Indianapolis Colts vs. Green Bay Packers, Week 11: Can No. 1 Defense Stop Future Hall-of-Fame QB Aaron Rodgers?

A stingy Colts defense goes up against legendary Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a Sunday showdown with playoff implications.
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Green Bay Packers are tied for the NFC’s best record at 7-2 and pushing for the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed.

The Indianapolis Colts (6-3) are tied with the Tennessee Titans atop the AFC South Division, have the early head-to-head tiebreaker edge on the Titans, and are trying to make the playoffs for just the second time since 2015.

That makes Sunday’s meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium an intriguing matchup which impacts the playoff picture in both conferences. Even more intriguing, one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers will try to solve the league’s No. 1-ranked Colts defense.

Aside from a late December trip to face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, the Colts are looking at their most formidable offensive challenge in trying to defend not just Rodgers but three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Davante Adams, who practiced Friday and is reportedly good to go despite an ankle injury.

A Colts offense that enjoyed some extra rest after a 34-17 road win over the Titans on Thursday Night Football a week ago is relying upon 17th-year quarterback Philip Rivers to generate points by using a variety of weapons — he’s completed passes to 15 different targets and is the league’s best-protected passer based on fewest sacks allowed by a solid offensive line.

Rodgers, who turns 37 in two weeks and is in his 16th season, has won a Super Bowl ring and has been twice named NFL MVP in addition to being voted All-Pro three times and selected for eight Pro Bowls.

Put simply, he’s one of the best to ever play the position, which makes for must-see TV as the Colts try to bring him down.

Here’s all you need to know about Colts-Packers.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the Green Bay Packers (7-2) in a Sunday road game at the Indianapolis Colts (6-3).

Aaron Rodgers passes in Sunday's win against Jacksonville.

Broadcast Information

— Sunday, Nov. 22, at 4:25 p.m. (EDT).

— Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis.

— TV: FOX-59, Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (color), Erin Andrews.

— Radio: WFNI 1070-AM ESPN “The Fan,” WLHK 97.1 HANK-FM, Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Rick Venturi (color), Larra Overton (sideline), Bill Brooks (pregame/postgame analyst); ESPN Radio, Marc Kestecher (play-by-play), Barrett Jones (color).

All-Time Series

— Colts lead, 22-20-1 (0-1 in playoffs). Colts have won three of four.

— Last meeting, Week 9, 2016. Colts won, 31-26, at Lambeau Field.

Coaches

Colts: head coach Frank Reich; offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni; defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, special teams Frank Ross.

Packers: head coach Matt LaFleur; offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett; defensive coordinator Mike Pettine; special teams Shawn Mennenga.

Last Week

Colts won at Tennessee Titans, 34-17.

Packers won vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20.

Injury Reports

Colts

— QUESTIONABLE: TE Jack Doyle (concussion); CB Isaiah Rodgers (knee); OT Braden Smith (thumb); TE Noah Togiai (knee); DE Kemoko Turay (ankle).

Packers

—OUT: RB Tyler Ervin (wrist/ribs).

— DOUBTFUL: DL Montravius Adams (toe).

— QUESTIONABLE: CB Ka’dar Hollman (quadricep); WR Allen Lazard (core); S Will Redmond (shoulder); WR Darrius Shepherd (shoulder); WR Equanimeous St. Brown (knee).

Storylines/Things to Watch

Get in Rodgers’ Face: The fact that Rodgers doesn’t turn the ball over much with 26 TD passes and three interceptions, and he’s taken just 10 sacks, means the Colts have a tough challenge in generating a disruptive pass rush. And that pass rush took a hit Friday, when defensive end/tackle Denico Autry was ruled out after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Autry leads the Colts with six sacks. If the Colts are going to have any chance, the defense must force Rodgers to throw before he wants to as much as possible. That’s not saying a defense with 11 interceptions will get one, but making Rodgers at least uncomfortable in the pocket is key.

