Broncos-Packers Preview

BY foxsports • September 30, 2011

The Green Bay Packers have been in close games each of the first three weeks, but have emerged undefeated. The Denver Broncos have also been in three tight contests, yet they've already lost twice.

Such is the margin for error between the defending Super Bowl champions and a team that hasn't had a winning record in five years.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers look to continue their strong start Sunday when they host a Broncos team coming off another tough loss.

Green Bay (3-0) is one of the league's three undefeated teams after beating Chicago 27-17 last Sunday. Rodgers threw for 297 yards and three touchdown passes to tight end Jermichael Finley, while the defense finally came up with some crucial stops.

After yielding at least 475 yards in each of the first two games - a 42-34 win over New Orleans preserved in the final seconds and a 30-23 comeback victory at Carolina - the Packers held the Bears to 291 yards.

Green Bay is off to its best start since opening 4-0 in 2007, and it's undefeated through three games for the ninth time in 50 seasons. That bodes well for the Packers, as they advanced to the postseason in each of their previous 3-0 starts.

"I think we have the potential to get better, and I don't know how many wins that means or the playoffs or whatever, but I just think we can play better football,'' said Rodgers, who owns the NFL's highest passer rating (120.9). "The standard we've set around Green Bay is excellence.''

The Broncos (1-2) aren't quite held to the same lofty standards, and have seen several of John Fox's calls backfire in the first three games - all decided by a field goal or less.

Last Sunday at Tennessee with Denver up 14-10, Fox called a timeout and pulled his kicker off the field on fourth-and-goal from about a foot out early in the fourth quarter. Willis McGahee was stopped for no gain, and the Titans rallied to hand Denver a 17-14 loss.

"Every play is a consideration,'' Fox said. "When they work, you're a genius and when they don't, you're an idiot.''

Fox's personnel decisions are also being scrutinized, as fans are clamoring for Tim Tebow to get the start at quarterback over Kyle Orton.

Orton passed for a season-low 173 yards and two interceptions last week.

"I know that's a popular belief,'' Fox said, "but there's a lot of people in our building that understand quarterback play, and right now Kyle, in our opinion, gives us the best chance.''

Orton was 3-1 against the Packers with Chicago, but didn't put up flashy numbers, completing 49.4 percent of his passes for 447 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

While Green Bay certainly doesn't have any concerns about who is under center, two other key players on offense won't be available.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga sprained and bruised his knee last week, running back Ryan Grant bruised a kidney against the Bears and both players have been ruled out of this game.

James Starks had been splitting carries with Grant but now will shoulder the workload, while Marshall Newhouse will get his first start in place of Bulaga.

With those injuries, Green Bay's running game could have trouble against a Denver team that's held its last two opponents to a combined 110 rushing yards. The Broncos shut down three-time Pro Bowler Chris Johnson last week, holding him to 21 yards on 13 carries.

The Packers put together a similar effort last week, limiting the Bears to 13 yards on 12 attempts - tied for the fourth-fewest rushing yards allowed in franchise history. Green Bay, which has won 12 of 13 at Lambeau Field, is allowing just 55.0 yards per game on the ground - No. 1 in the league.

Denver is 28th in the league in rushing, averaging 76.0 yards, and McGahee got the start last week with Knowshon Moreno out with a hamstring injury. Moreno participated in practice Wednesday, a good sign he may be ready to return Sunday.

The Packers have won two of the last three regular-season meetings with Denver since losing Super Bowl XXXII, and are 4-0-1 all-time against the Broncos in Wisconsin.

In the last meeting on Oct. 29, 2007, Green Bay won 19-13 on an 82-yard Greg Jennings touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage in overtime.

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