Green Bay Packers (6-0) @ Denver Broncos (6-0)
Sunday, November 1, 2015, 7:30 PM (NBC)
Packers by 3

Two legendary quarterbacks are set to face off on Sunday night in Denver, but the stakes are even higher with both teams coming in undefeated and fresh off their respective bye weeks. It’s a battle that will test the limits of both teams. Let’s break it down.

Quick hits: Denver Broncos

The Broncos are undefeated this year, but they haven’t followed their traditional script in getting there. Peyton Manning’s age is finally starting to show in his age-39 season, and weird as it may sound, it somewhat feels like the Broncos have been winning despite Manning, rather than because of him. Still, Manning is one of the best of all-time and has several weapons at his disposal, so it’s never fair to rule him out in primetime.

The Broncos defense is the best in football. There really isn’t a weakness across the board, and they have one of the best coordinators in the game in Wade Phillips. Rodgers will be tested on the road by the vicious pass-rushing duo of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, and the Packers receivers will have their hands full with corners Chris Harris and Aqib Talib on the outside.

Who wins the battle: The Packers offense or Broncos defense?

This will probably decide who wins the game. Even sans Jordy Nelson, the Packers have one of the best offensive units in football. With Eddie Lacy and Davante Adams fresh off the bye, this should be the healthiest the offense has been in weeks. They will need everyone to be at their best against Denver.

Lacy might be the most important of all. His performance thus far this year has been far below expectations, but it’s reasonable to believe he hasn’t shaken the ankle issue he suffered in week two. He should be healthier with two weeks of rest, and he also noticed on film that he was running with his pads too high. Look for him to get back on track this week.

The ineffectiveness of the running game has had negative rippling effects across the offense over the last several weeks. Cornerbacks have been able to play up on the line of scrimmage and disrupt the receivers’ routes without the Packers having a significant threat in the running game. On top of that, the lack of Nelson and Adams has meant defenses can devote extra safety help to Randall Cobb, which has largely neutralized the Packers best offensive weapon. Getting Lacy back on track would do more than just get the running game going.

None of this will come easy against the Broncos defense. They are a talented, well-disciplined and well-balanced unit across the board. I’ve already mentioned their pass-rushing duo, which is arguably the best in the league, and their cornerback duo which is unequivocally the best in the league. This, however, doesn’t even tell the full story. Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan are both quality inside linebackers that get up field quickly and can make plays in both the running and passing game. T.J. Ward is hard-hitting safety and their third corner Bradley Roby is no slouch himself. I don’t identify a weakness here.

Rodgers will look to get the ball out of his hands quickly to help his offensive line and neutralize this elite pass rush, but this won’t be easy against Denver’s secondary. If Adams is finally healthy, his presence should help take pressure off both Rodgers and Cobb. Rodgers always finds ways to move the ball, but this will be his biggest test of the year. This is the best defense in football against one of the best offenses around, in primetime; the result should be exciting. Put me down for 275 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Can Manning lead his team to victory?

For as good as the above matchup will be, the Broncos fate will come down to Manning and his ability to move the ball down the field. It’s no secret that he’s not having the season we’re accustomed to seeing from him. His arm isn’t close to what it used to be, and his decision making hasn’t been as pristine as in years past. His three-interception performance against Cleveland was the worst from Manning that I can honestly remember.

Not all of this is Manning’s fault. The Broncos’ offensive line is a mess compared to the top-five unit that is was last year. They simply have not recovered from losing guard Orlando Franklin to free agency and tackle Ryan Clady to a torn ACL in the preseason. Manning hasn’t had as much time as he’s used to in the pocket and there haven’t been as many holes for C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman in the running game.

Even though the talk coming into this game has been about the Broncos defense and what Rodgers can do against it, this is an equally great opportunity for the Packers defense. They have been solid all year, and the pass rush has feasted on bad offensive lines, but the game against the Chargers told a different story. The defense missed B.J. Raji and Nick Perry more than expected, and as a result the team struggled to put pressure on Philip Rivers. This too had a negative effect across the defense, as Rivers picked apart the secondary with all day to throw.

Another loss that hasn’t gone talked about very much is safety Morgan Burnett. Not only is Burnett a better option than Micah Hyde, but he’s one of the leaders of this defense and has been for years. He is finally set to play Sunday night, and it will be interesting to see what his presence does for this defense. With two weeks to watch film and have the entire team get healthy (sans Nick Perry),  this defense should be prepped and ready to make plays.

If Clay and company can contain the running game reasonably well, which they’ve done against stiffer competition every game since week one, the burden will fall on Manning’s shoulders. And for as much as he’s struggled this year, this is Peyton Manning we’re talking about. On top of that, it’s Manning at home in primetime coming off a bye. He won’t dominate like the days of old, but I’m still not ready to bet against him in when the game is on the line, and he still has great weapons at his disposal. It’ll be up to this Packers pass rush to find it’s footing again and keep this game in control. I think they force Manning into a couple of interceptions as well, and it may come down to another big stand from this squad to seal the game.

Players to Watch

Eddie Lacy

I mentioned him above, but I can’t stress enough how important his play is to the success of the entire offense. He’s been a slow starter every year as a pro, and it’s usually about this time when he kicks things into the next gear. With the Broncos most likely game planning to stop number twelve, this is another opportunity for Lacy to regain his form. This one is mainly a gut pick, because the situation isn’t ideal for him to get back on track. But don’t be surprised if his play changes the game.

DeMarcus Ware

It’s hard for me to pick just one player from this defense to single out, but Ware is as good a candidate as anybody to contain an offense. He already has 4.5 sacks through five games this year, and tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga will have their hands full all night. Ware has been one of the most disruptive defensive forces in football this year; look for him to make several plays in the backfield tonight.

Packers Injury Report


WR Davante Adams (ankle)
S Morgan Burnett (calf)
ILB Nate Palmer (chest)
NT B.J. Raji (groin)
CB Damarious Randall (ankle)


WR Ty Montgomery (ankle)
OLB Nick Perry (shoulder/hand)
RB James Starks (hip)

Broncos Injury Report


S Omar Bolden, TE Owen Daniels, OT Ryan Harris, G Evan Mathis, OLB Von Miller, LB Corey Nelson, WR Emmanuel Sanders, CB Aqib Talib, RB Juwan Thompson, OLB DeMarcus Ware


WR Jordan Norwood


OT Ty Sambrailo


OLB Shane Ray


This is going to be a good one, folks. It’s hard to expect anything but a back-and-forth affair that should come down to an intense fourth quarter in primetime. It feels wrong calling the Broncos the underdogs at home, but when you look beneath the surface, they have the lowest point differential since the merger for a 6-0 team. The Packers have looked better all-around this year, which is why they’re the favorites, and which is why I think they should win.

It won’t be easy, and it may very well come down to a fourth quarter drive by one of these quarterbacks. I think whoever wins the turnover battle will win this game, and I think that Rodgers and Co. eke out a huge primetime win.

Green Bay 24, Denver 20

So far this season: Straight up: 6-0; Against the Spread: 3-3


Photo from Jim Biever,