No Huddle, Part II?: Rivers thrived in a mostly no-huddle offense in a Thursday win at Tennessee. The Packers have a better defense, based on statistics, but generating pressures has been inconsistent at best. Perhaps Rivers and Reich will decide to dictate terms again with the no-huddle approach? At the very least, see how the Packers adjust? Rivers has the smarts to check out of plays that won’t work, he keeps the defense from substituting, and an inconsistent offense can establish a desired tempo. Regardless of what the Colts decide, the Packers could try to blitz more to force Rivers to get rid of the ball more quickly. The Colts often rely upon short-range pass plays, so quick hits to running back Nyheim Hines, among others, could be effective.

Stick With Run: All facets of the Colts offense can be blamed for a run game that has disappointed so far. Running back Jonathan Taylor has seen his carries decrease. Hines and Jordan Wilkins have been inconsistent. The offensive line hasn’t blocked as well, especially on short-yardage plays where the Colts have failed to pound it up the gut. And Rivers shares responsibility in not checking out of bad runs more often when the defense is crowding the box. The Packers are sure to do that, but they’ve also struggled to stop the run. If Rivers can loosen up the running lanes with some early throws, the Colts would benefit from hanging onto the ball for long stretches to keep Rodgers off the field.

Intriguing Matchups

Colts CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Packers WR Davante Adams: They know each other well from when Rhodes played previously in the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings. Adams was gimpy last week, but still leaped high to catch the game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. So even if the three-time Pro Bowl star isn’t 100 percent, he can still make plays. It was his ninth TD catch this season. Rodgers has been frustrated with the inconsistency of other pass-catchers, which is why Adams is so important. He’s the one wide receiver who along with Rodgers can take over a game. Adams has three games with double-digit catches, including 14 receptions for 156 yards and two TDs against the Vikings. He caught three TD passes in the other game against the Vikings. Rhodes has had a solid bounce-back season in a Colts scheme that asks him to read the quarterback more than the receiver. But this week might require staying more focused on the receiver, especially when in man-to-man coverage.

Colts LB Darius Leonard vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: After hearing that Rodgers told San Francisco’s Fred Warner that he was the NFL’s best linebacker, Leonard said he circled the Packers game on the schedule. “The Maniac” intends to change Rodgers’ mind after playing the star quarterback for the first time in the third-year linebacker’s career. Leonard’s stats and honors exceed Warner, so he shouldn’t need added motivation, especially considering how intense the Colts defensive leader plays any time he’s on the field, including practice. But the proof is in the performance.

Colts LB Bobby Okereke vs. Packers RB Aaron Jones: The Colts didn’t prevent Titans running back Derrick Henry from rushing for 103 yards on 19 carries, 5.4 yards per carry, but he became a non-factor when facing a double-digit deficit. Packers running back Aaron Jones has 493 yards rushing, averages 4.8 yards per carry, with five TDs. He’s also caught 28 passes for 231 yards and two TDs. So the Packers and Rodgers like to rely upon him a lot. That means Leonard and Bobby Okereke, who are the team’s fastest linebackers, can’t just key on the quarterback. They have to key on Jones, too. Linebacker Anthony Walker could also factor into that effort.

The Green Bay Packers celebrate an Aaron Jones (33) touchdown.

Aaron Jones (33) celebrates a Packers touchdown.

Projected Weather

— Colts owner Jim Irsay will announce Saturday if Lucas Oil Stadium roof/window will be open or closed. Expect closure based on precipitation and temperature. Forecast calls for a steady rain early, then remaining cloudy with a few showers. High 44F. Winds NNE at 10-15 mph. Chance of rain 100 percent.

Referee Assignment

— Head referee: Shawn Hochuli (seventh season, started as back judge, promoted to referee in 2018). Click here to see Week 11 referee assignments.

Betting Lines

— Favorite: Colts (-1.5).

— Over/Under: 51.

