TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms).
Series: 41st regular-season meeting. Colts lead 20-19-1. The interconference teams are meeting for the first time since 2004, when host Indianapolis rode the five touchdown passes of Peyton Manning to a 45-31 victory in a shootout against the Brett Favre-led Packers. Green Bay has won the last two encounters in Wisconsin, including a 26-24 outcome in 2000, the Colts' most recent visit to Lambeau Field.
Keys to the game: As quarterback Peyton Manning's knee gets closer to 100 percent, so does the Packers' offense. Manning's timing has improved, as has his confidence in the offensive line, although the Packers will try to disrupt that timing with bump-and-run cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. The big question for the Colts is in the backfield, where running back Dominic Rhodes will have to carry the load with Joseph Addai out. ... The Packers' struggling ground game should be more effective against the league's No. 29-ranked run defense. Running back Ryan Grant is coming off a career-high 33 carries last weekend, although he's still not finding big holes on a consistent basis. With increased threat of Grant, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been able to complete at least one pass of 40-plus yards in three straight games. The Colts emphasize eliminating big pass plays, so Rodgers is going to have to be patient and willing to engineer longer drives.
Packers injury report
Out — Cornerback Al Harris (spleen).
Colts injury report
Questionable — Linebacker Freddy Keiaho (groin).
Spotlight: Manning at Lambeau
Peyton Manning can certainly remember his only trip to Lambeau Field as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
On Nov. 19, 2000, Indianapolis rallied after falling behind 19-0 before eventually losing 26-24. Manning remembers that game as clearly as if it happened a week ago.
"I remember being excited to go up there (to Lambeau Field), first time playing up there and playing against Brett (Favre)," Manning said this week. "It didn't start out well. It was the elements. It was kind of a light snow, but the first play of the game I dropped back and the ball fell out of my hands in our own end zone for a safety."
Manning, who completed 25-of-44 passes for 294 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in his first matchup with the Packers, is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the history of the NFL. So, he understands the aura that surrounds Green Bay and Lambeau Field probably much better than most players of his era.
"I think, certainly, you appreciate the opportunity to be able to play in a place as historic as that place, with all of the game great players and coaches that have been there. Being a guy that appreciates the history of the game, it is special," Manning pointed out.
"Obviously, when you get down to it, you're still focusing on reading the (middle) linebacker or the strong safety and going out there and playing football. But you do get excited about the opportunity to play there."
He also recalls the last time the two franchises hooked up at the RCA Dome, with the Colts winning a 45-31 shootout on Sept. 26, 2004. Manning and Favre put on quite a show, combining to complete 58-of 84 passes for 753 yards and nine touchdowns.
Indianapolis threw the football on its first 22 plays and scored 35 points in the first half. Manning doesn't expect that kind of game to develop this week.
"There aren't many of the same players from that game (still around). It's a different (head) coach and a different coaching staff," he said. "They wouldn't stop blitzing. They blitzed all 22 of those plays, so we just kept throwing. That was one of those shootout-type matchups. You never know how the game will dictate (what a team will do), but I doubt the same thing would happen again."
The Packers drafted a blueprint last time out in their 27-17 win at Seattle on what will be required of them to keep Indianapolis' wild stallions on offense penned up in the stable, er, on the sideline.
Green Bay methodically put together three scoring drives of at least five-and-a-half minutes, making liberal use of the run with safe, effective throws by Aaron Rodgers. The end result was a one-sided time of possession of nearly 37 minutes, 30 seconds.
Fortunately for the Packers, the Colts have been struggling mightily against the run — ranking 29th in the league with an average of 161 yards per game — and don't have hard-hitting safety Bob Sanders because of a knee injury. So, expect the Packers to continue to plug away with Ryan Grant, who had a career-high 33 carries against the Seahawks, and try to prevent a track meet from breaking out at Lambeau Field.
Such a plan, however, will be foiled if Green Bay digs itself a hole by feeding the Colts' opportunistic ways of late. They have eight takeaways, including four forced fumbles, with no giveaways in just their last five quarters of play. Playing catch-up would be all the more difficult against an underrated Indy pass defense that has yielded only one touchdown this season.
Once the ball is in the hands of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the Packers' defense will know what's coming with the no-huddle attack, but keeping the damage to a minimum will be the trick. Green Bay matches up well with Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, who have seven interceptions, as the primary cover guys on Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, but the dropoff that Manning surely will look to exploit is with No. 3 receiver Anthony Gonzalez against nickel back Will Blackmon and tight end Dallas Clark against a coverage-challenged linebacker or safety.
The Packers were burned early and often by Manning in their 2004 meeting when they tried to blitz him. Green Bay, with a different scheme and mostly new personnel from that game, won't repeat the mistake, but it'll be asking a lot of an injury-riddled front four to pester Manning, who has been sacked only nine times behind a patchwork offensive line. Since substitutions will be hard to come by against the no-huddle, the Packers probably will settle into their nickel package and take their chances stopping Dominic Rhodes, the Colts' lone healthy back.