Packers safety Morgan Burnett should return to action tonight.
Photo by Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Denver, however, also had their bye week last week, as well. Both teams should come in rested and with game plans well-worked out.
But, getting a healthier Eddie Lacy back into the ground game, plus giving QB Aaron Rodgers someone to stretch the field, i.e., Davante Adams, bodes well as the Pack goes against the league's No. 1-ranked defense.
According to Wayne Larrivee, radio voice of the Green Bay Packers, the Denver Broncos defense is the fastest and best the Packers will face this season. They lead the league in sacks and takeaways, and have four defensive touchdowns, including two pick-6 INT returns by DB Aqib Talib. The cornerbacks are good enough that Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips doesn't need to give them safety help, meaning he can sometimes go with seven or eight men at the line of scrimmage. Denver leads the league in sacks as a result.
Some might argue, though, that part of Denver's defensive success is that they really haven't played a very good team yet. I'd say regardless of that that any team that can be unbeaten at this stage of the season -- regardless of quality of opponent -- is doing something right and has to be respected. By the way, this is only the fourth time in NFL history that two teams with at least 6 wins and no losses have met one another.
Turning to Denver's offense, you certainly have to respect QB Peyton Manning, particularly when he gets the time to step up in the pocket to pass. He may not have the arm strength he used to, and he's never had great mobility, be if his offensive line protects him tonight against the Packers' also-stellar pass rush it could set up for a very interesting game. On the other hand, if the Packers' "D" can do what they've done all season, and get pressure on him, the Packers should win this game. No mistaking, Manning has weapons he can leverage offensively. The Packers defense must minimize those offensive opportunities, particularly the two top wide receivers who lead the league in receptions and yardage: 86 catches and more than 1,000 yards receiving combined. However, they only have combined for four touchdowns. The Packers' secondary will be tested if the defensive front doesn't get effective pressure on Manning.
On the Packers side of the ledger, the offense has to display more than they have the last several weeks in particular. They've done enough to win, but without the great performances from the defense generally the Pack might not be at 6-0 right now.
Without further ado, particularly with only about about an hour to gametime, it's time to make our call. A big consideration, among all the others listed here, is that the Packers are 8-1 after the bye under head coach Mike McCarthy, which is the best record in the NFL during that span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Some pundits think this will be close, others that Denver is more of a pretender and the Packers will put them in their place. Most all are calling for the Packers to win this game which, frankly, always makes me nervous. The Packers are favored by 3 points. My own take is that I think both teams will be up for this game and want to keep that unbeaten tag. If the Pack play their game and get pressure on Manning while protecting Rodgers, the Pack will prevail. (I know: "Thank you, Captain Obvious!") This could be tight into the fourth quarter. Still...
We're calling it 31-24 Packers over the Broncos.
Go Pack Go!!!