One of the best games in Week 11 should be the Green Bay Packers (7-2) traveling to Indianapolis to face the Colts (6-3). The Packers are coming off one of their worst games of the season. It was still a 24-20 win over Jacksonville, but it felt like a loss as a 14-point favorite in the NFL odds. Meanwhile, the Colts just played their most complete game of the season in a 34-17 win at Tennessee to take the lead in the AFC South.
Green Bay Packers vs. Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, November 22, 2020 – 04:25 PM EDT at Lucas Oil Stadium
The Colts are a 1.5-point home favorite at most betting sites. This is a good test and step up in competition for both teams as unfamiliar opponents from different conferences. According to Football Outsiders, the Colts have faced the third-easiest schedule so far while the Packers are playing their first quality opponent since the 38-10 shellacking in Tampa Bay in Week 6.
Can the Packers Take a Punch?
These teams are built much differently and have little in common philosophically. The Packers tend to live or die through the skill of Aaron Rodgers and his offense, which is a familiar story to Colts fans who lived through the Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck eras.
However, head coach Frank Reich has had to build up to something different since Luck’s shocking retirement. This is the team with “Run the Damn Ball” caps and t-shirts, and an offense that has tried to rein in some of Philip Rivers’ gunslinger tendencies at age 38.
Instead of relying on talents such as Davante Adams and Aaron Jones to score a ton of touchdowns, the Colts are sharing the ball between three backs now, and Nyheim Hines had the hot hand last week against the Titans. The Colts also have seven skill players with between 203 and 330 receiving yards, so you never really know who is getting the ball week to week or drive to drive with this offense.
Have the results been great so far? Not quite. The Colts rank 11th in yards per drive, but only 18th in points per drive. The Colts rank 30th in third-down conversion rate, the run game has not been that effective regardless of which back was used, and finishing in the red zone has been a problem. The Colts settle for too many field goals, which is a no-no against a Green Bay offense that ranks second in both points and yards per drive. The good news is the Colts have the third-lowest rate of three-and-out drives, and they will need to engineer long drives to limit Rodgers’ opportunities with the ball.
It sounds funny, but the Colts are now a team led by the defense, which ranks in the top 10 in numerous categories this season. The Colts have held a league-high six opponents to fewer than 300 yards of offense, and no one has gained 400 yards on the Colts this season.
The Packers had two turnovers against Jacksonville after having three all season, but such mistakes are rare for this team. Tampa Bay is also the only defense that has been able to get after Rodgers and sack him more than once, doing so four times in Week 6. The Colts are decent with takeaways as only the Buccaneers (12) have more interceptions than Indianapolis (11) in 2020. The Colts are middle of the road in sacks, but this defense tackles very well.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Colts have the fewest missed tackles (35) in the league by a margin of 10 over the next best team. The Colts also are tied for the third-most pass deflections (49). Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has had a huge turnaround to his career since joining Indianapolis, and he has plenty of experience facing the Packers from his time in Minnesota.
Special teams played a huge role for these teams in Week 10. The Packers, ranked 24th in special teams DVOA this season, had their worst game of the season against Jacksonville, allowing a 91-yard punt return touchdown. The Colts ranked sixth in special teams, had a huge night against the Titans, including a blocked punt that really swung the game. You do not expect performances like that to repeat themselves in Week 11, but in a close matchup, special teams can make the difference. The Colts have been better at them than the Packers this year.
FiveThirtyEight sees this game as a pick ‘em. Football Outsiders ranks the Colts No. 5 in DVOA while Green Bay is No. 7. The Simple Rating System at Pro Football Reference has the Packers at No. 7 and the Colts at No. 8.
If we think of home-field advantage, weakened as it may be by the pandemic in 2020, as a field goal, then this truly is as close to a pick ‘em as it gets. We know passing offense is the most reliable indicator of a team’s quality on a week-to-week basis, and there is no denying that the Packers enter this game with the better quarterback and passing game.
However, there is a lot to like about the Colts in this matchup. The offense has had effective games and the defense is fairly consistent in a season with little defense being played around the league. The Colts defense does not beat itself with a lot of mistakes. If they can pressure Rodgers and get a clean game out of Rivers, for my NFL Picks I like the Colts at top sportsbooks to win this one by at least a field goal.