Rodgers matchup creates another challenge for Indy defense

Thu Nov 19 6:03pm ET
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer

Tennessee Titans cornerback Desmond King (33) reaches for Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines (21) in the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)


Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers passes against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)


Jacksonville Jaguars' Josh Allen takes down Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. Roughing the passer was called on the play. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)


Indianapolis Colts cornerback T.J. Carrie recovers a blocked punt and runs it back for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


Green Bay Packers' Darnell Savage breaks up a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars' Terry Godwin during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)


Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) carries the ball against Indianapolis Colts free safety Julian Blackmon (32) in the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indianapolis Colts embrace these daunting midseason tests.

First, they tried to contain reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. Then they contended with 2019 rushing champion Derrick Henry. On Sunday, the Colts face a third consecutive challenge - slowing down two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' potent offense.

Ace this one, and Indy will be well on its way to claiming the title of NFL's stingiest defense.

''You can tell everybody's on the same page and they fly around. It's one of the faster units we'll have played this year,'' Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said. ''They're physical, they know how to attack the ball. And it's hard to get big plays on them. So we're going to have to do a great job.''

At the moment, the Colts (6-3) sit at the top of the class.

They're No. 1 in overall defense, No. 2 against the pass, No. 3 against the run, No. 4 in scoring defense and No. 6 in turnover differential. They're tied for second in interceptions with 11, have scored three touchdowns and had two safeties. And for the first time in years, it's the defense that has helped Indy grab a share of the AFC South lead.

But Colts coach Frank Reich, a longtime NFL quarterback, knows just how difficult Rodgers can be on opposing defenses.

''He can make every throw from every arm angle and he gets it out faster than anybody I've ever seen,'' Reich said. ''He can give that little flick of the wrist to get that thing out. His feet don't have to be right, because of his arm strength he can put the ball anywhere he wants. Then he can extend plays.''

While Rodgers remains the leader of the Packers (7-2), LaFleur has tried to alleviate some of the burden on his quarterback. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have emerged as a dynamic duo out of the backfield, and Davante Adams is one of the league's top receivers.

Together, they have pushed Green Bay to the top of the NFC North and the Packers are the first team in NFL history to average 30 or more points per game while committing five or fewer turnovers through nine games.

The question is whether the Packers run defense will improve after allowing 337 yards rushing and two 100-yard runners over the past three games.

Rodgers will poke and prod the Colts defense, trying to find areas he can exploit. Indy expects nothing less and intends to stand up to the best.

''I know he's looking for weakness,'' said defensive end Justin Houston, the 2014 NFL sacks champ. ''He's going to try to attack you, make sure you're playing sound football, try to get the defensive line to jump offside. He's known for his hard counts and when you have that much experience, it's like having a coach on the field. We'll have our hands full.''

RIVERS' REVIVAL

A month ago, Philip Rivers' critics questioned whether the 38-year-old quarterback was holding back Indy's offense.

But over the past four weeks, Rivers has played at a high level. He's 106 of 159 (66.7%) with 1,168 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. The eight-time Pro Bowler is expected to make his 234th consecutive start, tying Eli Manning for the 10th-longest streak in league history. And if he finishes with a passer rating of 100 or better, he'll tie former Packers star and Hall of Famer Brett Favre for No. 4 on the league's all-time list with 108 games with a rating of at least 100.

For Rivers, it's fun to face players of Rodgers' stature.

''I've always appreciated and thought it was special going against a quarterback like him,'' Rivers said. ''Going back through the years from the Favres to the (Peyton) Mannings, with Drew (Brees) and (Ben) Roethlisberger and Eli (Manning) and I could keep going - (Tom) Brady. I'm not intentionally leaving anyone out. It is special.''

For Rodgers, it's becoming old hat. Rivers will be the seventh quarterback in his 30s or 40s that Rodgers has played this season. He's already gone up against 32-year-old Kirk Cousins twice, 32-year-old Matthew Stafford, the 41-year-old Brees, 35-year-old Matt Ryan and 43-year-old Tom Brady.

WINLESS IN INDY

In the 1960s, this was one of the most compelling matchups in football. But since the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984, it's been a one-sided road show for the Packers. They are 0-4 all time at the RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium, losing 30-27 in 2012, Andrew Luck's rookie season, during their previous visit.

SACKED OUT

Green Bay and Indy both have strong offensive lines and it's reflected in the numbers. Indy has allowed a league-low nine sacks this season. The Packers have allowed 11, tied for the third-lowest total. And with Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari returning from a broken rib last week, both lines should be at full strength Sunday.

Player Notes
New York Giants Dec 1 9:50pm ET

The New York Giants placed starting outside linebacker Kyle Fackrell (calf) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday with a calf injury. Fackrell will miss at least the next three games, leaving the Giants very short-handed at the position. He was tied for second on the team with three sacks and was playing close to 100 percent of the defensive snaps before suffering the injury in the Week 12 win over the Bengals. No outside linebacker on the active roster has more than one sack this year. Linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are also on IR. Jamaal Sheard and rookies Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown could start in Week 13 against the Seahawks, making the New York defense one to avoid for fantasy managers after they were a popular streaming defense against Cincy.

