The Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos going head to head is about two undefeated teams facing each other finally; about Aaron Rodgers playing against the fading Peyton Manning; and the two best defenses in the NFL on the same field in the first big major clash of the season, with some major repercussions and some very interesting differences.
The most important offensive number there is to know is not total yards, but points per game. The Packers put 27.3 points on the board each week. The Broncos? Only 23.2, middle of the pack kind of numbers, and a lot of it comes from their defense. They’ve scored more touchdowns off takeaways than any other team (along with the Falcons) and have more sacks than any other team (along with the Patriots) It’s a defense that makes big plays.
And also erases the embarrassing season Peyton Manning is having. Believe it or not, Manning is 31st in the league so far in passer rating with 72.5. Only Ryan Mallett, who is no longer starting, has done worse among qualifying quarterbacks. Sam Bradford, Nick Foles, Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston. They’re all ranked above Manning, who is still throwing for 254 yards per game (15th in the NFL) but making a lot of mistakes trying to get there.
His QBR doesn’t tell a different story. He’s only 25th in the NFL with a 46.4. He leads the NFL in interception with 10, tied with Sam Bradford. He is completing just 61.6% of his passes. We saw hints of these problems through the second half of last season, but this has been a complete disaster from start to finish. The Broncos have faced only one defense that’s in the top 10 in points allowed this season: Minnesota. Manning isn’t even getting crushed because of good defenses. He’s simply playing awful football, with glimpses of brilliance from time to time.
Aaron Rodgers is on a different kind of storyline this season. Best quarterback in the NFL or not, it doesn’t take a hard look at the numbers or his game to see how well he’s doing. He’s second in passer rating and QBR, throwing just two interceptions with 15 touchdowns. Tom Brady’s 20-1 ratio is unbelievable, but he has faced weaker teams than the Packers so far, with wins over both Seattle and St. Louis, two of the best defenses in the league.
Both teams put a lot of similar numbers on the board. The main difference is the running game. The Broncos can’t get the chains moving on the ground with C.J. Anderson doing terribly and Ronnie Hillman not getting enough chances. The Packers have had their moments of struggling against good running backs. The question is whether or not the Broncos can find a way to of jumpstarting their running game, which like Manning, has hit new lows this season.