Breakdown: Week 8 – Packers at Broncos

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After what felt like an eternity, the Packers bye week has finally come to an end, and we’re now just two days away from seeing Rodgers and Co. return to the field as they take on the Broncos in Denver.

Thankfully, it seems the Packers have used this extra time to get healthy. BJ Raji, Morgan Burnett, Davante Adams, James Starks and Ty Montgomery have all returned to practice and appear likely to play this weekend.

There are questions to be answered for both teams, but they both enter play this week at a perfect 6-0. Let’s get right down to it and break down this highly anticipated matchup.

Green Bay Offense vs Denver Defense

The Packers offense has seen its share of struggles lately. With injuries to some key players, they found themselves thin at wide receiver, tight end and offensive line. After the bye week, it looks like most of the offense is healthy, which would be a huge boost for Aaron Rodgers. With the exception of tight end Andrew Quarless and, of course, receiver Jordy Nelson, they appear to be at 100%.

The wildcard in this matchup is Eddie Lacy. He’s had a rough start to the season, struggling to stay healthy and find a rhythm. If he’s able to get into a groove, it could open things up for a great passing attack.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done when you’re up against the league’s best defense. They’re ranked #1 in total defense, passing yards allowed, and sacks. And they rank fourth in rushing yards allowed. On paper, there’s no way to exploit this group.

Rodgers will have to use every trick in the book to evade pressure and keep from being sacked. Having DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller running at you from both sides all day will definitely take a toll on Rodgers, so he’ll have to be creative and find ways to keep them from dictating this game.

Green Bay Defense vs Denver Offense

What’s going on with Peyton Manning? His team is 6-0 but he has struggled mightily, throwing only 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The last time Manning threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a season was 1998, his rookie year. It feels strange to say that a Manning-led offense is ranked 29th in the NFL right now, but that’s the reality we live in.

Now, he can’t be blamed for all of the offensive struggles. The list of quarterbacks that could perform with an offensive line this bad is pretty short. Manning has been sacked 12 times and hit 30 times in only 6 games. The line has also struggled to open lanes for the running game, which averages only 3.6 yards per carry.

There are reasons to believe this offense can turn things around, though. The two biggest reasons are Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, their top two receivers. Thomas is a big, physical receiver who is lethal in the red zone, and Sanders is a quick, sure-handed player who provides a legitimate deep threat. After the way Keenan Allen ripped the Packers secondary apart two weeks ago, expect the Broncos to use Sanders in a similar fashion.

The Packers defense has a very real chance at a huge game on Sunday night. One of the best pass rushes in the NFL goes up against one of the worst offensive lines, and a quarterback with no scrambling ability. They should be able to muster up a few sacks and even more pressures and QB hits. Manning, when under pressure, is likely to throw up some questionable balls, and probably a few interceptions against an opportunistic secondary.

It’s also definitely worth mentioning that the Packers defense has allowed fewer points per game than any defense in the NFL. Sunday night, they line up across from an offense that has struggled to put points on the board. They have to be excited about this matchup.

Prediction

I’d be shocked if this wound up being a high-scoring affair. The Packers have the far better offense, but the Broncos have a far better defense. Expect to see a few turnovers, and a lot of quarterbacks getting hit or running away from danger.

In the end, the Packers have a slight advantage in this game, as the more balanced team. They’ll win 17-10.

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By Brian Fonfara

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