Packers vs. Colts: Plan of Attack for Green Bay to Kick Off a Road Trip in Indy
This week, the NFL world was stunned to learn that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano had been diagnosed with leukemia. It's a treatable type and Pagano will bring the same energy that he does to coaching to this fight as well.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will step in as the temporary coach, but you have to know that this shocking news will affect the Colts. They can either have it hang over them or they can use it as a rallying cry for their season.
I expect the latter to be the case. Pagano was well loved in that locker room and this is a team which will come out fired up to show him their support.
So while on paper and in normal circumstance this game looks like a win for the Packers, they will have their hands full.
When the Packers are on offense
The Colts are a middle of the road defense across the board, although a little less than that as a run defense.
As any Fantasy Football owner knows, the Colts have long struggled against the run and this year is no different. So in a very non-Packer move, you'll actually see Cedric Benson run the ball quite a bit.
This is for a couple of reasons. First, it's actually been happening already with Benson carrying the ball around 20 times a game for the last three weeks.
Aside from the mess in Seattle, he's been effective and helped keep the defense from just keying on Rodgers.
An even if they commit to the run, the Colts have not been effective getting to the quarterback and only have seven sacks on the year. As long as the offensive line plays as well as they did against New Orleans, Rodgers should be fine.
Still, this is an offense which wants to keep Benson involved and help him find a comfort level. Running him against the Colts will allow him to do both of those things.
The Packers will still throw though, don't worry. Keeping the momentum they gathered against New Orleans is key as they have a tremendously difficult game against the Texans in Week 6 and tougher than you think matchup against a stout Rams secondary in Week 7.
By the same token they can't afford to lose this game, so don't expect them to just air the ball out continuously and become susceptible to mistakes.
Instead, expect a conservative game plan with shorter routes and lots of running.
More than likely, just as the Saints did last week, the Colts will play some man coverage and try to limit the Packers off the line. Their basic 3-4 package will also try to clog things up with some linebackers in coverage, but for the bigger receivers like Nelson and Finley, it shouldn't cause problems while a shift guy like Cobb can get underneath and outmaneuver them.
The Packers will spread things out as they did in this shot from the Saints game. It's not a full-spread formation, but it sends all three receivers out and pushes the defensive backs onto their heels.
Rodgers really has his pick of receivers here, and with the good blocking at the line, he has enough time to see which receiver will beat his coverage. The routes the outside receivers run are very simple hooks while the third receiver runs a slant across the middle.
While the Saints were able to cover two of the receivers, Jordy Nelson (top in yellow) gets great position on his defender and catches the ball for a big gain.
The Colts' secondary is a bit undersized and that means Rodgers will also have the option of throwing the ball up and letting his receivers go get it.
It shouldn't be hard to move the ball for the Packers, if they can get their blocking on point and their timing down.
When the Packers are on defense
This is all about pressuring Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and then containing him when he leaves the pocket. Like Rodgers, Luck's mobility is an underrated feature of his game.
Unlike Rodgers, he lacks the experience to know when to pull the ball down and when not to. This will come in time, but it's not there right now.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers likes to attack young quarterbacks, prey on their inexperience and force them into hurried, bad decisions.
He's very good at this.
Expect a lot of Clay Matthews off the edge as always, taking on Anthony Castonzo but also moving around a little and shifting on the fly where he comes in from.
As teams—Colts included—key more on Matthews, other players will step up, such as AJ Hawk (who is playing very good football), Ryan Pickett and CJ Wilson at defensive end and the combination of rookie Nick Perry and Eric Walden.
The front seven shouldn't have too many issues against a still banged up front line for the Colts.
Again though, once you get Luck out of the pocket you need to be twice as careful.
One thing I have seen teams fail to do against Luck is to tackle him when they get near him. That seems pretty obvious, but really it's a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity. Plenty of teams have gotten their hands on Luck but few have taken him down—he's only been sacked five times this year.
So when they get to him, the Packers need to make it count.
If he slips outside, Luck is more than capable of throwing accurately on the run. So the secondary has to hold the coverage as long as possible.
While Reggie Wayne is a sizable threat, Luck has also been utilizing two other rookies—tight ends Dwayne Allen and former Stanford teammate Coby Fleener. They are a big mismatch for the secondary, and will be a huge problem if they have to be covered by linebackers, especially Nick Perry, who is not a great coverage guy.
The safeties—Morgan Burnett, MD Jennings, Jerron McMillian and off and on Charles Woodson—have to do a good job making sure the middle of the field has support to keep the large and agile tight ends of the Colts in check.
Luck is a talented quarterback who is still very much a rookie. The Packers can take away his weapons and pressure him all day.
As I said at the top, this should be a "gimme" game, but playing on the road against a team with some emotional chaos going on could make this a much tougher matchup than it looks on paper.
However, if the Packers play clean, controlled football they should be able to start their road trip off with a win.
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