Bill Huber: Should the Packers expect to see the Colts that were on display during last week's 31-0 thumping of Baltimore?
Eric Hartz: It's hard to say, the way this team has performed for the first month and a half. The Colts were great against Baltimore and for four minutes against Houston, but played very poorly in their other games. However, it does seem like Peyton Manning is getting his rhythm back, and the offensive line is getting healthier. The Colts have always been at their best when they can score a bunch of points in a hurry, and it looks like they're getting back into that mode.
BH: Even when they had Joseph Addai in the lineup, the Colts' running game was the NFL's least productive. The Packers, meanwhile, have the NFL's worst run defense in terms of yards allowed per carry. What's the problem in Indy, and is Dominic Rhodes as good as he was a couple years ago?
Jeff Saturday's return has given the Colts' running game a boost
EH: The biggest problem has been all the injuries on the offensive line. The line has been a mix-and-match affair since players started dropping like flies in training camp, and they've only recently been starting to gel. Getting All-Pro center Jeff Saturday back from a knee injury was a big boost, and the Colts have run the ball better in the last two weeks with him in the lineup.
Joseph Addai also seemed to be dancing a bit too much when he got the ball. Rhodes' straightforward, hard-running style may actually be more effective for this team until Addai gets healthy. When Joseph does come back, the Colts may look to use more of the two-back system that was effective during their Super Bowl run, rather than rely on Addai to shoulder the bulk of the carries.
BH: A key for the Packers will be keeping Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis away from Aaron Rodgers. Are those guys as productive on grass as they are on the fake stuff, and do the Colts need them to protect the secondary?
EH: They are both very fast, regardless of the surface, and the effectiveness of the Colts' defense usually begins with them — just look at how the Colts struggled with the two of them out in the second half of last season. Tony Dungy's defense is predicated on getting pressure on the passer, because there are some soft spots in any zone defense. The less time Freeney and Mathis give the opposing QB to find those spots, the more effective the defense is.
BH: About the only guy in the Colts' secondary that Packers fans have heard of is safety Bob Sanders, who is injured again. Indy's pass defense ranks seventh in the NFL, so they're doing something right. Tell us about the guys who will try to keep up with the dangerous duo of Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.
EH: The Colts have a very talented and deep secondary, although they do miss the oft-injured Sanders. Taking his place is Melvin Bullitt (No. 33) who is essentially Sanders Lite — a physical safety with good instincts, but without the experience. He's played well the last two weeks, and the team has confidence in him.
The Colts are also missing cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who probably is the team's best interceptor. Taking his place is Tim Jennings (No. 23), who had 10 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble last week, but has struggled in the past with bigger receivers. Whoever the Packers match up against Jennings will be an advantage for Green Bay.
At free safety, Antoine Bethea (No. 41) is solid, and made the Pro Bowl last year. Corner Marlin Jackson (No. 28) is a physical corner who will likely draw the matchup with Greg Jennings. Backups Matt Giordano (No. 43) and Dante Hughes (No. 20) will see their share of snaps as well.
BH: For years, the Packers haven't been able to handle opposing tight ends. Dallas Clark, a stud the last few seasons, seems to be off to a slow start. What's going on?
EH: Again, injuries have hit the tight end position, with all four of the players on the roster having missed time due to injury. The Colts ideal game plan was to have two "blocking" tight ends in Gijon Robinson and rookie Tom Santi, and two "receiving" tight ends with Clark and rookie Jacob Tamme. Since all have missed time at one point or another, the line has gotten blurred and Clark has been left in to block more than usual.
Once Robinson — a rookie himself, up from the practice squad — or Santi settle into the H-back position that Ben Utecht played in the past, I think you'll hear from Clark more often. Also, I think opposing defenses have taken Clark into account in gameplanning more than in the past, since he led NFL tight ends in touchdown catches a year ago.