Green Bay Packers (5-1) at Denver Broncos (3-3)
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 ET
TV: FOX, Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 12th meeting. Broncos lead series, 6-4-1. The Broncos have won all five meetings in Denver, the last 31-10 in 1999. The teams' most recent encounter was at Green Bay in the 2003 regular-season finale, a 31-3 Packers victory that earned them the NFC North title when Minnesota was upset by Arizona at the same time. The interconference teams' lone postseason matchup yielded a 31-24 Broncos victory over the heavily favored Packers in Super Bowl XXXII at San Diego on Jan. 25, 1998.
PREDICTION: Broncos 20-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos' defensive weakness is in their inability to stop the run consistently, but they have shown improved tackling of late and the Packers are dead last in the NFL averaging just 65.7 yards per game on the ground. On the road in primetime, don't be surprised to see Green Bay give the running game a shot early on. But most likely it will be QB Brett Favre utilizing a plethora of screens and slants to pick up small chunks of yardage to set up his shots downfield. ... The Broncos have an opportunity to dominate time of possession with their far superior running attack. RB Travis Henry is leading a ground game averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and Denver could wear down Green Bay's defense in the high altitude. Coach Mike Shanahan said he's pleased with the play of QB Jay Cutler, but he does need to cut down on the mis-reads that led to a pair of interceptions Sunday night.
KEY INJURIES: Packers RG Junius Coston (ankle sprain) would be replaced by Jason Spitz; RB DeShawn Wynn (neck spasm) is uncertain. Broncos: Henry (bruised ribs) might wear extra pads to protect the injury; CB Champ Bailey (thigh) has returned to limited practice and is likely to play; CB Dre' Bly (separated shoulder) and TE Tony Scheffler (sore leg) will play.
FAST FACTS: Favre is second all-time on Monday nights with 7,547 passing yards and 55 touchdowns. ... Henry is averaging 5.0 yards per carry in the fourth quarter.
--DT Justin Harrell will be sidelined for two weeks, if not more, after suffering a sprained ankle in practice Tuesday. With the team off Wednesday ahead of the Monday night game at Denver, Harrell's injury wasn't disclosed until Thursday. Harrell, this year's first-round draft pick, had the ankle rolled up on by an offensive lineman.
--WR Ruvell Martin didn't practice Thursday because of a sore lower back, which flared up on him in practice Monday and Tuesday. Martin is to be further examined by Dr. Pat McKenzie on Friday to gauge his status for the game.
--DL Cullen Jenkins was limited Thursday as he deals with lingering soreness in a sprained left ankle. The starter suffered the injury before the bye in the Oct. 14 win over Washington. A determination on his availability for Monday's game will be made this weekend.
--WR Koren Robinson has three practices under his belt in his first week since being reinstated after serving a one-year suspension for a repeat violation of the league's substance-abuse policy. Head coach Mike McCarthy hinted Thursday that Robinson would be activated Monday. Robinson, who is feeling his way with the offense, would probably just return kickoffs in the game, although he was shaky handling those duties Thursday.
--TE Bubba Franks was declared out for Monday. Franks is recovering from a sprained knee suffered in the last game. Ryan Krause, promoted from the practice squad earlier this week, will be the No. 2 tight end behind Donald Lee.
--OL Junius Coston was limited in practice Thursday, as he deals with a sprained ankle sustained before the bye. Jason Spitz has taken the bulk of the first-team reps at right guard and likely will make the start there Monday.
--RB Travis Henry didn't practice Thursday, the second straight day he was out. Henry has bruised ribs. He will probably try to practice later this week, and then the Broncos will determine if he can play Monday against Green Bay.
--TE Tony Scheffler practiced for the second straight day on Thursday. Even though he has some soreness in his lower leg, he should be able to play this week.
--CB Champ Bailey was a limited participant for the second straight day of practice. He still has a quadriceps injury and the Broncos aren't pushing him too hard.
--CB Dre Bly has practiced all week despite a separated shoulder. He should be ready to go against Green Bay's dangerous receivers.
--RB Selvin Young could get an extra workload, whether Travis Henry (ribs) plays or not. Even if Henry plays, he is still in pain and unlikely to be ready for a full workload. The Broncos have confidence in Young, who would add a big-play element at halfback.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Now that head coach Mike McCarthy has his top halfback in the fold again, he's determined to quiet the crowd of naysayers who don't envision the Packers ever running the football with regularity, never mind effectively, this season.
McCarthy made it known after practice Thursday that rookie DeShawn Wynn would remain the lead back when the Packers play at Denver on Monday night. Wynn returned to the field on a full-time basis after being out Tuesday because of a neck spasm sustained when he was lifting weights Monday. The players didn't practice Wednesday.
"He's in the No. 1 slot right now," McCarthy said. "He has an opportunity to take it and do something with it. We'll see what he can do."
With Wynn apparently in the clear in the wake of the latest of a string of injuries that has harnessed the seventh-round draft pick, fellow rookie Brandon Jackson probably will be on the outside looking in for the fourth straight game. Jackson started the first three games but suffered a strained shin and hasn't played since. He was a healthy inactive for the last game, preceding the bye, and has been confined to do scout-team work.
Vernand Morency and Ryan Grant figure to be up Monday to spell Wynn.
The Packers have the worst-rated rushing offense in the league, averaging 65.7 yards per game. If they're to get things right once and for all and take pressure off the taxed passing game, the matchup with the Broncos might be their best hope. Denver is at the bottom of the league stopping the run, getting gashed for an average of 176.2 yards per contest, though it's coming off a solid showing against Pittsburgh.
McCarthy stressed this week that nothing more than sloppy fundamentals are to blame for his team's running woes.
"I feel we can run the football this week, next week and the week after," he said. "We need to continue to work at the fundamentals and the things we haven't done very well to this point."
McCarthy also pointed the finger at himself, as the play caller, for not being committed to running the football. The Packers have relied on the pass more than 68 percent of the time.
"Do I want to run the ball more? Yes. We will run the ball more, and we'll run it better, and that's all I've got to tell you," McCarthy said. "I answer this question every single day. It's not that bad, in my view. You obviously feel differently. That's your viewpoint. We will run the football. How many times we'll run the football, the game will dictate that.
"The most important thing is fundamentals and attempts. I really haven't given our players the opportunity to grind the game out. But, there are other things that we've been able to take advantage of from an offensive standpoint that have been productive, and we'll continue to do that."
Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall has a lot of talent, but has also found trouble off the field.
Marshall was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in downtown Denver only a few hours after the Broncos beat the Steelers last Sunday night. Marshall was issued a summons and released.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan spoke with Marshall and wanted him to learn from his latest incident.
"He's a grown man and he understands the severity of something like that," Shanahan said. "He's a role model and hopefully presented with the same situation for the rest of his life, he'll use better judgment."
It wasn't Shanahan's first long talk with Marshall, who leads the Broncos in receiving. Marshall was arrested in March on suspicion of domestic violence and false imprisonment. According to court records he had an argument with his girlfriend and then blocked the taxi she was in from leaving his apartment complex. The charges were later dropped.
Marshall didn't answer questions about his arrest on Monday but gave a short statement about it.
"Basically, I know the seriousness of it and it was a terrible mistake," Marshall said. "I have my lawyer on it now and hopefully everything gets situated soon and I can talk more about it then."
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