From RotoBaller

Drew Lock Dec 1 9:40pm ET

The Denver Broncos activated quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday after all three had PCR tests come back negative on Monday. They will all be eligible to play in Week 13 against the Chiefs. So barring additional team discipline, the Broncos won't be forced to use a practice-squad wide receiver under center against their division rivals. If Lock returns as the starter for this offense, it'll be excellent news for receivers Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler and tight end Noah Fant. Denver will likely be forced to throw often to keep up with the Chiefs high-octane offense, too, but Lock's inconsistency this season keeps him as a low-end QB2. The 24-year-old was 24-for-40 for 254 yards and two interceptions in the first meeting against KC back in Week 7.

From RotoBaller

Olamide Zaccheaus Dec 1 9:30pm ET

The Atlanta Falcons placed wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (toe) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday after he left the Week 12 win over the Raiders with a toe injury. In a corresponding move, the team activated receiver Laquon Treadwell from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and added him to the 53-man roster. Zaccheaus popped up for a couple decent games this year, but it his production was inconsistent on a weekly basis and he was too far down the team's receiving depth chart to be a viable fantasy option in most leagues. The second-year wideout's best game came in Week 9 against the Broncos when he had four receptions for 103 yards and his first touchdown of the season. If he doesn't make it back this year, he'll finish with 20 receptions (32 targets) for 274 yards and the one touchdown. Christian Blake and Brandon Powell could see some more playing time as the No. 4 wideout with Zaccheaus out.

From RotoBaller

J.K. Dobbins Dec 1 9:20pm ET

Baltimore Ravens running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram II are both eligible to be activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list prior to the Week 12 game against the Steelers on Wednesday, but it's not a given that either will play. Both players have been isolated since testing positive for the virus on Nov. 22 and aren't allowed to fly on the team plane on Tuesday night. At this point, if you have Dobbins or Ingram on your roster, you've likely benched them for other running backs that already played in Week 12. Even if they both play, Gus Edwards could see the majority of backfield touches and will be the best fantasy play of the trio. Those that picked up Edwards in order to start him this week are hoping that neither Dobbins nor Ingram suit up in the tough matchup against the undefeated Steelers.

From RotoBaller

Brandon Williams Dec 1 9:10pm ET

The Baltimore Ravens activated defensive tackle Brandon Williams, quarterback Trace McSorley, nickelback Tavon Young and cornerback Khalil Dorsey from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. They could activate more players from the list before kickoff against the Steelers on Wednesday. McSorley should be the backup to Robert Griffin III on Wednesday with Lamar Jackson testing positive for COVID-19 and being unavailable this week. The return of Williams will be good news for Baltimore's defensive line, who will again be without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell. The Ravens Defense is more of a gamble in DFS and season-long leagues against the undefeated Steelers, but inclement weather is expected and could make things tougher on both offenses.

From RotoBaller

Dalvin Cook Dec 1 7:53pm ET

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (ankle) is 'just kind of beat up,' according to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Fantasy Spin: Cook briefly left the Week 12 game against the Carolina Panthers but returned to finish with 83 total yards and 22 touches. He leads the league with 1,385 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns on the season. The Vikings' schedule gets much tougher following the Week 13 home date against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he'll remain a matchup-proof RB1 due to his heavy usage.

From TheHuddle

Jordan Willis Dec 1 7:43pm ET

San Francisco 49ers DT D.J. Jones, DE Jordan Willis and practice squad TE Daniel Helm will be activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and practice Thursday, Dec. 3, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Jaylen Watkins Dec 1 7:13pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers TE Matt Sokol and DB Jaylen Watkins were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Chris Smith Dec 1 7:03pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders LB Vic Beasley, PK Dominik Eberle, DE David Irving and DE Chris Smith were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Chad Hansen Dec 1 6:53pm ET

Houston Texans WR Chad Hansen, DT Corey Liuget, WR Steven Mitchell Jr. and WR Damion Ratley were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Aldrick Rosas Dec 1 6:53pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Terry Godwin, DB Josh Nurse, DT Caraun Reid and PK Aldrick Rosas were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Rashard Robinson Dec 1 6:33pm ET

Dallas Cowboys DB Deante Burton, OT Jordan Mills, DB Rashard Robinson and OT William Sweet were named protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Troy Fumagalli Dec 1 6:33pm ET

Denver Broncos RB LeVante Bellamy, TE Troy Fumagalli, DB Alijah Holder and LB Josh Watson were made protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Kyle Lauletta Dec 1 6:23pm ET

Cleveland Browns OT Michael Dunn, QB Kyle Lauletta, PK Matthew McCrane and OT Alex Taylor were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Joe Webb Dec 1 6:13pm ET

Free-agent WR Joe Webb (Lions) is visiting the New York Giants Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Tyler Bray Dec 1 6:13pm ET

Chicago Bears QB Tyler Bray was designated as a protected practice squad player for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Kevin Hogan Dec 1 6:13pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals QB Kevin Hogan, WR Stanley Morgan, RB Jacques Patrick and TE Mitchell Wilcox were named as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Darron Lee Dec 1 6:03pm ET

Buffalo Bills DE Bryan Cox Jr., C Jordan Devey, C Jonotthan Harrison and LB Darron Lee were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 13 on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Will Fuller Dec 1 5:53pm ET

Houston Texans WR Will Fuller and CB Bradley Roby were officially placed on the Reserve/Suspended list Tuesday, Dec. 1. The Texans also activated DT Andrew Brown from the Exempt/Commissioner Permission list.

From TheHuddle

D.J. Foster Dec 1 5:53pm ET

Arizona Cardinals TE Seth DeValve, DE Michael Dogbe, RB D.J. Foster and WR A.J. Richardson were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 13 on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle