Two of the NFL’s marquee teams will go head-to-head when the Colts host the reigning Super Bowl champion Packers Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium, though only one of the participants will have its franchise quarterback available for this preseason showdown.
The Colts had hoped to use this week’s tilt as a means to get their regulars fully prepared for the upcoming regular season, but will likely be instead forced to focus on what’s become a very concerning situation under center for the team. Four-time league MVP Peyton Manning remains on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from a second neck surgery in as many years, and speculation is growing that the superstar signal-caller may not be ready for Indianapolis’ season opener at Houston on Sept. 11.
The Colts may be even more worried about the players behind Manning on the depth chart, as both backup Curtis Painter and free-agent addition Dan Orlovsky have struggled badly in the club’s first two preseason tests.
Painter failed to lead the offense to any points during the first half of last Friday’s 16-3 home loss to Washington and threw for just 40 yards on 5-of-10 passing. Orlovsky was even worse, completing only 7-of-17 throws for 67 yards and an interception while facing primarily second-stringers.
For further proof that the plight has become serious, the Colts lured 38-year- old Kerry Collins out of a brief retirement by signing the grizzled veteran to a one-year contract on Wednesday, though it’s unclear as to whether the 16-year pro will participate in Friday’s game.
Indianapolis is dealing with some injuries at the wide receiver spot as well, with Austin Collie (knee, foot) and Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring) questionable to suit up against the Packers after missing practice time during the week. Collie was also held out of the Washington game.
Green Bay enters this clash in far better shape at quarterback. Aaron Rodgers has been razor-sharp over the first half of this preseason, and the Super Bowl XLV Most Valuable Player’s two understudies were on point as well in the Packers’ most recent outing, a 28-20 home victory over Arizona this past Friday.
Rodgers directed Green Bay’s first three offensive series against the Cardinals and went 9-of-12 for 97 yards while capping the final drive with a 20-yard touchdown strike to Greg Jennings. Backup Matt Flynn connected with Chastin West for a 97-yard score later on, while third-stringer Graham Harrell added a touchdown pass of his own in the fourth quarter.
In all, the Packers’ three quarterbacks combined to complete 21-of-27 attempts for 319 yards in addition to the three scores.
Rodgers also turned in a fine 2011 debut, throwing for 74 yards and a touchdown on 6-of-8 passing in Green Bay’s 27-17 loss at Cleveland on Aug. 13.
The Packers will also be without a few notable players of their own for Friday’s game. Rookie receiver Randall Cobb could miss the remainder of the preseason after bruising both his knees on a kickoff return against Arizona, while defensive end Mike Neal (knee) and outside linebacker Frank Zombo (fractured scapula) are both sidelined indefinitely.
Green Bay’s offense put on a show in last year’s preseason encounter between these teams, with Rodgers and Flynn combining for five touchdown passes in a 59-24 rout of the Colts at Lambeau Field. Indianapolis does hold a 5-3 advantage in the all-time preseason series, however.