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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Game Preview: Packers at Colts

by Thomas Pyc
PackerChatters Staff

This Sunday when the Colts take on the Packers in the RCA Dome the depth of each team will be tested. As of Thursday, a combined total of 15 (9 Colts, 6 Packers) players were named on the injury report. But not to worry, there will still be a good share of star power on the field after kickoff.

The Green Bay Packers are coming off a disappointing loss to the Chicago Bears at home despite racking up over 400 yards of offense. Javon Walker (102) and Ahman Green (135) combined for over half those yards and could very easily see the same type of success against the Colts’ defense this week. But having success in the yards category did not translate to more than 10 points for the Packers last week and they will definitely need to improve on finishing their drives in the end zone in order to come out of the RCA Dome with a victory.

The defense of the Indianapolis Colts currently ranks 30th in the NFL. On Sunday they could very well be without three of the four starters they kickoffed the season with in their secondary. Rookie free safety Bob Sanders (foot) and cornerback Joseph Jefferson (knee) are out. Second year strong safety Mike Doss is questionable with a hamstring injury. The front of seven of this defense lead by defensive end Dwight Freeney and middle linebacker Rob Morris will need to step up big to contain Ahman Green.

On the other side of the ball for the Colts Edgerrin James is currently listed as questionable for Sunday’s game but in the past when Indy needed someone to step up in place of Edgerrin they have found viable replacements. Both Dominic Rhodes and James Mungro have shown an ability to adequately fill in the Colts draws and draw trap schemes their offensive coordinator, Tom Moore, loves to run. Despite the availability questions surrounding James the heart of the Colts offense is Peyton Manning who is 100% healthy. Between Manning and the Colts receivers, a great deal of havoc could be created for the Packers’ defense on Sunday.

The Pack’s defense only allowed 14 points last week but looked extremely vulnerable to the run without Grady Jackson in the middle. The secondary could see some improvement with the return of cornerback Mike McKenzie who should play a vital role against the dangerous Colts’ receiving trio Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley. The Pack’s D displayed an effective scheme during the first week of play against Carolina but last week their blitz packages appeared vulnerable to a questionable Bears’ offense. With the always-heady Peyton Manning under center it is vital for the Packers defense seen in week one to show up.

Keys to the game:

1) The Packers’ Offensive Line vs. the Colts’ front seven

If the Packers’ offensive line can control the Colts’ front seven they should be able to keep the high-powered Indy offense on the sideline.

2) Peyton Manning vs. Packers’ DC Bob Slowik

With as much time that Peyton Manning puts into his film study, the Packers’ defense should feel very fortunate that they have only given two games for Manning to learn from. If he can dissect the Packs’ new pressure scheme it could be a long day for Packer fans.

3) Brett Favre vs. the RCA Dome

As much as Brett Favre would like to deny it dome games have haunted his past. Favre is 15-33 on turf including the soft, FieldTurf surfaces.

The Bottom Line

Turnovers! Mike Sherman is 30-3 when his team commits one or fewer turnovers. The Packers experienced the effect of turnovers last week against the Bears. If the Packers are to have any chance against the Colts on Sunday they must avoid turning over the ball and giving Peyton Manning as few chances to score as possible.

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