2020 Season Leaders

Colts

— Passing: QB Philip Rivers (2,395 yards)

— Rushing: RB Jonathan Taylor (428 yards)

— Receiving: WR Zach Pascal (330 yards)

— Touchdowns: RB Nyheim Hines (6)

— Tackles: LB Darius Leonard (60)

— Sacks: DE Denico Autry (6)

— Interceptions: S Julian Blackmon, CB T.J. Carrie, CB Kenny Moore II, CB Xavier Rhodes (2)

Packers

— Passing: QB Aaron Rodgers (2,578 yards)

— Rushing: RB Aaron Jones (493 yards)

— Receiving: WR Davante Adams (741 yards)

— Touchdowns: Adams (9)

— Tackles: LB Krys Barnes (48)

— Sacks: LB Za’Darius Smith (8)

— Interceptions: Four with one

Comparing 2020 Stats

Colts

— Total offense: 15th (368.2 YPG)

— Scoring: 14th (26.9 PPG)

— Passing offense: 10th (262.4 YPG)

— Sacks allowed: 1st (9)

— Rushing offense: 20th (105.8 YPG)

— Third-down offense: 30th (37.5%)

— Red-zone offense: 25th (55.88%)

— Total defense: 1st (290.4 YPG)

— Scoring defense: 4th (19.7 PPG)

— Passing defense: 2nd (198.7 YPG)

— Sacks: T15th (21)

— Rushing defense: 3rd (91.8 YPG)

— Third-down defense: 17th (40.52%)

— Red-zone defense: 19th (64%)

— Time of possession: 11th (31:12)

— Turnover differential: T6th (+4)

Packers

— Total offense: 6th (395.8 YPG)

— Scoring: 3rd (30.8 PPG)

— Passing offense: 6th (274.3 YPG)

— Sacks allowed: 3rd (11)

— Rushing offense: 11th (121.4 YPG)

— Third-down offense: 4th (48.18%)

— Red-zone offense: 4th (73.53%)

— Total defense: 9th (335.9 YPG)

— Scoring defense: 15th (24.9 PPG)

— Passing defense: 13th (225.1 YPG)

— Sacks: 17th (20)

— Rushing defense: 12th (110.8 YPG)

— Third-down defense: 15th (39.8%)

— Red-zone defense: 23rd (67.86%)

— Time of possession: 1st (33:08)

— Turnover differential: T12th (+2)

Colts Notes

— QB Philip Rivers needs one game with a 100-plus passer rating to tie Hall of Famer Brett Favre (108) for fourth in NFL history. A Sunday start means Rivers will tie Eli Manning (233) for 10th in all-time NFL starts.

— Since 1987, LB Darius Leonard has the most 10+ tackle games in his first 30 games at 15.

— DT DeForest Buckner is tied for the league lead in tackles at his position (39). DT Grover Stewart’s 34 tackles rank sixth.

— RB Nyheim Hines needs four receptions to tie Reggie Wayne (144) for the seventh-most receptions by a Colts player in their first three seasons.

— CB T.J. Carrie needs one pass defended for 50 in his career.

— CB Xavier Rhodes needs seven tackles to reach 400 in his career.

— Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton needs one TD reception to tie Dallas Clark (46) for the sixth-most receiving scores in franchise history. He also needs 56 scrimmage yards to reach 9,000 in his career and become just the sixth player in franchise history to reach that plateau.

— Linebacker Anthony Walker needs one solo tackle to reach 200 in his career. With two tackles, he will reach 300 total tackles in his career.

— Since 2019, the Colts are the only team to score touchdowns on an interception (four), punt return (two), kickoff return (one), and blocked punt (one). The Colts lead the league with five miscellaneous TDs this season.

— The Colts defense is No. 1 in lowest opponent passer rating at 78.9.

— The Colts are No. 1 in defensive starting position at 24.4.

— The Colts lead the league in fewest sacks allowed at nine this season, and since 2018, are second in fewest sacks allowed at 59, one more than the Saints.

Click Before The Game

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