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Preview: Colts at Packers

On paper, this looks like a good matchup between two similar, slightly above average teams. These aren't the record breaking Colts of a couple seasons ago, but the Packers aren't looking like a team that played in the NFC Championship game last season either. Standings from, and team rankings from Football Outsiders:

Teams Wins Losses Points Scored Points Allowed Net Points
Packers 3 2 114 97 17
Indianapolis 3 3 160 145 15
Teams Run Offense Pass Offense Run Defense Pass Defense
Packers 25 15 29 3
Indianapolis 10 11 23 8

All similar, except Indianapolis can run the ball. Or they could before they lost RB Joseph Addai for a few weeks. RB Dominic Rhodes won't be shut out, but he is a big step down from Addai.

Indianapolis' run defense is just as big a concern for them as it is in Green Bay, especially since their Pro Bowl SS Bob Sanders should miss his fourth straight game. They were so desperate for help they almost let Buffalo trade them some damaged goods. The Packers run defense looked much better last week, but that was against Seattle and their offense is running on fumes. It would be a very good sign if they can limit Rhodes, but they haven't proven that they can stop a quality offense from running.

The matchup also plays into the Packers' defensive hands because the pass defense is the strength of the team. However, the Packers have faced a bunch of lousy QBs so far this season (Tavaris Jackson, Jon Kitna, Brian Griese) and one QB that should never be allowed to play again in the NFL (Charlie Frye). When they did face a very good QB (Tony Romo), he had a pretty good game against them, in Lambeau. And that was back when DE Cullen Jenkins was around to provide a great pass rush. The Colts pass defense has stopped a lot of lousy QBs too (Tavaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels, Kyle Orton, Joe Flacco) but QB David Garrard is pretty good and he did nothing against them in week 3.

Indianapolis is 2-0 on the road, but they only won by 4 points at 1-4 Houston and Brad Childress grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory against them in week 2 at Minnesota. They don't have any special ability to win on the road.

Both teams will be able to pass the ball. The Packers should be able to limit Indianapolis to under 100 yards rushing with Addai out. But can the Packers run the ball against them? That's the key to the game. When Indianapolis was off to a bad 1-2 start, they allowed four different RBs to have 100 yard rushing games. Running attacks the soft part of their defense, plus it keeps the Colts offense off the field and reduces the number of plays they can run. Unfortunately the Packers haven't been able to run against anyone and RB Ryan Grant is one of the worst RBs in the NFL (although most of that blame lies with the o-line).

The Packers have been getting by on turnovers for a big part of this season, and Indianapolis won't help them because they rarely give up more than two per game. Maybe special teams or the defense can come up with a big play, but you can't count on it. This game will all come back to the running game. The Packers can't keep up in a shoot out with QB Aaron Rodgers' bad shoulder and no running game, so then Indianapolis would win 28-17. But if Ryan Grant finally comes to life with a 100 yard game, and keeps moving the chains for 1st downs, then QB Peyton Manning will spend more time on the sidelines and the offense should have enough production to win 27-21.