Packers vs. Colts: Three things I'll be watching for
Since the start of free agency in 1993, the Packers (14) and Colts (13) have made more playoff appearances than any other teams in the league. Combined they have three world titles in that time frame. The teams are in quite different positions in 2012. The Packers have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, while the Colts are working with a rookie quarterback in Andrew Luck, and a slew of skill position players with 2 years experience or less. Below are three things I'll be watching for in Sunday's game.
Gimme Some More
Cedric Benson had perhaps his best game as a Green Bay Packer last weekend against the Saints. Benson has carried the ball between 17-20 times per game over the past three games. He has also caught 4 passes in each of those games. Benson is a volume back, who seems to really get going the more carries he gets. Aaron Rodgers explained last week that Benson is becoming more and more comfortable in the offense and is ready to break out. What I'll be watching for is how often the Packers go to Benson against the Colts rush defense that ranks 26th in the league, and allows 131 yards per game on the ground.
The Old 96'er
After serving a 4-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, Packers defensive lineman Mike Neal has been activated for Sunday's game. The Packers thought enough of Neal, a second round pick in 2010, to let Cullen Jenkins walk in free agency. Neal has been a disappointment thus far. Injuries, ineffective play, and the suspension have kept his career from getting on track. What I'll be watching for is how many snaps Neal takes on defense, and how effective he is. Mike McCarthy called Neal "unblockable" this week in practice. He brings fresh legs, and a chip in his shoulder into the game. He is a genetic freak with superior power - he needs to make sure that translates into disruptive play.
1st Quarter Fireworks
The Packers scored their first 1st quarter points of the season last weekend against the Saints. For the Packers to keep the crowd inside the dome quiet, they'll need to have a similar beginning to the game. The Colts and their fans will be emotionally charged given the absence of Head Coach Chuck Pagano. Pagano was diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia last Sunday. If the Packers get off to a quick start, and lead at the half, the game could be over. The Colts have been outscored in the second half 50-16 this season.