Shawn (6-0, 5-1 Against the Spread) — The Green Bay Packers visit the Denver Broncos Sunday night, which is a good thing for the Packers since they typically play well on Sunday nights.
The Packers have also been a good team coming off a bye, going 8-1 during Mike McCarthy’s tenure. The Broncos have been nearly as good, at 10-2 after a bye. However, that stat is not as meaningful because it spans several regimes and several quarterbacks.
We are all well aware by now that the Packers and Broncos are two of the five remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. We are also well aware by now that such a meeting at this point in the season is rare. It is somewhat reminiscent of the late season match-up the Packers had with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. Both teams were 10-1 for a Thursday night game in Dallas. Brett Favre didn’t seem to want to be there and pulled out of the game in the 2nd quarter after having already thrown two INTs. Aaron Rodgers promptly came in and brought the Packers back into the game, but the Cowboys put it away late.
That same season was also the last time the Packers played at Denver. The Packers beat the Broncos 19-13 when Favre hit Greg Jennings on a bomb on the first play of overtime. I actually expect a similar game here.
The Denver defense is for real. Like the Packers, they are fast in the front seven. They have two edge rushers that can really get after you, and their linebackers fly to ball, making it difficult to run against them. At the same time, they have the best corner tandem in the league with Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. They have the No. 1 rated pass defense in the league and the overall top ranked defense based on yards. On the other hand, they haven’t exactly faced a murderer’s row in opposing quarterbacks yet this season. This will be a big step up in competition for them.
The Packers defense isn’t a slouch either, and the Broncos haven’t been stellar on offense. They can’t run the football at all, and I don’t expect they will be able to on Sunday night. That leaves the offense in Peyton Manning’s hands. Manning has been throwing mostly ducks and interceptions this season so far, and he’s also immobile. However, Dom Capers’ defense has notoriously struggled against quarterbacks who are good at reading defenses, and Manning can still do that. I expect the Broncos to approach this game similar to how the Chargers did and use short passes to protect Manning.
Aaron Rodgers is usually pretty sharp after the bye, but he hasn’t given me any reason lately to think that this offense is going to kick back into gear anytime soon. Davante Adams is back, but I think the notion that he is a difference-maker is far-fetched at this point. The Packers could push the speedy Denver defense around and maybe get Eddie Lacy going. If they do, I think the Packers control the tempo of the game and win by two scores.
I don’t see that happening though. I see a tough defensive battle and a close game. In a defensive game, the team playing defense at home has a big advantage, especially when it’s in Denver. Manning has still shown a knack for getting the job done at the end of games, and I think he’ll manage to pull this one out late.
Even though the Packers and Aaron Rodgers are typically good after the bye and on Sunday night, and though I think the Packers are probably the better team, the Packers offense has yet to establish an identity this season, and this isn’t the game to accomplish that in. I think this defense in this stadium is a bad match-up for the Packers right now.
I predict the Broncos will get their revenge for 2007.
Broncos 19, Packers 13
Monty (6-0, 5-1 ATS) — This is a tough game to call, so let’s start with what we know.
The Green Bay Packers have been nearly untouchable coming out of the bye. They have just one loss in that situation in the Mike McCarthy era.
Last season, the Packers came out of the bye and what did we get? We got Clay Matthews at inside linebacker. Inside linebacker problems, solved! Problems stopping the run, solved!
Can we expect something similar this year? You know, I’m nearly certain the answer will be yes. Perhaps not something as ballsy as moving your best pass rusher to inside linebacker, but at least some new wrinkles.
My guess is those wrinkles will come on the offensive side of the ball.
The Packers offense has been stagnant lately and Mike McCarthy, supposed offensive genius, just had a week to evaluate it. If he doesn’t come out with some new offensive wrinkles this week, then you have to wonder what he was doing all last week.
The Packers will also have Davante Adams back this week for the first time since week 3. Is that going to be a huge boost to the offense? I doubt it will be huge, but it can’t hurt. It’s bound to take a little pressure off Randall Cobb and, more likely, James Jones, who can go back to being the team’s No. 3 receiver, where he’ll get more favorable match-ups.
Then there’s the Packers’ running game, which has shown no consistency. Frankly, I think Eddie Lacy has just been playing possum. The Packers need to establish a running game this week more so than any other week to allow Aaron Rodgers to be successful. I really believe this is the week they turn Lacy loose and Lacy delivers.
Now, everyone knows all about that vaunted Broncos defense. They are not to be taken lightly. There are playmakers at all levels.
They can rush the passer, have quick linebackers that are adept at flowing to the ball and stopping the run and have two great cover corners.
Let’s stop and put this defense in context, though. Yes, they’re the No. 1 unit in the league. Yes, they are stacked with playmakers. Yes, they have a great coordinator in Wade Phillips.
Here’s who they’ve faced through six games, however — Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit, Minnesota, Oakland, Cleveland.
Only one of those teams has a winning record (Minnesota) and you certainly wouldn’t call that team an offensive juggernaut (unless you’re a deluded Vikings fan). Those teams have combined for 13 wins. Half of those wins are from the Vikings (4) and Raiders (3).
What am I saying here?
Are you really the top defense in the league if you’ve only played JV teams?
Well, we’re going to find out on Sunday night.
Now, you’ve probably noticed I haven’t mentioned anything about the Broncos offense. What’s to mention?
Peyton Manning is dogshit. And I’m not talking dogshit by Peyton Manning standards. I’m talking dogshit by any standard.
Manning has thrown for 1,524 yards this season. He’s currently completing 61.6 percent of his passes, which would be the second lowest completion percentage of his career, and has thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7). His QB rating is a pathetic 72.5, which would also be the second lowest of his career.
The only lower makes in those two categories came in his rookie season.
What’s more, the Broncos can’t run the ball. A big reason for that is their offensive line is a liability.
I strongly believe that even though the Broncos probably have the better overall unit, it will be the Packers defense that looks better on Sunday night. And that will have as much to do with the Broncos offensive ineptness as it will the play of the Packers D.
With two weeks to prepare, I also think the Packers will have and execute their best offensive game plan to date and that will include a solid dose of some vintage Eddie Lacy.
In Lambeau, this game would be a blowout. Home field will keep it from being that for the Broncos.
The line is Packers by 3 and I like the Packers both for the win and the money.
Packers 27, Broncos 20