Manning vs. Slowik

Football is a battle of brawn. Today's game between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts will be a battle of brains, as well. <p>

In one corner is Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. Immersed in the game since a little boy due to his father, former Saints quarterback Archie Manning, perhaps no player in the game can match the combination of Manning's physical prowess and football IQ.

In the other corner is Packers defensive coordinator Bob Slowik. In his first year on the job, Slowik has installed a blitzing, aggressive scheme.

While the Manning vs. Brett Favre matchup has gotten the attention, it's Manning against Slowik that could determine the winner this afternoon.

No quarterback in the league audibles as much as Manning. Manning is the master of reading the defense before the snap and then finding the right play to counter with. If Manning consistently can read Slowik's hand before the cards are dealt, then the Colts will either score a lot of points or force the Packers to play a vanilla defense. If Slowik can keep Manning guessing, then the Packers have a shot at slowing the Colts' offensive juggernaut.

"It's like having an offensive coordinator on the field calling the play," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "Obviously, his recognition of defenses, his intellect as a football player helps them ... make the right play against the right defense."

Manning, meanwhile, credits his longtime relationship with offensive coordinator Tom Moore for giving him the information needed to basically run the play of his choice on every snap.

"I have a good feeling for what he's going to call and he does give me freedom to change plays and try to get us into better plays," Manning said.

The key will be for Slowik to keep Manning off balance. Show blitz but back off. Give a vanilla look and then blitz.

"They are going to run the same plays that they've been running. I think it's just more up to Manning to decide what he wants to do, where he wants to go, where he sees the defense and what he sees in the defense," linebacker Na'il Diggs said.

It's just as important for the Packers' defensive players to not give away their intentions too soon. If the Packers' defense shows blitz with too much time on the play clock, Manning will simply audible. If the Packers wait until the last possible moment before revealing their intentions, then Manning will be stuck running the play called in the huddle.

"That's up to us to disguise more. You can disguise some things or show them one thing and stay in it. Now, it falls on the defense to muddy up the look," cornerback Michael Hawthorne said.

Here are the rest of this week's keys to the game.


It appears Cletidus Hunt will shift from eagle tackle to nose tackle and start today's game. Hunt didn't play a good game last week against the Bears, frequently getting shoved several yards down field. If the Packers have any hope of stopping the Edgerrin James-led Colts running attack, Hunt has to hold the point despite almost certainly facing frequent double teams.


Manning is the king of the audible, and he's also the king of the play-action fake. No quarterback in the business an suck up the opposition linebackers and safeties quite like Manning. If the running game is clicking, the Colts will ride it until going for the big play off a fake handoff. With Manning's accuracy and his talented receivers, a one-on-one matchup is the opponent's worst nightmare.


The Packers were unable to bounce back from Ahman Green's fateful fumble last week. The miscue prevented a Green Bay touchdown and let the Bears take a 14-3 lead at halftime. The Bears were in charge the rest of the way as the turnover seemingly left the Packers dazed for the rest of the afternoon. If there's any aftereffect from dropping what should have been a sure victory, the Packers are in deep trouble. If Green Bay has buried that ugly past, then a big performance could be in the cards.


The Manning-Favre hype may be overblown, but this is a big matchup. Both teams are likely to have success running the ball, meaning there should be big plays available in the passing game. The Colts have one of the best receiving corps in the game, headlined by Marvin Harrison, but Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley are big-play threats. For the Packers, neither Javon Walker, Robert Ferguson nor Donald Driver have made a difference-making play this season. Today would be a good day to start since the scoreboard operator likely will be busy.

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