The Packers enter Monday night's contest at Denver as the NFL's worst rushing team at just 65.7 yards per game. The Broncos, on the other hand, are the worst at defending the run, allowing 176.2 yards per game.
So the question begs, "Is this the game the Packers finally break out and have a productive rushing output?" Well, not exactly.
Even with such grand possibilities based on the above statistics, the Packers could fall into a trap by playing to their weakness. Instead, they need to emphasize their strengths.
If the Packers have done anything on offense this year, they have established themselves as a balanced, spread-out-the-field, short-passing team. That style is the biggest reason they are 5-1 atop the NFC North. The pass, along with continued solid play from the defense, gives them the best chance to win – even against the porous Broncos.
So enough with all of this "We need to run the ball" propaganda. It simply does not fit the personality of the 2007 Packers.
To beat the Broncos, the Packers can learn from recent history. Last week, even with one of the league's best runners in Willie Parker, the Steelers mounted a comeback through the air against the Broncos before just falling short on a late field goal, 31-28. After a poor start, Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh back throwing for 290 yards and four touchdowns. He faced a number of different blitzes, but when he figured them out, the big plays came. It was one of the better second half performances of Big Ben's career.
If the Broncos play man defense (a staple of assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates) and blitz like they did against the Steelers (a tendency of defensive coordinator Bob Slowik), the Packers' passing offense will have a chance to have a huge game if it executes well. Yes, Brett Favre might be going up against two of the league's best in Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly, but both cornerbacks are banged up and might not be in top condition.
Every offense at some point finds what works well and can put points on the scoreboard. The last good chance the Packers had at going to a Super Bowl (in 2003) they were a gap-scheme, power running team under head coach Mike Sherman and offensive coordinator Tom Rossley. Such a system went against the original intentions of the two coaches when they came to Green Bay, but each adapted to the team's personnel and found a system that was nearly unstoppable.
Even with all of the above said, the Packers' running game has been a decent complement to the passing game. Sure, game totals are low, but three of the four running backs on the roster are averaging four yards or more per carry, and rookie DeShawn Wynn has four rushing touchdowns. Adrian Peterson of the Vikings is the only rookie with more touchdowns (5) and reigning league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson has six.
The abnormal number of rushes vs. passes per game is really what makes the Packers running game look worse than it is. At just 20.2 rushes per game, they are tied with the Lions for fewest in the NFL. Head coach Mike McCarthy is well aware of this. He addressed several questions about his running game on Tuesday and part of his response was, "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."
In theory, balance gives an offense the best chance at success, but in reality, it does not suit the Packers this year. There will be a time and a place to run the ball more, and though it might be inviting this week, the Packers would be wise to favor the pass.
Matt Tevsh is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.