Colts - Packers Preview: Rodgers in For A Tough NIght vs Indy D?
By Jamie Garwood
The Week 11 match-up features a fascinating contest between two probable Hall of Fame candidates as Aaron Rodgers travels to Lucas Oil Stadium to face Philip Rivers and the Colts.
A-Rod vs The #2 Defense In The NFL
The reason this is a fascinating match-up – not only due to Rodgers and his elite wide receiver Davante Adams hoping to maintain the lead in the NFC North ahead of the resurgent Minnesota Vikings – but they have to face the quietly good defense of the Colts. Coordinated by Matt Eberflus, this was a unit that did impressively well to quieten the Tennessee Titans offense, including stifling Derrick Henry.
The Packers have suffered two losses against two very good defenses in Tampa Bay and Minnesota Vikings. Admittedly they did not have Aaron Jones for either game (he is back now), yet there is a consistent theme. Defeats to well schemed defenses, particularly those who can stop the run and then force you to throw deep on third and long, means this will be a familiar test for the Packers to overcome. Remember, they struggled to put away the lame Jaguars last week at home – a big heave to Valdes-Scantling with a huge YAC proving to be the difference.
The Colts should be feared or at least offered more respect; the hope of winning this game coupled with the Titans facing the Ravens gives the opportunity to open a lead in the division and the possibility of a homefield divisional game. Under Eberflus, the Colts incorporate a Tampa-2 4-3 front, four man pressure allowing his defense to play; this leads to the Colts pressuring on 24% of QB dropbacks (12th in the NFL), yet only blitzing 19.9% of the time (fourth lowest in the league).
The addition of DeForest Buckner has been paramount to this uptick in defense quality – the former 49er behemoth has 16 quarterback hits already this season (behind only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones in the league for interior linemen). The Colts last year were 15th against the run, this year they are 7th best and 6th best when teams run up the middle to face the immovable object that is Buckner.
A Philip Rivers Renaissance?
Offensively, The Colts have shown improvement. They had the Ravens on the run until the fumble by Jonathan Taylor resulting in the limp attempt by Rivers to stop the return touchdown; the momentum swung to Baltimore ultimately. However, the performance versus the Titans on a short week on the road showed a great deal of character amongst a still young group of players with Rivers admiral of proceedings. This is now becoming balanced football; they average approximately 4.83 yards allowed per play on defense, still a yard behind what their offense is gaining in 5.70yds.
Expect the Colts run defense to force Green Bay into third and long situations frequently helping their Cover-2 show up on those throws to Adams, MVS and the returning Alan Lazard. This proficiency up front allows the Colts’ back end to make plays – they have defended or intercepted 21% of thrown passes (60-286), the highest coverage play rate in the NFL.
This is a fascinating intra-conference contest that will tell us a lot about both franchises with playoff aspirations.
Jamie is a freelance writer of original NFL content on all matters ranging from fantasy football to bold predictions, and is an avid New England Patriots fan. Follow him @JamieGarwood For NFL takes.