The Green Bay Packers visit the Denver Broncos in Week 8 in what will be an historic contest on Sunday night. With both teams having started the year undefeated, the game marks just the fourth time in NFL history two teams with perfect records will meet this late into the season.
Both the Packers and Broncos began the year among the favorites to win the Super Bowl, and they’ve lived up to expectations, going 6-0. Sunday is Green Bay’s first game after their bye week, coming off a 27-20 victory against the San Diego Chargers. Denver last defeated the Cleveland Browns in overtime, and they were also idle in Week 7.
The Broncos find themselves as underdogs on Sunday. They are getting three points at Las Vegas sportsbooks, according to vegasinsider.com, and the over/under is 45.5 points.
After a 6-0 start, it can’t be disputed that the Broncos are one of the NFL’s best teams and a Super Bowl contender. But the record is quite misleading based on some of their performances this season.
Five of Denver's six wins have been decided by one possession, and even a 12-point win over the Detroit Lions was in doubt until the Broncos scored their final touchdown with two minutes and 28 seconds remaining. Denver needed overtime to defeat the Browns, and two touchdowns in the final 36 seconds to outlast the Kansas City Chiefs. The Minnesota Vikings are the only team above .500 the Broncos have beaten, and that game was tied with two minutes remaining.
Every other unbeaten team has at least two wins by 14 points, including the Packers. Green Bay has won every game by at least a touchdown, and four victories have come by double-digits.
Winning In Spite Of Peyton Manning
After the Broncos lost to the Indianapolis Colts in their first playoff game of last year, it was easy to make the snap judgement that Manning was no longer a top quarterback. But through six more games this season, it’s become clear that the postseason game was no fluke, and Manning's best days are behind him.
Few quarterbacks have been worse than Manning in 2015. Of the 32 quarterbacks that have taken the majority of snaps for their respective teams, he ranks 31st in passer rating (72.5), 15th in yards per game (254) and tied for first in interceptions (10). The 39-year-old only has seven touchdown passes, which is the fewest he’s had through the first six games of a season since he was a rookie. Dating back to last season, Manning has 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in his last 10 regular-season games.
Manning faces the team that’s allowed fewer points than anyone this year. Green Bay ranks first in the NFL, having surrendered 16.8 points per game.
Top Defense, Quarterback Clash
Because Manning has been so bad, Denver’s defense has had to pick up the slack. The unit is the biggest reason why the Broncos haven’t lost, and it might be the best in the league.
The Broncos rank first in total defense, allowing the fewest yards through the air and falling just three spots behind the No.1 team against the run. Denver hasn’t allowed more than 24 points in any game, and they’ve returned three interceptions and one fumble recovery for touchdowns. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware has 4.5 sacks on the year, and he appears to be on track to return after missing the last game with back spasms. Even though they’ve already had their bye, the Broncos lead the NFL with 26 sacks.
Sunday night will easily be Denver’s toughest test of the season. Oakland, who ranks 10th in points per game, is the best offense that has taken on the Broncos defense. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 15 touchdown passes and two interceptions this season, posting a 115.9 passer rating.
Denver’s defense should keep them in the game for much of the way. Rodgers’ only poor performance this season came against the St. Louis Rams, who like the Broncos, have a top pass rush. But Rodgers should help lead Green Bay get into the end zone a few times, and that will be more than enough to defeat Denver and their anemic offense. Manning has struggled mightily, despite facing just one team that ranks in the top 15 in total defense or points allowed. Green Bay has an above-average defense, and they are more than capable of handing the Broncos their first loss.
Green Bay over Denver, 23-13