So here we are, one year after disappointing playoff losses for both squads, Indianapolis meets up with Green Bay at Lambeau.
Indy ended up going 13-3 last year and promptly exited the playoffs via the surging Chargers in the Divisional Playoffs 28-24...in Indianapolis. Over the offseason, Manning had surgery, missed the preseason, and has been working on knocking off the rust since the season began (for him) with a 29-13 loss to the Chicago Bears, followed by a 1 TD, 2 INT performance against the Packers' arch-nemesis Vikings. The game in Minnesota ended in a win, the deja vu performance in Indianapolis the next weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars did not. Week four brought some much needed rest and recovery to the cog in the passing game that is Dallas Clark. Manning flipped the switch in that game, throwing 2 TDs and 1 INT in, albeit, Houston. Of course, Peyton and the Colts have looked to have found their stride galloping (get it?) into Green Bay this weekend, after a 31-3 beatdown of the Baltimore Ravens, and a 3 TD (sub-300 yard) passing performance by Manning.
What's new in Green Bay? Well, in case you missed it, Green Bay lost to the Super Bowl Champions in the NFC Championship Game on a last second interception thrown by a certain, recently re-located Hall of Famer, canned by the front office over the offseason. Is it a decision that has allowed Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy to sleep at night? I guess it depends which week you ask. If, for instance, you asked them after the season opener against Minnesota (who went all of 8-8 in 2007, still a "hot pick" coming in, according to die hard Packer fans) where the heir to the throne went 18 for 22 with 178 yards and 1 TD. The key that the optimistic Packer fans such as myself eluded to- 0 INTs, the plague that engulfed Favre in years past, not including last (13-3) season. Another great day to have asked how the nocturnal conquests went for Ted or Mike may have been on Monday after week 2. What did Rodgers do? Well, he threw for 328 yards, no interceptions, and 3 TDs!!! Against who? (In a beleaguered voice) the Lions. How were they last year? 7-9...oh. Who do we have this coming week? The sexy pick to go to, if not win, the Super Bowl this season?
Well that's fine, Rodgers fans recanted, "he kept us in the game against Dallas last year" they said. Yet those same folks refused to look at the records (from last year) of the same teams he stomped in the first two weeks. But this year we had Dallas in Green Bay. So he suited up against Dallas (3 consecutive starts and counting) and...we lost, 27-16. Arguably, it was closer than the final score indicated, but it was hard to see while watching it. Still, being optimistic, Rodgers threw 0 INTs, the other thing he threw 0 of, TDs...in Green Bay.
And then, the wheels started to fall off the proverbial bus. The Packers went to Tampa, a place that was never kind to Favre, and Rodgers didn't seem to care for it either. The Packers lost 30-21. He threw for 2 TDs, 3 INTs, and his shoulder didn't take kindly to the ground there, which threw those "will he or won't he" thoughts into Packers fans' minds. Only this time it wasn't about will he or won't he return next year, but it was will he or won't he play in week five? A stunning four games into this streak, he already looked questionable. But he did play, just not well (threw a very costly interception, albeit against 3 TDs), against Atlanta...in Green Bay. (The pattern develops.)
But in week six, the shoulder looked healthy, and for the first time, the Packers did too. The defense locked down in the clutch, Rodgers threw for 2 TDs and the Packers won in Seattle (a place not traditionally dominated by the Packers) in a 27-17 fashion.
So what about this week? I think this week comes down to three things:
- How well will the Packers secondary (without Al Harris and Atari Bigby) lock down Reggie Wayne and company?
- Will the Packers defense get pressure on Peyton without Cullen Jenkins and Mike Montgomery?
- Is Rodgers' shoulder healthy/will he be solely responsible for the success/will Grant start to earn his paycheck?
If the answer is yes to two out of these three questions, then I could see the Packers taking care of business, in Green Bay, in front of the die-hard Packers fans like myself. But I'm cautiously optimistic. As much as I hate Peyton Manning, he is a gamer, and I have a feeling he's looked at the game film of Matt Ryan and other quarterbacks' dissection of our injury-plagued secondary. All that said, I see the Packers taking care of business Sunday 21-17.