MNF - 10/29

MNF - 10/29

Game Preview for Packers vs Broncos

(Sports Network) - While baseball will likely be on the minds of most of the citizens of Denver this Monday night, the city's beloved Broncos will welcome Brett Favre and the resurgent Green Bay Packers to Invesco Field at Mile High for an interconference showdown.

The Colorado Rockies' unanticipated magical run into the World Series has understandably drawn most of the attention in the Mile High City, and it's also helped take the focus off the Broncos' inconsistent play through the first seven weeks of the NFL season. After squeaking by both Buffalo and Oakland in its first two games, Denver was handed three straight losses, including an embarrassing 41-3 drubbing by fellow AFC West member San Diego at home in Week 5.

But just when it appeared the Broncos' season was spiraling towards disaster, the club regrouped after its bye week and responded with a gritty 31-28 victory over a Pittsburgh team that entered the Rocky Mountains with a gaudy 4-1 record. Denver blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against the Steelers, but Jason Elam's 49-yard field goal as time expired prevented a potential devastating collapse.

The Broncos will be attempting to knock off another one-loss squad on its home turf this week. With a rejuvenated Favre leading the way, Green Bay has sped out to a 5-1 record and a first-place standing in the NFC North. It's the Packers best start to a campaign since 2002, a year in which the team ripped off eight victories over its first nine games en route to a 12-4 regular- season mark and a division title.

Green Bay is coming off its bye week and was last in action on October 14, when the Pack pulled out a 17-14 decision over Washington at Lambeau Field. The defense provided the winning points late in the third quarter, with cornerback Charles Woodson returning a fumble by Redskins receiver Santana Moss 57 yards for the go-ahead score.

While Monday's matchup between two of the NFL's more recognizable teams offers plenty of intrigue, it will certainly take second billing in Denver as long as the World Series between the upstart Rockies and star-studded Boston Red Sox does not end up in a sweep. Game 5 of the Fall Classic is scheduled to take place at nearby Coors Field at Monday night, which would move kickoff of the Packers-Broncos tilt up one half-hour to 8 p.m. (et).

SERIES HISTORY

Denver has a 5-4-1 edge in its all-time regular season series with Green Bay, but was a 31-3 road loser when the teams last met, in 2003. The Broncos won the previous meeting, a 31-10 triumph in the Mile High City in 1999. The home team is 9-0-1 in the all-time series, and Green Bay is 0-5 in Denver all-time.

The most memorable game in the series was Denver's 31-24 upset of Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII from San Diego following the 1997 season.

Denver head coach Mike Shanahan is 2-2 all-time against Green Bay, including the Super Bowl win. The Packers' Mike McCarthy will be meeting both Shanahan and the Broncos for the first time as a head coach.

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

Green Bay comes in with a respectable No. 11 ranking in total offense (339.3 ypg) but has had trouble establishing balance on that side of the ball. The Packers own the NFL second-rated passing offense so far, having averaged over 273 yards per game through the air, but are dead last in the league in rushing yards (65.7 ypg). Favre (1715 passing yards, 9 TD, 6 INT) is enjoying a renaissance season under center after back-to-back subpar years, although the three-time league MVP has cooled off after a blazing start. The legendary quarterback has thrown four interceptions and tossed only one touchdown pass over the past two games. Favre's got a talented corps of receivers to work with, headlined by 2006 Pro Bowl honoree Donald Driver (36 receptions, 2 TD). Rookie James Jones (23 receptions, 1 TD) tops all NFC newcomers in catches and receiving yards (293), while second-year standout Greg Jennings (14 receptions) has hauled in three touchdown passes in four games since returning from a hamstring injury.

The Packers haven't run the ball often this year, mainly because the team is still searching for a dependable go-to back. Rookie DeShawn Wynn (202 rushing yards, 4 TD) has been the best of a mediocre bunch that includes third-down specialist Vernand Morency (56 rushing yards, 15 receptions) and youngsters Brandon Jackson (97 rushing yards, 1 TD, 11 receptions) and Ryan Grant (27 rushing yards, 5 receptions). Wynn missed some practice time this week with a neck strain but should be okay for Sunday, while center Scott Wells is expected to return after missing the Washington game with a orbital bone fracture.

