The Green Bay Packers return to action Sunday when they travel to the Mile High City to take on the Denver Broncos. The Packers enter the game with a 2-3 record while the Broncos are 1-5. The Packers are coming off their bye week and are looking to end a two-game losing streak while the Broncos lost to the Chiefs 19-8. Here are six key matchups that determine whether the Packers will win Sunday’s game.
The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 7-6-1 in the regular season. The regular season series started in 1971. The Packers won the last meeting between these teams, beating the Broncos 27-16 in 2019. They have also won four of the last five meetings. Denver won the only postseason meeting between the clubs when they beat the Packers 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII.
Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game in Denver:
Packers Key Matchups: Number One Get the Packers Rushing Attack on Track
The Green Bay rushing game has struggled without Aaron Jones. Green Bay is 27th in the league and averages just 81.6-yards per game.
Jones is expected to be ready to go Sunday after the bye. The Packers hope his hamstring injury has improved enough for him to be ready to be a major contributor to the offense.
Jones is a dangerous runner and an effective receiver out of the backfield. His absence has had a devastating ripple effect on the offense both rushing and passing.
The Broncos have the worst rushing defense in the league. They’re allowing 172.3-yards per game on the ground and have trouble stopping anybody.
If the Packers can’t run the ball against Denver, they may not be able to do it at all.
Key Matchups: Number Two Protect Jordan Love
The Packers offensive line struggled to contain Maxx Crosby against the Raiders two weeks ago. Rasheed Walker had issues protecting Jordan Love’s blind side and the two tight ends, Luke Musgrave, and Tucker Kraft, had difficulty helping to contain Crosby when they were added to the protection scheme.
The Broncos pass rush is the best part of a weak defense. Nik Bonitto, who has 5.5 sacks in six games, is Denver’s best pass rusher. Tom will have the primary responsibility of blocking Bonitto if he lines up in his usual spot as the left edge rusher. Don’t be surprised to see Bonitto line up in different places to create more favorable matchups for the Broncos. The Packers also must be aware of Jonathon Cooper who has four sacks.
If Love has time to throw, he can be more effective throwing the football downfield. The Packers can take advantage of a vulnerable Broncos secondary if Love can scan the field and find his receivers.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Three Contain the Broncos Running Game
Denver’s running game is ranked 19th in the league with 106-yards per game. These numbers are not bad when you consider the Broncos have been trailing in nearly every game they’ve played.
They have a one-two punch at running back in Javonte Williams and Jaleel McLaughlin. McLaughlin is averaging a healthy 6.6-yards per carry and has as many yards as Williams with 19 fewer carries.
The Packers run defense has struggled for most of the season although they were more effective against the Raiders. Green Bay allows 143.4-yards per game on the ground which ranks them 28th in the league.
The Packers will likely be without ILB De’Vondre Campbell who is listed as doubtful with an ankle injury. Quay Walker is back at practice and is likely to play after missing the second half of the Raiders game with a knee injury.
If Campbell can’t play, Isaiah McDuffie will start in his place. McDuffie is smart and gives full effort but has trouble disengaging from blocks because he is undersized.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Four Get Pressure on Russell Wilson
The Broncos offensive line has allowed 19 sacks in six games and is vulnerable to a good pass rush. The Packers have 15 sacks in five games and should continue to get better as Gary returns to full health and is not on a play count.
Gary leads the Packers with 4.5 followed by Clark with three and Devonte Wyatt with 2.5.
If the Pack gets pressure on Broncos QB Russell Wilson, he can be forced into mistakes and be less effective throwing the ball downfield.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Five Minimize the Offensive Mistakes
The Packers have a young and inexperienced offense especially at the skill positions. The team has struggled with untimely penalties, botched assignments and poor route running at inopportune times. Love’s decision making has not always been ideal, especially when he’s under pressure and forced to rush his reads.
The Packers hope the bye week gives their young receivers, tight ends, and quarterback more time to get comfortable in the offense and to cut down the mistakes they’ve been making.
If they can cut down the mistakes and set up more manageable down and distance situations on second and third down, the offense could return to its early-season form.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Six Win the Turnover Battle
Like most losing teams, the Broncos are struggling with turnovers. They have a minus-five turnover differential through six games which ranks them 29th in the NFL. The Packers are minus-one.
When the Packers win the turnover battle, they tend to win games. Wilson can be goaded into mistakes if he’s pressured, and the Broncos offense has struggled all season to get out of its own way.
If the Packers win the turnover battle or even break even, they should win on Sunday.
The Packers need to end their two-game losing streak and get back some of the confidence the team had early in the season, especially on offense.
Denver is tanking and seems to be out of sync on both sides of the football. The Broncos defense is historically bad and allowed 70 points in one game earlier this season against Miami. If the offense can’t move the ball against this defense, they are in trouble.
This is a game the Packers should win. Obviously, with a young and inconsistent offense, you never know but the Packers should be able to win this one on the road.
Packers 27, Broncos 17
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