The Packers are coming off of a road victory against division rival, the Chicago Bears. Green Bay has emerged victorious in close games three straight times to open the season. The Broncos are coming off of a very depressing fourth quarter loss to the Titans. The Broncos are hungry to get at the champions, but the Packers want to prove they can put away a game.
Offenses: It's never a good sign when the crowd is chanting for the third string quarterback to play in the first game of the season. The Broncos have had one good game offensively this year and that was against the Cincinnati Bengals. Denver coach John Fox loves to utilize the running game. So far this year, the Packers have had the best run defense in the NFL. This means they will have to rely on Kyle Orton, who I don't think can lead his offense to compete with a juggernaut like the Packers'. The Packers have a top tier offense and has showed it through the first three games. The Packers had no turnovers through the first two games, however, late in the game against Chicago, they turned the ball over on consecutive possessions with a fumble and an interception.
The Packers will attempt to establish a run game Sunday. Ryan Grant has been ruled out, so James Starks will get the majority of the load. Don't get me wrong, the Packers are going to pass a lot, simply because Aaron Rodgers has been the best quarterback in the NFL. Through his first three games, his totals are 917 yards, 8 touchdowns, and just 1 interception. He has a league high 120.9 passer rating, complemented by another league high, a 71.8 completion percentage. Good luck Denver, you'll need it.
Defenses: Denver has gotten their best players back over the last few weeks. Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil are both active for Sunday's game. With right tackle Bryan Bulaga for the Packers ruled out, Rodgers could be under some pressure from Dumervil and Von Miller. When Rodgers gets blitzed he is better than any other quarterback in the NFL. He has a knack for finding the open guy even when the pressure is coming. The Packers' defense has been shaky when it comes to the pass so far this year. I think safety Morgan Burnett will do well in replacing Nick Collins as the big play guy. Burnett already has 3 interceptions, and leads the team in tackles. Jarius Wynn has emerged as someone who can get to the quarterback. This is something the Packers would have thought would have been lost due to Cullen Jenkins departing through free agency. I expect the Packers to shut down the running game like they have so far this year, but the question is if they can stop the big play from last year's breakout wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Keys: The Packers are expected to blow this Denver team out, and they probably will unless they turn the ball over frequently. I don't see Rodgers doing that against this defense, or any defense for that matter. James Starks is going to have to bring his A game because he will get the majority of the carries. If James Starks has a good game running, there is almost no way this team can lose. The Broncos are going to have to sit on the ball when they have it. Much like what the Panthers did in the first quarter in week 2. One way to stop Aaron Rodgers is to not let him have the ball. They also can't have lapses in coverages against this Packer offense because of all the weapons Rodgers has in his arsenal.
Impact Performer: Last week, I predicted that Jermichael Finley would have a great game. He caught 7 passes for 85 yards and had a whopping 3 touchdowns. This week, I expect Jordy Nelson to have a great game. Don't expect 3 touchdowns, but expect a deep pass from Aaron Rodgers. I think the focus will be on stopping Jermichael Finley after what he did last week. Champ Bailey will also be back and covering Greg Jennings so I see Jordy getting open down the field a lot this game.
Final Prediction: Look for what Morgan Burnett and Jarius Wynn does on the defensive side of the ball. We are going to find out if they are for real or not. On the offensive side of the ball look for Jordy Nelson and James Starks. I expect Jordy to have a great game, and James Starks has the right opportunity and matchup to have his signature performance. The Packers will stable the Broncos. Packers: 31 Broncos: 10