Green Bay's ailing run game could get a boost against a Denver defense that is yielding a league-worst 176.2 rushing yards per week. The Broncos did take steps towards correcting the problem during the bye, moving rookie tackle Marcus Thomas (7 tackles, 1 INT) into a starting role opposite the massive Sam Adams (5 tackles), and the unit did hold Pittsburgh's powerful ground attack to a respectable 119-yard total last week. Middle linebacker D.J. Williams (51 tackles, 1 sack), the team's leading tackler, had nine stops and an interception in the win, while active strong safety Nick Ferguson (44 tackles) recorded eight tackles.

The Broncos have been far more effective defending the pass, having let up the second-fewest yards (164.7) in the league in that aspect. Denver's accomplished secondary suffered against the Steelers, however, with lockdown cornerback Champ Bailey (33 tackles, 1 INT) out of the lineup with a quadriceps injury. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger racked up 290 yards and threw for four scores against the shorthanded backfield, but the Broncos did sack the star quarterback four times. Two of those came from playmaking end Elvis Dumervil (16 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 INT) and one forced a fumble that rookie lineman Tim Crowder returned for a touchdown. Bailey is expected to be back on the field for Sunday's test.

WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL


Denver has annually fielded one of the NFL's top rushing teams under Shanahan's direction, with offseason signee Travis Henry (549 rushing yards, 1 TD) thriving in his first year running behind the offense's famed zone- blocking system. However, the veteran back is dealing with bruised ribs that kept him out of the fourth quarter of the Pittsburgh game and could be a game- time decision on Sunday. If Henry isn't able to go, promising rookie Selvin Young (139 rushing yards, 10 receptions) would receive the bulk of the backfield work. For the year the Broncos rank ninth overall in rushing offense (130.7 ypg).

Losing Henry could also put a greater burden on young quarterback Jay Cutler (1406 passing yards, 7 TD, 8 INT), who's endured an up-and-down sophomore season thus far but was at his best last Sunday. The 2006 first-round pick completed 22-of-29 throws for 248 yards and a career-best three touchdowns against the Steelers, while deftly engineering the two-minute offense on Denver's game-winning drive. The Broncos will be without top wide receiver and ex-Packer Javon Walker (19 receptions) for a fourth straight game due to a knee injury, but second-year pro Brandon Marshall (33 receptions, 2 TD) and savvy vet Brandon Stokley (17 receptions, 2 TD) have stepped up their play in his absence. Cutler also has a good rapport with tight end Tony Scheffler (7 receptions, 1 TD), who had a personal-best five catches for 50 yards and a score last week.

The Packers counter Denver's fifth-rated offense (358.3 ypg) with a defense that has certainly held its own this year. Green Bay is giving up a respectable 100.2 rushing yards per game (11th overall) and has allowed just one opposing running back (Minnesota's Adrian Peterson) to eclipse the century mark. Nick Barnett (56 tackles, 2 INT, 1.5 sacks) is having an excellent season at middle linebacker and leads a stout front seven that also includes emerging star A.J. Hawk (42 tackles) on the weakside. The defense could be without one of its run stoppers on Sunday, however, as starting right end Cullen Jenkins (21 tackles, 1 sacks) is questionable due to a sore knee.

Green Bay has allowed over 220 yards per game through the air (22nd overall), but enemy quarterbacks have completed passes at only a 57 percent clip against the Packers' defense. The secondary boasts a pair of proven cornerbacks in Woodson (32 tackles, 1 INT) and Al Harris (14 tackles, 4 PD), as well as two excellent pass rushers in ends Aaron Kampman (29 tackles, 5 sacks) and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (13 tackles, 4.5 sacks).

FANTASY FOCUS

Owners of Favre and Green Bay's top receivers, namely Driver and Jennings, shouldn't be scared off by Denver's lofty ranking in pass defense, especially since it looks like neither Bailey or counterpart Dre' Bly (19 tackles, 2 INT, 6 PD) will come into the game at full strength. The Broncos have allowed 11 passing touchdowns in six games, including four to Roethlisberger last week. Wynn is the closest thing the Packers have to a feature running back and makes a decent flex option for this week's games.

