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How do the Packers and Broncos stack up?

Denver has a rookie running back who is making a real difference for them as of late. At the moment, the Broncos’ best unit is their running game.

Kansas City Chiefs take on the Denver Broncos during week 6 of the NFL season Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Let’s take our weekly look at how the Green Bay Packers and their opponent — in this case the Denver Broncos — match up against the rest of the NFL going into their matchup. As a reminder, the data from the table below comes via Pro Football Reference, which measures “expected points value” based on the historical results of plays relative to down, distance and field position.

For example, the Packers’ +7.8 number on offense would mean that the team is playing that many points above the league average. Meanwhile, Green Bay’s -11.8 rush defense figure would mean that the team has roughly given up two extra touchdowns worth of value on the ground relative to the league average. The non-Packers and Broncos squads highlighted in the “Team” column are future opponents of Green Bay, for context.

Packers Offense vs. Broncos Defense

For all the complaints about Green Bay’s offensive line over the last two games, the output of both the Packers’ season-long passing game and season-long running game is about NFL average. Obviously, though, that doesn’t take into account of the wide variance that Green Bay’s passing game has seen this season.

Two weeks into the year, quarterback Jordan Love and the Packers’ shot-heavy passing game were leading the league in passer rating. Since then, here are Love’s passer ratings over his last three games: 66.4, 69.9 and 32.2. Green Bay’s passing game is clearly slipping, but, hopefully, the team has figured something out over their bye week coming into this game.

Meanwhile, the Broncos are struggling to stop anything on defense. At -93.4 expected points this season, the team is about 50 percent worse than any other defense in the league right now — mostly due to their terrible pass defense (-76.6 expected points.)

Denver doesn’t really have a dominant box defender to ruin a game, as Maxx Crosby did for the Raiders in the Packers’ last matchup. The only player to really worry about is cornerback Pat Surtain II, who it sometimes feels like is playing a 1-on-11 game.

It doesn’t help, either, that the Broncos have let go of both Randy Gregory (trade) and Frank Clark (release) in the past few weeks. Those two players were expected to be Denver’s premier pass-rushers coming into the year.

Packers Defense vs. Broncos Offense

On Thursday Night Football last week, I saw Denver quarterback Russell Wilson throw a 9-ball to a receiver named Brandon Johnson in a got-to-have-it situation. I have to be honest, I had to look up who Johnson was during the game. Apparently, he’s a college free agent who split time between the practice squad and the active roster during his rookie season in 2022 as an undrafted player.

Between Johnson’s inclusion in the game plan and the lack of game-breaking potential that we’ve been told Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy were supposed to bring to the table for years, Denver’s passing game isn’t where many expected it to be following the Wilson trade. Still, it’s only slightly below average and not New England Patriots bad.

Where the Broncos play their best is in the ground game, as rookie free agent Jaleel McLaughlin has begun to make a difference. McLaughlin has registered 29 carries for 190 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown this season. In the passing game, he’s added nine receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns.

The Packers’ pass defense is about league average right now, but their run defense is poor. Green Bay’s -11.8 expected points on the ground ranks 25th in the league, even after a good showing against the Raiders. As a reminder, the Raiders are the worst rushing team in the NFL right now, though. It will be interesting to see if the Packers’ run defense has turned a corner or if their most recent data point is just due to a weak opponent.