The teams: The Green Bay Packers (1-1) vs. the Indianapolis Colts (0-2).
The time: 7 p.m. CDT Friday.
The place: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis.
The TV coverage: WDJT (Ch. 58) in Milwaukee and WISC (Ch. 3) in Madison.
The announcers: Ian Eagle and Phil Simms, with Sam Ryan reporting from the sidelines.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 54-34 (5-2 postseason) in his sixth season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. Indianapolis’ Jim Caldwell is 26-10, (2-2 postseason) in his third season as the Colts’ coach and as an NFL head coach.
The injury report: Packers – S Anthony Levine (concussion), DE Lawrence Guy (concussion), DE C.J. Wilson (concussion), T Chris Campbell (knee), OLB Frank Zombo (shoulder blade), WR/KR Shaky Smithson (shoulder), WR Randall Cobb (bruised knees) and DE Mike Neal (knee) will not play. WR Greg Jennings (bruised knee) and linebacker K.C. Asiodu (chest) may not play. WR Brett Swain (hamstring), CB Davon House (hamstring), RB James Starks (ankle), TE Spencer Havner (hamstring), S Brandon Underwood (knee, OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring) OLB Brad Jones (knee) and C/G Sampson Genus (turf toe) are expected to play.
Colts – QB Peyton Manning (neck) will not play. WR Austin Collie (foot), WR Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring), S Antoine Bethea (hamstring), S Al Afalava (groin), LB Gary Brackett (elbow), LB Cody Glenn (groin), TE Brody Eldridge (knee), TE Mike McNeill (shoulder), CB Chris Rucker (hamstring) and RB Javarris James (concussion) may not play.
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
No Manning: The Colts are so worried about their backup quarterbacks – Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky – that with star quarterback Peyton Manning iffy for the team’s Sept. 11 opener against Houston, Bill Polian went out and signed retired quarterback Kerry Collins to be the starter if Manning’s surgically repaired neck isn’t ready in time. Painter (42.4 passer rating) and Orlovsky (36.3) have been horrendous in preseason play, combining for four interceptions against only one touchdown while completing a combined 19 of 43 passes, prompting Polian, who drafted Collins in Carolina, to give the 38-year-old a call. The move is further evidence of how valuable Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn is behind starter Aaron Rodgers. The signing went over like a lead balloon with wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who told the Indianapolis Star, “Listen, I don't want to make it seem like I don't have open arms to anybody that's come into the organization. If they open the doors for Kerry Collins to come in, that's fine. I can't do anything about that anyway. But I'll be damned if we're going to open the door for somebody else and just drop our heads on who we already have. Colts are big on protecting their own, right? So I'm going to help protect our own."
No more line dancing: With the announcement that T.J. Lang had won the left guard competition over rookie first-round pick Derek Sherrod, the Packers’ starting offensive line is now set with Chad Clifton, Lang, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga. In the past, coach Mike McCarthy has targeted the third preseason game to have the starting five together in hopes of using the game to build cohesion and chemistry. While Lang is the new starter in the bunch, taking over for departed free agent Daryn Colledge, he has been around for three years now and knows his linemates. He also thoroughly outplayed Sherrod, so the transition shouldn’t be that difficult.
Fight for your right: The news that Frank Zombo played through a painful fractured shoulder blade last week against Arizona means the Packers must now rely on Erik Walden, who was running neck-and-neck with Zombo for the starting job, to be the every-down outside linebacker for the foreseeable future. Zombo had been the better player against the run, and while Walden is the better pass rusher, Zombo was no slouch in that department, either. Brad Jones, whose season ended with a shoulder injury last year, returned to action this week from a knee injury but probably isn’t going to unseat Walden as the starter. Still, he’ll need to play well given the way undrafted rookies Jamari Lattimore and Vic So’oto have been battling for roster spots in recent days.
Grant’s guarantee: Not only did halfback Ryan Grant get his recently reduced $2.5 million base salary guaranteed, you can guarantee something else on Friday night: The back-to-back 1,200-yard running back, who missed virtually all of last season with an ankle injury suffered in Week 1, will see a heavy workload against the Colts. With only eight carries so far in the preseason, Grant is the type of back who needs work and gets better with the more carries he gets. He’s yet to get warmed up, really. The same is true of James Starks, who missed last week’s game with an ankle injury but returns to action against Indianapolis. The Packers’ potent 1-2 –punch, with promising rookie Alex Green also in the mix, should get an extended look.
Young guns: McCarthy made it clear that his team’s preparation this week that beating the Colts was not important to him. While that’s seldom the objective of any preseason game, McCarthy’s point was that the emphasis is going to be on player evaluation above all else. That’s why the starters, who need to prepare for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the New Orleans Saints, won’t play into the third quarter the way they normally would in the third preseason game. Instead, the coaches and personnel staff will get long looks at their young wide receivers (Chastin West, Tori Gurley, Kerry Taylor, Diondre Borel, plus veteran Brett Swain), linebackers (So’oto, Lattimore, D.J. Smith, Cardia Jackson) and cornerbacks (Josh Gordy, Davon House, Brandian Ross, plus veteran Pat Lee), among others.
– Jason Wilde