first 9 video games. … The Packers lead the NFL in time of possession at 33:08. … Each groups’ defenses are ranked among the many league’s six greatest items for proportion of three-and-outs. Inexperienced Bay is third at 23.1% whereas the Colts are sixth at 21.7%.
… Indy has allowed a league-low 9 sacks whereas the Packers have allowed the third fewest with 11.
… Colts RB Nyheim Hines is considered one of 9 gamers within the league with at the least three multi-touchdown video games this season. Hines has three. … 4-time Professional Bowl WR T.Y. Hilton wants 56 yards from scrimmage to develop into the sixth participant in Colts historical past with 9,000.
… Indy DE Denico Autry has a sack in three consecutive video games, the second-longest energetic streak within the league. … Indy CB T.J. Carrie has scored on an interception return and off a blocked punt this season
Fantasy tip: Inexperienced Bay has struggled in opposition to the run lately and the Colts put a premium on the bottom sport. The mixture may create a giant day for former Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor or Hines, who has had the new hand recently.