The Denver Broncos Week 4 stop in the 2011 NFL season takes them to the (not quite) frozen tundra of Wisconsin to take on the reigning Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. The (1-2) Broncos will try to rebound from a tough loss to the Tennessee Titans last week. The (3-0) Packers have a five game winning streak, including a 27-17 win over the Bears' at Soldier Field last week and are the favorites to repeat as league champs.
Weather and Conditions
Game time is 2:15 p.m. MDT on Sunday at Lambeau Field, an outdoor football stadium in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It's playing surface is comprised of Kentucky bluegrass reinforced with DD GrassMaster, or the same surface as Mile High. It was formerly known as New City Stadium until 1965, when they renamed it in honor of Packers founder, player and long-time head coach, Curly Lambeau. And of course it is located on Lombardi Avenue.
The game will be nationally broadcast on CBS with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms calling the game. Check here to see whether the game will be aired in your area.
The weather forecast for the game is
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Injuries and external factors
The Broncos have played short-handed the past two weeks but with Elvis Dumervil, Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams returning from injuries this Sunday, Denver will be close to full strength on Defense for a change. The Packers are having their own injury crisis. However they were dealt that hand in 2010 and made things work. Green Bay will be without starting Safety Nick Collins and backups DE Mike Neal and LB Frank Zombo. They have numerous other players dinged up, but that isn't nearly important to the Broncos as their own returning players for this game.
The Packers rank 5th in Points (33.0), 8th in Total Yards (403.3), 9th in Passing and 10th in Rushing with 109.0 yards per game. They are led by last year's Super Bowl MVP, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is 74/103 for 917 yds, a 71.8% Comp., 8 TD's, 1 INT and a 120.9 QB Rating. Rodgers has been Sacked 5 times in the first 3 games.
His Receiving Corp is made up of WR Greg Jennings 18 Receptions for 263 yds and 2 TD's; TE Jermichael Finley (15, 206, 3); Jordy Nelson (20.1 avg., 2 TDs). The Ground game is headed up by Ryan Grant (32 Carries, 157 yards and a 4.9 average. James Starks (32, 147, 4.6, 1) sees plenty of touches as well.
Green Bay's Offensive Line consists of 12th year LT Chad Clifton, 3rd year LG T.J. Lang, 8th year C Scott Wells, 4th year RG Josh Sitton and 2nd year RT Bryan Bulaga, who is questionable at best for the game. If Bulaga can't go, 2nd year T Marshall Newhouse will start.
Defensively, the Packers rank 22nd in Points Against (24.7), 29th in Total Yards (414.3), 31st against the Pass(359.3) and 1st against the Rush, allowing a stingy 55.0 Yards per game. Green Bay runs a 3-4 Base Defense. Along the line, Ryan Pickett (5 TKL) mans the Left End, Jarius Wynn (9 TKL, 3 SK) takes care of the Right side and B.J. Raji (6 TKL, 1 SK) anchors the middle.
At Linebacker, from left to right are Clay Matthews (12 TKL, 1 SK), A.J. Hawk (9 TKL, 0.5 SK), Desmond Bishop (26 TKL, 1 SK) and Erik Walden (12 TKL, 1 SK) make up one of the better units in the league.
In the backfield, Charles Woodson (10 TKL, 2 INT, 1 FR), J. Bush (11 TKL, 1.5 SK), Sam Shields (12 TKL) and Tramon Williams (1 FR) are the Cornerbacks. Woodson is in his 14th year and is nicked up. Leading Tackler Morgan Burnett (28 TKL, 1 SK, 3 INT) is the Free Safety and Charlie Peprah (6 TKL) plays the Strong Side. Undrafted rookie Free Agent M.D. Jennings is the current back up to both as FS Nick Collins (12 TKL, 1 FF) is out with a Neck Injury. Because of age and injury, the Packs Defensive Backs are the weakest point of their Defense.
Mason Crosby takes care of the kicking duties. So far this year, Mason is 5/5 with a long of 37 yards. He is 78.9% for his career, with a long of 56 yards. Crosby's kickoffs make it to the end zone, but out of 20 KO's, 9 have have gone for touchbacks and 11 have been returned an average of 23.1 yards.
The Long Snapping Specialist is 4th year man Brett Goode.
The Punter/Holder is Tim Masthay, who has 13 Punts for a 39.6 average. His longest went 52 yards. 2 have landed inside thew 20 and one touchback.
Randall Cobb is the Packers main returner. He has 6 punt returns for a 7.3 average, a long of 17 yards and 4 Fair Catches. On kickoffs, Cobb has shown some explosiveness returning 4 an average of 45.8 yards, with 1 touchdown coming against New Orleans in Week 1.
Green Bay's Punt Coverage Unit has allowed 6 returns a whopping 22.2 yard average, including a 72-yard touchdown to Darren Sproles in the opener against the Saints.
Denver's overall record is 5-5-1 in the regular season (1-0 in the postseason) against the Pack and 0-4-1 in the frozen tundra. The last meeting between these teams was on Monday Night, October 29, 2007. Green Bay prevailed 19-13 at Mile High on a Brett Favre 82-yard pass to Greg Jennings in OT.
The line in Vegas has the Packers favored by 13 points
Seven is the number of consecutive wins by the Packers against AFC West opponents. Green Bay swept the four games in 2007, the last time it played teams from the division, and also won its final three meetings against those teams in 2003 after losing 40-34 in overtime to Kansas City earlier in the season.
Opponents have yet to score on the Broncos in the 1st quarter this season. Denver has scored 17 points in the opening period and has led after the 1st quarter in each of its 3 games.
For the 3rd straight week, the Broncos have played a game that was decided by a field goal or less. It is the first time in club history that Denver has opened the season with three games decided by three or fewer points and only the 19th time in NFL history a team has opened that way.
The Broncos defense held Titans RBs Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer to a total of 15 yards on 19 carries on Sunday. That 0.8 yards-per-carry mark ranks as the 3rd-best in club history.
Broncos QB Kyle Orton is 3-1 against Packers.
Statistically, Kyle Orton's two best quarters are the third and fourth. His passer rating by quarter through three games this season: First (85.6), second (32.5), third (125.9) and fourth (86.5). His overall rating of 79.1 ranks 24th in the league.
Since 2010, WR Brandon Lloyd has 79 1st-down catches, the 3rd-highest mark in the NFL.
WR Eric Decker had a career-high seven catches against Tennessee last week. Eleven of his 15 catches have been for 1st downs this season.
Rookie LB Von Miller is going for a 3rd consecutive game with a Sack.
Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite registered a sack for the second consecutive week. His two sacks in 2011 lead all NFL Cornerbacks.
The Broncos allowed seven pass plays of 22 yards or more in the past two games.
K Matt Prater is the only player in the league to post a perfect touchback percentage on kickoffs through 3 games. All 13 of Prater’s kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is 12-1 in his last 13 starts at home, with a 67.5% completion rate.
TE Jermichael Finley had a career-high 3 TDs last week.
S Morgan Burnett grabbed 2 Interceptions last week and has 3 in his last two games.
DE Jarius Wynn had a pair of Sacks in Chicago last week.
The Packers allowed 400-yard passing games to Drew Brees and Cam Newton in their first 2 games and Jay Cutler threw for 302 yards last Sunday.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is going to be a tough matchup for Denver. It will take a near perfect game of complimentary football by all three units for the Broncos to defeat the World Champs. The Defense will need big games from their stars. Their first interception of the year is past due and the return game has a chance to really help out this week too.