Eighth in a 13-part series on the teams the Green Bay Packers will face in the 2016 regular season.
Andrew Luck surpassed Aaron Rodgers at the bargaining table this offseason. In November, he'll try to do the same on the football field.
The Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts will pit two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks against each other when they play Nov. 6 at Lambeau Field. On one sideline will be Rodgers, two-time MVP and Super Bowl champion. On the other will be Luck, who in June signed a six-year, $140 million contract that makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history. The deal features $47 million fully guaranteed at signing and averages $23.3 million per year, which tops the $22 million per year that Rodgers got when he signed a new deal in 2013.
These kind of quarterback matchups are rare. When the Packers traveled to Carolina last season, Rodgers, the 2014 MVP, competed and lost against 2015 MVP Cam Newton. The previous season, Rodgers outdueled New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers vs. Luck should be the best quarterback battle on the Packers' schedule this fall, with all due respect to Russell Wilson, who will lead the Seattle Seahawks into Green Bay in December.
Here are three things to know about the Colts:
» No Luck last season: The Colts finished a disappointing 8-8 last season after three straight 11-5 records, and there was a good reason for the regression. The Colts played nine games without Luck, who was unavailable with a myriad of injuries, including a lacerated kidney, torn abdominal muscle, sore right shoulder and bum ankle. The injuries — and a faulty offensive line — most likely explain why Luck was on pace for the worst year of his career. In seven games, Luck had 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, one season after throwing 40 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
» Can we be friends? Despite success in their first three years together, it seemed inevitable either Colts coach Chuck Pagano or GM Ryan Grigson — if not both — wouldn’t survive last season’s downturn. There were numerous reports of strife between the two, with arguments over power and personnel control surfacing regularly. At the 11th hour, Colts owner Jim Irsay pulled a stunner and extended both Pagano and Grigson for four more years. Pagano has received credit in Indianapolis for pulling the three together, pitching Irsay on the idea that he and Grigson can coexist. It seems like a risky move for the Colts, but the success of their coach and GM through the first three seasons is undeniable. The question is whether Pagano and Grigson truly can coexist. When you see how quickly relationships can become strained in the NFL, it gives a sense of appreciation for how Packers coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson have worked so well together over the past decade-plus.
» Pass rushing, please: The Colts' offensive line, which allowed 37 sacks last season, was not the only issue when it came to the pass-rush game. On defense, the Colts ranked 15th in the league with 35 sacks. The Colts have had bad luck with edge rushers over the past few seasons, with 2013 first-round pick Björn Werner being released before the end of his rookie contract, and 2015 free-agent acquisition Trent Cole recording only three sacks last season. They are not the only contender to allow more sacks than their defense produces — the Packers allowed 47 last season, four more than their defense’s 43 — but 35 sacks does not a Super Bowl defense make. Each playoff team had more sacks than the Colts last fall.
Packers schedule glimpse
Nov. 6 vs. Colts, 3:25 p.m., CBS
Week before: at Falcons, Oct. 30
Week after: at Titans, Nov. 13
On the horizon: at Washington, Nov. 20
Coach: Chuck Pagano (41-23, fourth season).
2015 record: 8-8, second AFC South.
Scoring offense: 20.8 points per game (24th in NFL)
Total offense: 321.4 yards per game (28th)
Scoring defense: 25.5 points allowed per game (25th)
Total defense: 379.1 yards allowed per game (26th)
Series: Packers trail 20-21-1 (1-0 postseason)
Last meeting: It didn’t take long for the Packers to see what kind of talent Luck possessed, even as a rookie. They were victim to Luck’s first major win of his career, coming in Week 5 of 2012. The Packers lost 30-27 in Indianapolis after Luck led a 13-play, 81-yard drive capped with his 4-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with 39 seconds left. Aaron Rodgers worked his own magic, getting the Packers in position to send the game into overtime, but Mason Crosby’s 51-yard field goal was wide right with 8 seconds left.
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