Packers-Broncos: How we picked it
WESTON HODKIEWICZ (6-0)
BRONCOS 23, PACKERS 17
Conventional thinking favors the Packers when you consider Peyton Manning's struggles, Wade Phillips' history against Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay's sterling record after the bye week under coach Mike McCarthy. However, the Broncos' defense is anything but conventional and can generate pressure with four rushers. Denver plays with ruthless aggression and might be the deepest unit in all of football. Top-ranked in most categories, the Broncos are opportunistic and pose a significant threat to the Packers' reeling offense. Green Bay's defense could easily win this game if it forces a few turnovers from Manning. If the Packers' offense is going to rebound from its recent slide, it'll have to do it against the best defense the NFL currently has to offer on its home field, where Denver hasn't lost in the last 10 regular-season games.
RYAN WOOD (6-0)
PACKERS 20, BRONCOS 12
On paper, the matchup couldn't be better. Aaron Rodgers vs. Peyton Manning in a battle of undefeated teams? Yes, that's worthy of prime time. But we're talking about a football game here, not a Hollywood script. Specifically, we're talking about the two stingiest defenses in the NFL. No, this isn't going to be a shootout. The Packers offense will be heavily challenged, even with Davante Adams returning. But the Packers are a top-10 offense, and they'll have some success. The Packers defense (especially its pass rush) against the Broncos' 29th-ranked offense is the matchup to watch. The Broncos can't win if they can't score touchdowns, and they won't.
PETE DOUGHERTY (6-0)
BRONCOS 23, PACKERS 20
An interesting game that will reveal a lot about each of these unbeatens, though no tie-breakers are at stake because it's AFC vs. NFC. The Packers have a big edge at quarterback because of Peyton Manning's decline, and it's usually smart to go with the big edge at that position. But the Broncos have maybe the best defense in the league. The Packers lead the NFL in first-quarter scoring, the Broncos haven't given up a first-quarter point. Something's gotta give. The hunch here is that the Packers are a little better team, but that on his home field Manning will find a way to put up just enough points, and the Broncos' defense will win the day.
STU COURTNEY (6-0)
BRONCOS 19, PACKERS 16
The Packers will encounter an emotional buzz saw in Denver, with the Broncos inducting owner Pat Bowlen — who is battling Alzheimer's disease — into their Ring of Fame. On hand will be more than 35 players and coaches from the 1997 Denver team that beat Green Bay 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII, and the Broncos will be wearing their blue jerseys and white pants from that era. The Packers also will face a defensive buzz saw that leads the NFL in sacks and ranks third against the run. In getting off to a 6-0 start, the Packers have benefited from playing four games at home and facing only the mediocre Bears and 49ers on the road. The expected return of Davante Adams will help, but the Packers' offense remains a work in progress, especially away from Lambeau Field.
ROBERT ZIZZO (5-1)
BRONCOS 24, PACKERS 21
How difficult was it for me to pick this one? I predicted the score before I predicted the winner. And I changed my mind more than once.
Why could the Broncos win? Home field: They've won 10 straight regular-season games at Mile High, and the air gets a lot harder to breath at 5,280 feet. Defense: As bad as Peyton Manning's quarterback rating is (72.5), it's still better than their opposing quarterback rating (69.6), and their defense is the best in the NFL in yards allowed per play.
Why could the Packers win? Bye: They're 8-1 after a bye week. Quarterback: Denver's defense has yet to face a QB near the caliber of Aaron Rodgers.