Packers' next opponent: Desperate Denver Broncos head to Lambeau
The Green Bay Packers host the Denver Broncos on Sunday for the first time since 2011. At 2-0 the Packers are looking to continue their winning ways while the Broncos are desperate at 0-2.
Basics on the Broncos
The Broncos lost a wild one 16-14 at home to Chicago to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1999 in Vic Fangio’s first season as head coach. Quarterback Joe Flacco converted a two-point conversion to Emmanuel Sanders with 31 seconds left to go up 14-13 but a questionable, Clay Matthews-like roughing penalty on Bradley Chubb helped the Bears move into position for a game-winning field goal.
After 32 years in the NFL and two decades as a defensive coordinator, Fangio got his first shot at a head-coaching job with the Broncos, who had the 22nd-ranked unit last year. The Broncos remain a 3-4 base front, but Fangio does prefer umbrella zone coverage in the back end.
Offensively, first-year coordinator Rich Scangarello was plucked from San Francisco, where he was the quarterbacks coach. He worked with Packers head coach Matt LaFleur in Atlanta in 2015, and the Broncos want to be a run-first offense that then uses play-action to set up Flacco.
Sacks by the Broncos through two games.
Catches by Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton, accounting for 48% of completions.
Total rushes by Oakland and Chicago up the middle of the Broncos' defense through two weeks for 3.48 yards per carry. Those teams rushed a combined 27 times off guards, tackles or edges.
Total throws from Joe Flacco to the short right part of the field, second-most in the league in that direction.
Players to watch
Garett Bolles, LT
The Packers may not have an individual pass rusher like Chicago’s Khalil Mack, but Mike Pettine is likely going to stress the third-year tackle. Through two games, Bolles has been called for five holding penalties (three have been declined). Joe Flacco can’t really move, so how well Bolles can handle edge pressure will be key.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, RB
Even though Lindsay was last year’s feel-good story as an undrafted rookie winning Rookie of the Year, he has split carries with Freeman to date (24 to 21) and Freeman has been more effective (5.2 average to 3.3 for Lindsay). The Broncos will want to run the ball and both backs will be used.
Von Miller, OLB
The 30-year-old pass rusher has been shut out for two weeks and the last time that occurred was Weeks 14-16 in 2017. Miller remains one of the more dynamic pass rushers and now, three weeks into Vic Fangio’s system, one would think there is more of a comfort level.
Reasons to worry
The Broncos are desperate, as an 0-3 start would essentially doom them to mediocrity at best in Fangio’s first season — and patience isn’t one of president of football operations John Elway’s virtues. The Broncos no doubt feel they had their first victory stolen from them by the officials, so anything might be on the table offensively or on special teams to try to score points.
The Broncos' defense hasn’t been great through two weeks — Oakland rolled up 357 yards in Week 1 and they let Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky get into game-winning field goal range last week. And, neither Miller nor Chubb have gotten to the quarterback yet. Needless to say those two might be running hot.
Reasons to relax
Joe Flacco. This is the third straight week the Packers' defense is playing a quarterback who operates at or below the word “average.” Flacco, 34, has some decent raw numbers (69.1% completions, 91.6 rating) but he’s not really pushing the ball deep and the Broncos don’t want to rely on his arm. So, they’re going to try to run the ball, and the Packers have shown they can not only slow that down, but make average quarterbacks look the part.
The Packers’ offense looked really good for a handful of possessions against Minnesota and self-inflicted errors (fumble and confusion on down-and-distance) cost them at least another six points. Even if Fangio throws the kitchen sink at Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers, the first two weeks have proven this offense can do enough to win.
Contact Jim Owczarski at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @JimOwczarski or Facebook at facebook.com/JOwczarski.