This past bye week has a chance to be the most helpful week off in recent memory for the Packers. Green Bay had a number of players with injuries defined as “week to week”. The Packers are a very impressive 6-0 but wins four, five and six seemed less impressive than wins one, two and three. Green Bay needed a week to relax and reload.
So far, things look like they’re going swimmingly. Morgan Burnett, BJ Raji and Nick Perry appear to be on track to return for a defense coming off of it’s poorest performance of the season. Dom Capers’ unit isn’t the only one getting key contributors back.
Not only is Davante Adams on track to play, but Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy, Ty Montgomery and James Starks all had various bumps and bruises that improved with the two week rest. Adams return and Cobb’s return to form could be just what the doctor ordered for the Packers passing offense. A healthy Eddie Lacy could revive the run game.
Terms like “what the doctor ordered and “revive” are admittedly odd for an offense ranked fourth in Offensive DVOA (FootballOutsiders). The griping about the Packers offense (and Eddie Lacy’s weight) is largely overblown, but this was supposed to be the premier offensive unit in the league. Very good isn’t good enough for an Aaron Rodgers offense, the Packers should be great.
If Packers fans think they have a lot to complain about, they should take a look across the line at the Denver offense. Peyton Manning and the Bronco’s “O” have been awful all season long. Denver ranks 32nd (dead last) in DVOA and instead of being part of the solution, the 39 year old signal caller has been part of the problem. His 7/10 TD to INT ratio so far is the worst of his career.
It’s not all good news for Packers fans. Denver’s defense is probably the best in football. The Broncos have talented cover men (Chris Harris is criminally underrated) and the best combination of edge rushers on the planet. Demarcus Ware and Von Miller are very good players that have both bought in to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ system. Facing this defense on the road will be Rodgers and the offense’s most difficult test of the season.
Why the Packers will win: this is the simplest way I can break this game down. The Packers have a very good offense going against an elite defense. The Broncos have a god awful offense going against a very good Packers D. Advantage Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers has actually had success in the past against Wade Phillips’ system, most memorably as a road underdog in Houston during the 2012 season. JJ Watt’s Texan defense allowed the reigning league MVP to light up the scoreboard with six passing touchdowns. Getting Cobb back to 100% and adding Davante Adams as a WR1 option gives the Packers offense hope to move the ball against Denver. Green Bay probably only has to get to 20 or 23 points to win the game.
Defensively the Broncos are a perfect matchup for the Packers. Peyton Manning is now completely immobile and incapable of stretching defenses down the field. The Broncos have a porous offensive line and struggle to run the ball. The easiest way to beat Manning is to bring pressure right up the middle. There isn’t a better group of inside rushers in the NFL right now than Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels and BJ Raji. With the Broncos unable to run the ball, the excellent Packers pass rush should be able to feast with all hands on deck.
Why the Broncos will win: they have a very, very good defense and they almost never lose at home. Also, Green Bay hasn’t been a great road team over the past few seasons. The mantra of Rodgers and the coaching staff has been to go undefeated at home and split their road games. This Packers team is probably too good to go 4-4 over any stretch, even road games.
There is certainly a way that the Packers defense plays poorly like they did against San Diego and surrenders 20 points to the Broncos. There’s also a way that the Broncos defense holds Green Bay under that total. After looking at the numbers and watching film on both teams, that just doesn’t seem very likely.
The one way I don’t think there’s any chance of the Broncos winning in a shootout. Not only do I doubt that Peyton Manning is capable of entering into a shootout at this point, but I really don’t think the Packers offense is operating at a level that can put 28-38 points on the Broncos. If Denver wins, it will be because of their awesome defense.
Bottom Line: I keep running through this game over and over in my head. I’m doing that because it’s the toughest game left on the schedule. It’s the toughest game left on the schedule (and Green Bay isn’t going to go undefeated) and I can’t figure out a way for the Packers to lose. Denver is truly, truly awful trying to move the ball. Aaron Rodgers does just fine against Wade Phillips and Phillips’ defense hasn’t really played anybody. Not any quarterbacks that scare you anyway. Flacco, Smith, Stafford, Bridgewater, Carr and McCown aren’t exactly the “best of the best” in the National Football League.
Like I said on From the Benches, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Packers won in a blowout. If Rodgers and the offense start to roll, Manning and the Broncos aren’t capable of keeping up. That said, I just don’t think that’s how things are going to go. Rodgers rarely loses to his contemporaries. His record against Brees, Brady, Rivers and Manning is exemplary. The Packers will probably lead the entire game, but never comfortably. The difference between the two QBs and the two offense will ultimately prove the difference. Packers 20 Broncos 13