The Packers travel to Indianapolis this week for an early Sunday afternoon game against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Since Green Bay only plays the Colts every four years and they have gone through several changes recently, let's take a look at some Colts who will have an impact on Sunday's game.
The Colts' left tackle was often looked at as a possible pick for the Packers towards the end of the 2011 NFL Draft's first round, but he was taken #22 overall by Indy. He started at right tackle as a freshman at Boston College, protecting Matt Ryan, then moved to left tackle for his final three years of college football. He then started 12 games at left tackle in Indy during the Colts' difficult 2011 season.
Castonzo will have a tough task this week, with Clay Matthews as the primary pass rusher on his side of the line. Matthews has been held to one sack total over his past two games, but it should be interesting to see whether the Colts elect to give Castonzo help blocking Matthews or leave him one-on-one.
WR Reggie Wayne
I don't often mention a team's best player on either side of the ball, primarily because you already know that he's a key to the game. However, I'll make an exception for Wayne this week. At 33, he's still a dangerous threat in the receiving game, averaging nearly 100 yards per game this season. He didn't reach 1,000 yards last year, but that was due to the Colts' quarterback issues, not a dropoff in skills. He's a possession receiver, he's a deep threat, and he's an all-around professional. I expect Wayne to continue to develop a rapport with Andrew Luck and play another several years in the NFL.
OLB Jerry Hughes
Dwight Freeney's ankle sprain will limit him severely this weekend, and could even keep him out of the game entirely on Sunday. That will mean Hughes, the third-year linebacker from TCU, will get substantial playing time. Hughes was another name floated around as a possible Packers draft pick a few years ago, but he hasn't lived up to his lofty college production, recording only three starts (two in relief of Freeney so far this year) and two career sacks.
Freeney and his counterpart, Robert Mathis, switched to the outside linebacker positions this off-season when the Colts moved to a 3-4 defense. Mathis has found some success rushing the passer, with four sacks in three games, but the Colts will need to get a push from other sources in order to keep Mathis matched up one-on-one with Bryan Bulaga. Hughes will need to be part of that pass rush.
A 3-4 defense needs a big, stout nose tackle to take up blockers in the middle of the offensive line and prevent them from releasing on to the inside linebackers. Johnson is a little bit undersized compared to the ideal 3-4 nose tackle, as he comes in at 6'3" and 310 pounds. He was brought in as a 4-3 tackle and started most of the Colts' games in 2009 and 2011, but it remains to be seen whether he can hold his own at the point of attack in this system. If Jeff Saturday and company can keep him occupied with one man, that should help Aaron Rodgers have consistent time to throw the ball.
Starting CB: Justin King or someone else
Jerraud Powers is healthy and will start at corner for the Colts. He'll likely draw the task of covering Jordy Nelson for much of Sunday afternoon. However, the Colts' numbers 2 corner, Vontae Davis, is out, and King, who's their number 3, is banged up and could miss the game. Even with Greg Jennings out, this situation favors the Packers and their stable of receivers. James Jones should be able to beat one of these hobbled corners or their healthy replacement with regularity. Keep an eye on whichever player starts at this spot, because Aaron Rodgers certainly will.
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