Green Bay at Colts
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium
TV: FOX, Ch. 33.2
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
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The Indianapolis Colts will play their first game without head coach Chuck Pagano, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia. It'll be a tough task, with the potent Green Bay Packers coming to town.
Here's a look at five pivotal factors:
Rodgers won the NFL Most Valuable Player award last season and he's still fully capable of that level of play. In fact, he leads the NFL in completion percentage at 69.9 percent. But he's been sacked 16 times and for the Colts to have any chance at an upset, they need to get him under pressure. Robert Mathis has done a nice job with that so far, but it would be a huge bonus if Dwight Freeney is listed day-to-day, and could get back on the field. Not counting on it, though.
Luck has felt some pressure, too, from opposing defenses but has only taken five sacks. That's a tribute to his scrambling ability and sixth sense in the pocket as much as his pass protection. It's still up in the air who will man the offensive line on Sunday, an area that has been hit hard by injuries. This much is obvious: Someone has to block Packers linebacker Clay Mathews, who has seven sacks, second-best in the NFL.
The Colts have shown a tendency to play well in the first halves of games but have a drop-off offensively during the second half. It will be imperative for the Colts to come out strong in the third quarter, no matter what the halftime score. Where that develops remains to be seen, but Luck would do well to utilize his tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen more effectively.
Like the offensive line, the Colts secondary has been dinged up and will be without starting cornerback Vontae Davis, who has an ankle injury. Backup Justin King is also out. That leaves a heavy load on Jerraud Powers and Cassius Vaughn, plus the safety combination of Antoine Bethea and Tom Zbikowski. Rodgers has so many weapons at his disposal that it could be a long, long day for defensive backs.
The players are bound to be emotional taking the field without Pagano. In his short time as coach, he has established a respect and camaraderie that some coaches never reach. He'll be missed. Interim coach Bruce Arians has cautioned the players against trying to do too much to get that special win for Pagano. They can't let adrenalin overtake planning and execution.