Series: Green Bay leads 6-5-1 in regular-season play in a series dating to 1971, with Denver owning the biggest win of all – 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII. The Packers have won three straight, with Denver’s last win coming at home in 1999.
Last time: Green Bay crushed Denver 49-23 on Oct. 2, 2011. Aaron Rodgers had a monster day, completing 29-of-38 passes for 408 yards and four touchdowns. Plus, he added two more touchdowns rushing. Charles Woodson added a pick-six among Green Bay’s three interceptions of Kyle Orton.
Noteworthy: Under John Fox, the Broncos went 8-8 with Tim Tebow in 2011, then 13-3 in 2012, 13-3 in 2013 and 12-4 in 2014 with Peyton Manning. All of those wins the past three seasons didn’t mean much during the postseason – two one-and-dones sandwiching a Super Bowl blowout -- which is why Fox is out and Gary Kubiak is in. Kubiak, a former Broncos quarterback, went 61-64 (plus 2-2 in the playoffs) in eight seasons with Houston and was fired after going 2-11 in 2013. Can Kubiak win it all with a 39-year-old Manning? Last season, Manning broke Brett Favre’s NFL record for career touchdown passes and finished the year with 39 and a rating of 101.5. However, in his final five games of last season (including playoffs), Manning looked downright old with four touchdowns, six interceptions and only one game with a rating higher than 80.1.
With that, it might appear that the window of opportunity has closed – or is close to closed. But, as Broncos fans would be quick to remind, the Broncos beat the Packers and Falcons for consecutive Super Bowl titles after John Elway’s best years were behind him. Losing tight end Julius Thomas to Jacksonville was a blow but the duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders ranks with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as the best duo in the league. The defense, with new coordinator Wade Phillips bringing in his 3-4 scheme, will help, as well. The pass rush should be tremendous, with Von Miller, in particular, expected to flourish in the new scheme. The cornerback corps is one of the best in the league, too, with veterans Chris Harris and Aqib Talib and 2014 first-rounder Bradley Roby.
Meanwhile, Green Bay has won six in a row after its bye: 26-0 at home over Detroit in 2009, 31-3 at Minnesota in 2010, 45-38 at San Diego in 2011, 24-20 at Detroit in 2012, 22-9 at home over Detroit in 2013 and 55-14 at home over Chicago in 2014.
Offensive rankings: 2nd in points (30.1 per game). 4th in yards (402.9 per game). 4th in passing (291.3 per game). 15th in rushing (111.6 per game).
Defensive rankings: T-16th in points (22.1 per game). 3rd in yards (305.2 per game). 9th in passing (225.4 per game). 2nd in rushing (79.8 per game).
2015 Comings and Goings
Draft: Missouri’s Shane Ray might have been a top-10 pick had he not been arrested before the draft. Instead, he landed at No. 23 to the Broncos. He could provide a potentially fearsome pass rush while backing up DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller at outside linebacker. Second-rounder Ty Sambrailo, who played at nearby Colorado State, is the front-runner to protect Manning’s blind side at left tackle after four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Clady tore an ACL during OTAs. Three other picks were aimed at filling in the blanks left in free agency: Third-rounder Jeff Heuerman will take some of the snaps left by star tight end Julius Thomas, fourth-rounder Max Garcia will have a shot to replace center Will Montgomery, and sixth-rounder Darius Kilgo will vie for playing time after nose tackle Terrance Knighton got away.
2015 Personnel in Focus
Pro Football Focus, that is. PFF has a color-coded rankings system for each team’s 24 “starters,” with the extra player to account for a key substitution package such as a third cornerback or third wide receiver. Green Bay has four blue/elite starters (Rodgers, Cobb, Nelson and Sitton), six green/high-quality starters (Lang, Lacy, Hayward, Peppers, Daniels and Matthews), four green/good starters (Linsley, Bulaga, Shields and Burnett), six yellow/average starters (Bakhtiari, Quarless, Kuhn, Hyde, Perry and Clinton-Dix) and four orange/below-average starters (Adams, Guion, Raji and Barrington). The Packers don’t have any starters rated poor and they don’t have any rookies projected to be starters.
The Broncos have ...
Blue/elite (2): OLB Von Miller, CB Chris Harris.
Green/good (5): TE Owen Daniels, OLB DeMarcus Ware, CB Aqib Talib, ILB Brandon Marshall, ILB Denny Trevathan
Red/Poor (1): C Gino Gradkowski.
Silver/Not enough information (1): WR Cody Latimer.
Purple/Rookie (1): LT Ty Sambrailo.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, on the Patriots being Super Bowl champions: “Am I mad about Deflategate? Yeah, yeah, I'm kind of mad. I don't think that they should be the Super Bowl champion this year. You aren't supposed to cheat. Cheating is not good, especially when you've got guys who are working their butts off for 365 days out of the year and one person cheats -- whether it helps them win the Super Bowl or not, they still cheated and shouldn't be a champion.”
GM John Elway, on QB Peyton Manning’s legacy: “I think with Peyton, obviously there is not much he can add to his legacy. I do think that the one thing he can add is another Super Bowl championship. As I told him in our meeting, I said, ‘You don’t have to throw for another yard and you don’t need to throw for another touchdown pass because your legacy is going to be one of the all-time greats as it is as we sit here now.’ Where he can really add to his legacy is to win a Super Bowl. I think that’s our goal, as it is for 31 other teams, but we feel like we’ve got a real good football team and Peyton Manning is the best player for us.”
Coach Gary Kubiak, on the loss of LT Ryan Clady with a torn ACL: "Anytime you lose a player, it's a blow. Ryan is obviously not only a veteran, he's a leader. So, that makes it more difficult. If you're in this business you're going to face very difficult situations, and how you respond has a lot to do with how you end up as a team.”