Sunday, November 1, 2015 - 6:30 PM MDT
AVG. YDS (RNK)
AVG. YDS (RNK)
|6-0||Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO||6-0|
|1st NFC North||Spread: Packers by 3||1st AFC West|
The Denver Broncos will be home underdogs for just the second time since Peyton Manning arrived in Denver. The last being a 31-25 home loss to the Gary Kubiak-led Houston Texans in 2012 in Manning's third regular season game in orange and blue.
Since that loss to the Texans in 2012, Manning is 23-1 in the regular season (24-2 overall) when playing at Mile High Stadium. However, Vegas feels that Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will prove to be too much for the Broncos to handle. One can hardly blame them given the Broncos offensive struggles.
The Packers are not without flaws, however, and I believe the Broncos are built fairly well to handle the Packers strengths on offense and their weaknesses on defense. Still, I wouldn't go putting any money on this game as the Broncos offense still hasn't turned any corners after six games.
Strength against weakness
Here are some of the bigger match-ups in this week's game between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos that we'll need to keep an eye on.
Broncos pass rush vs. Packers offensive line
There is little doubt to me that this is a make or break game for the Broncos defense. They have tons of confidence as a group, but they have just as many doubters around the NFL. They have dominated "a bunch of cupcakes" up until now and many around the league give them no chance to stop Rodgers and the Packers offense. This is the Orange Crush's time to shine on Sunday Night Football.
The good news for Broncos fans is that the Packers are vulnerable to the pass rush. Their 22nd ranked passing attack is largely due to a slew of injuries at wide receiver and a collapsing pocket around Rodgers. Against the San Diego Chargers - a team with just 12 sacks through seven games - Rodgers was harassed by the Chargers pass rush, ultimately leading to three sacks on the day.
On this play, the Packers wide receivers and tight ends simply were not able to get open. If the clock is ticking that long all day, then Von Miller and that defense is going to feast on Rodgers.
Not only are the Packers giving up coverage sacks, they also look like Swiss cheese at times in pass protection. The amount of talented pass rushers on the Broncos defense, they should be able to add to their league leading 26 sacks.
Broncos run defense vs Packers rushing attack
If there was one aspect of this Broncos defense that I would worry about, its the run defense. The Broncos currently rank 4th in the NFL in that category, but that ranking belies the true strength of the interior run defense. Lately, over the last three games, teams have opened up the passing game in an attempt to beat the Broncos through the air. Those were poor game plans by opposing coaches and I think the Packers already know what their strength is and, amazingly, its not Rodgers arm.
Broncos linebackers Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan will need to have the best games of their respective seasons to contain the Packers interior running game. If they can do that, the Broncos should be able to keep Rodgers in third and long situations. That will then play back into the strength of this Broncos defense.
Still, Rodgers and the Packers are going to get theirs. A drive or two where they put up touchdowns should be expected even if the Broncos defense plays a great game. If the Broncos defense does their part, then the key to this game will come down to this next item.
Peyton Manning vs. Gary Kubiak
I call these sections strength versus weakness, but I'm not entirely sure which is which in this case. Both men seem to be trying to make their square pegs fit in round holes and something has got to give soon or the season is definitely going to be lost. We've all seen the bad results from Manning trying to learn this new system, but what we would like to see is Manning in the shotgun doing this kind of thing.
Alternatively, Manning in the no huddle seems to also be a good idea.
Either way, it is entirely on Kubiak to make the decision on which direction this offense is going to go. I had started to believe Manning was indeed "done" physically, but the more I read the more I see how the struggles on this offense have more to do with Manning not knowing where his guys are going to be than it is with Manning's inability to throw a football.
Sure his ability is somewhat hampered by his diminished physical abilities, but if you really watch all of his throws he mostly has what he needs to be successful from a physical standpoint. This is why I'm starting to move away from wanting to see Kubiak's system installed with Manning at quarterback. Leave that for Brock Osweiler after Manning hangs 'em up.
In other words, bring back the shotgun no-huddle offense and roll the dice with Manning one last time.
The bottom line
The bottom line is that the Broncos defense has to have their best game of the season, then Manning needs to do just enough to keep the score close.
If there is one thing Manning has proven in 2015 is that when the chips are truly all on the table, he'll find a way to drive the Broncos down the field for a winning score - even when it comes after an overtime interception that should have lost the game.
A loss against the Packers will likely shake the confidence of the team heading through a rather brutal stretch of games against dangerous football teams. The best way forward here is with a home win against a Super Bowl favorite and continuing that "most watchable team" hype in Week 9.