A Capsule Look at this Week's Colts Opponent, the Green Bay Packers
Synopsis: The Colts, who have dealt with injuries and adversity during the first month and a half of the season, on Sunday will play a team that has faced similar circumstances.
They'll also play a team that – like themselves – had big-time success a year ago.
The Green Bay Packers, a season after coming within minutes of the Super Bowl, have dealt with significant injuries and adversity this season, but after a come-from-behind victory over Seattle last weekend, they are tied with Chicago and Minnesota atop the NFC North.
After three consecutive losses, the Packers (3-3) rallied from a 10-3 first-half deficit with 24 consecutive points en route to a 27-17 victory at Qwest Field.
The Packers in the off-season traded quarterback longtime quarterback Brett Favre to the New York Jets in a highly-publicized move, opting instead to start at quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the franchise's first-round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Rodgers, who played collegiately at California, has completed 124 of 193 passes for 1,482 yards and 11 touchdowns with four interceptions. He sustained a shoulder injury in the Packers' second loss of the season – 30-21 at Tampa Bay on September 28 – and reinjured the shoulder against Seattle.
"He's playing through an injury right now and still winning games doing so," Colts Vice President of Football Operations Chris Polian said. "Unless you're there, you don't know how difficult a place Seattle is to play in. We don't see it a whole lot on television here, but it's a real difficult place to play. They (the Packers) went in and got a win on the road Sunday.
"Aaron has been around a few years, but it's really his first time playing. He's at a 64 percent completion percentage and 11 touchdowns versus four interceptions, so he's doing a real good job. He has 13 sacks, so he's doing a real good job of avoiding negative plays, and putting them in a position to win."
The Packers, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said, haven't changed dramatically offensively with Rodgers at quarterback.
"They're similar on offense to the way they played in the past," Dungy said. "They still have the same system. Rodgers is doing everything Favre did. We have to get ready for that throwing game and that downhill running game from (running back) Ryan Grant."
Grant originally signed from Notre Dame as an undrafted free agent with the New York Giants, but in two seasons, did not play for New York. He was traded to the Packers before last season, and after playing sparingly the first six games, took over as the featured back and finished the season with 956 yards and eight touchdowns on 188 carries. He set franchise records with 201 yards and three touchdowns rushing in 42-20 Divisional Playoff victory over Seattle following the season.
Grant this season has rushed for 359 yards and no touchdowns on 106 carries.
The Packers' defense is coordinated by longtime college and NFL assistant Bob Sanders, a linebackers coach with the Miami Dolphins from 2001-2004, and Dungy said the Packers' defensive style is similar to the early-decade Dolphins of defensive end Jason Taylor, middle linebacker Zack Thomas and cornerbacks Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain.
"Defensively, they're more like the (Miami) Dolphins we played in the past – same coaching system and style, press corners, a lot of big inside defensive lineman and fast outside guys to pressure the passer," Dungy said. "So, it's really – for some of the guys who have been around a long time – it is going to be like playing against the Dolphins."
It's a defense that has been hurt significantly this season by injuries, with several defensive linemen out for the season or extended periods with injuries. Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett sustained a hand injury against Seattle and his status is uncertain.
Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris is expected to miss Sunday's game recovering from a spleen injury.
2008 Record: 3-3, T-1st in NFC North.
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy, 3rd season as Packers and NFL Head Coach (24-14, 25-15 including postseason).
Last game: With quarterback Aaron Rodgers playing with a sprained shoulder, the Packers won a critical match-up on the road, beating the Seattle Seahawks, 27-17, at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington, to snap a three-game losing streak and move into a tie for first place in the NFC North.
The Packers held Seattle to 177 yards total offense, the first time since 2006 Green Bay held an opponent under 200 total yards.
Rodgers, who aggravated an earlier shoulder injury early against Seattle, finished the game having completed 21 of 30 passes for 208 yards and two second-half touchdown passes. Rodgers also ran for game-tying touchdown with 1:08 remaining in the first half.
After being tied, 10-10, at halftime, Green Bay outscored Seattle, 17-0, to start the second half before allowing a late touchdown.
2008 NFL Rankings: Offense – Overall, 14th (333.3 yards per game); Rushing, 21st (98.5 ypg); Passing, 10th (234.8 ypg); Defense – Overall, 20th (332.2 yards per game); Rushing, 27th (153.3 ypg); Passing, 8th (178.8 ypg).
2008 Leading Passer: Aaron Rodgers (124-193 completions, 1,482 yards, 64.2 pct., 11 TD, 4 INT, 98.0 rating).
2008 Leading Rusher: Ryan Grant (106 carries, 359 yards, 0 TD).
2008 Leading Receiver(s): Greg Jennings (34 receptions, 653 yards, 4 TD), Donald Driver (25 receptions, 295 yards, 2 TD).
2008 Leading Sacker: Aaron Kampman (6).
2008 Turnover Breakdown: Plus-4 (12 forced, 8 committed).
First-round draft choice: The Packers didn't have a first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, instead selecting three players in the second round – wide receiver Jordy Nelson (No. 36 overall, Kansas State), quarterback Brian Brohm (No. 56 overall, Louisville) and cornerback Pat Lee (No. 60 overall, Auburn).
Nelson has caught 14 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown as a reserve receiver, and also is the Packers' backup kickoff returner and third punt returner.
Brohm, considered by some one of the top quarterbacks available in the 2008 NFL Draft, is the top backup behind first-year starter Aaron Rodgers, and has yet to play this season.
Lee has played three games as a reserve and missed three games early in the season. He has one pass defensed after defensing four in four preseason games.
Key free agents acquired: Brandon Chillar (St. Louis), LB.
Key free agents lost: Bubba Franks (New York Jets), TE; Frank Walker (Baltimore), CB.
2008 Review: The Packers, who traded longtime starting quarterback Brett Favre shortly before the season, started the season with back-to-back victories, beating Minnesota, 24-19, at home in the opener and beating Detroit in Week 2, 48-25.
They then lost three consecutive teams with winning records, losing to then-unbeaten Dallas, 27-16, before losing to Tampa Bay, 30-21; then Atlanta, 27-24.
Green Bay beat Seattle on the road this past weekend, 27-17.
Last time in Playoffs: 2007.
Last time in Super Bowl: 1997.
Super Bowl Championships: 1966, 1967, 1996.
2007 Pro Bowl Selections: Chad Clifton, OT; Donald Driver, WR; Brett Favre, QB; Al Harris, CB; Aaron Kampman, DE.
Quotable I: "We've got a long way to go. We're not going to say, 'We won a game and we're back.' We've still got work to do and we're going to continue to work until we get to exactly where we want to be.''
--- Packers Middle Linebacker Nick Barnett
Quotable II: "Losing is hard. We haven't won a game in a month. So it's something we talked about as a football team all week, the investment we've made in our preparation and have not been able to cash in on that investment. We knew it was going to be a big challenge because of the territory you're walking into (in Seattle) and it was imant to win . . . no doubt."
--- Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy