When the 2015 schedule was released this past summer, I am sure many people were looking forward to what looked to be a sure-fire shootout between two of the best quarterbacks in the game today. That expectation has certainly changed after seven weeks of the NFL season.
Green Bay and Denver are two of the five remaining undefeated teams despite their offensive production, not as a result of it. Instead, this game will showcase two of the best defensive units throughout the league. Denver currently gives up the least amount of yards on average while the Green Bay unit has allowed the fewest points.
There are many different things to keep an eye on during the game, and there is little doubt defense will be a big factor for both teams. Let's dive into a couple specific areas to watch.
Both teams have been spectacular against the pass this year, but neither team has faced a more lethal quarterback than the ones they are about to line up against.
Green Bay is looking to make a statement after Philip Rivers carved them up for more than 500 yards two weeks ago. Anyone who has watched Peyton Manning this year knows he has regressed, but he is still capable of beating you with his mind. The Packers' secondary is young and none of them have faced Manning in their careers. It will certainly be interesting to see if they are ready for the chess match Manning will engage in with them.
Another thing to keep in mind: no one has thrown more interceptions in 2015 than Manning's 10. The Packers have traditionally been an opportunistic defense under Dom Capers, allowing yards but capitalizing on mistakes and forcing turnovers. Manning will need to be extra cautious against this aggressive, ball-hawking secondary.
Denver's secondary, on the other hand, is as good as you will see in the NFL. They are led by lockdown corner Aqib Talib who is consistently assigned the opposition's best receiver. He will likely be in charge of stopping Davante Adams or James Jones on the outside, while the excellent Chris Harris mans the slot against Randall Cobb. Beyond them, Bradley Roby is an up-and-coming young corner as well. Green Bay's passing attack has been mostly stale this season even without facing a unit as deep as this one.
A bright spot for the Green Bay passing game is the likely return of Adams. Aaron Rodgers and company have been forced to play conservatively this past month without him. Adams is a threat that this offense desperately needs to help stretch the defense out. How healthy he will be remains to be seen, but his presence alone should at least open up some throwing lanes underneath.
Denver and Green Bay rank one and two respectively in total team sacks leading into Week 8. In both cases, the ability to pressure the quarterback is the driving force behind their success. A successful pass rush allows the secondary to play more aggressively.
Manning and Rodgers are two of the best ever when given time and a clean pocket. The only way to stop these two is to throw them off their game. The best way to do that is to not allow them to breathe.
It is very plausible that the first quarterback to find his groove and stay upright will lead his team to a win. I fully expect both teams to come out with an aggressive defensive strategy in an attempt to rattle the opposing signal caller. This could either lead to an inconsistent offensive game or an all-around shootout. No matter how you slice it this game should come down to Manning versus Rodgers, and nobody would want to see anything different. Two things are certain: this will be a highly entertaining game, and someone will be 7-0 when it is all said and done.