Those who have Henry or Young will need to closely monitor the former's health status during the week. If Henry is unable to practice by Friday, there's at least a 50/50 chance he won't be suiting up on Monday. Young would make a solid second back if he winds up getting the start. It's always hard to predict what kind of numbers the erratic Cutler will put up, but Marshall has emerged as an every-week starter at wide receiver with Walker on the shelf. Anyone looking for a possible sleeper at tight end should pay attention to Scheffler, who's becoming more involved in the Denver offense and has the speed to stretch a defense.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Denver may have saved its season with last week's hard-fought win over a good Pittsburgh team that didn't play its best game, but it remains to be seen whether the Broncos have really solved the problems that plagued them through the early part of this season. Denver won in part by forcing three turnovers against the Steelers, and might need a similar showing to take down a Green Bay squad that's had an extra week to prepare, is pretty sound defensively and has quietly won nine of 10 games dating back to last season. The Packers should be able to generate more of a running game against a relatively soft Denver defense, and if Favre can get back to the mistake-free form he showed in September, Green Bay will be tough to slow down.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 27, Broncos 20

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Re: MNF - 10/29

What bettors need to know: Packers at Broncos
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All up in the air

The Packers like to throw the ball. That is no surprise considering that their rush offense is last in the NFL in yards per game and 30th in yards per attempt on the ground (3.3).

No wonder Green Bay turns to quarterback Brett Favre to get points on the board.

"I guess there's two ways to look at it. We're buying time, or we're hanging on by a thread," Favre told The Associated Press. "Then again, if we do come together more as a team and correct the mistakes that we're making, we can make it easier on ourselves.

"We could very easily be sitting here today 6-0. We very well could be, what, 3-3 or whatever. I'm not complaining."

In fact, the Packers are 5-1 and sit on top of the NFC North. Favre has 1,715 yards passing with nine touchdowns and six interceptions, and became the NFL's career leader in touchdown passes (423) this season. But he might not enjoy the same level of success in Denver.

The Broncos’ pass defense is second only to Indianapolis Colts this season, allowing just 164.7 yards per game. It has managed 13 sacks and boasts former Pro Bowlers Dre Bly and Champ Bailey – both of whom recovered from injury this week.

Denver is one of three cities where Brett Favre has never thrown a TD pass, while the Broncos as a whole have lost five straight there.

Cutler goes up a notch or two

Denver comes into Monday’s game on the back of a 31-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game was won on a last-minute field goal, but the Broncos can thank second-year quarterback Jay Cutler for putting them in a position to win the game.

"Instead of going up a notch, he went up two notches," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said of Cutler's progression in an AP interview. "He played the No. 1 defense in the NFL, found a way to move the ball in the fourth quarter, found a way to win. You're hoping your quarterback does that for you."

The win was one of the best performances of Cutler’s short career. He threw for 248 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. He completed 75.9 percent of his passes on the day, despite throwing two interceptions. His biggest achievement in the game was a seven-play, 44-yard drive to set up the winning score.

“It's how you handle pressure," Shanahan added when asked by the Rocky Mountain News what makes a good QB. "That's the profession for all of us, but people look at the quarterback a lot more than some others. I like how he (Cutler) handled himself at Vandy. That wasn't a negative to me, I like what he did when faced with difficulties."

This is a week of firsts for Cutler – his first game against the Packers and his first Monday Night Football appearance.

Robinson likely to play some part

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy could give receiver Koren Robinson some playing time on Monday. Robinson returned to practice this week after serving a one-year suspension for repeated violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. He also served time in jail for a driving offense.

"It's a combination of (a lot of) things," McCarthy told AP after Friday’s practice. “He looked better out there today, but it was a (modified) practice, too. I'll talk to him again in the morning, and we'll see where he is physically."

The first round pick and former pro bowler ran for 896 yards and four TDs in his first NFL season (2003), when he featured mostly as a punt returner for the Seattle Seahawks. His numbers gradually worsened in the following seasons as his personal problems influenced his form, but the Packers are hopeful he can get back to where he was.

"He makes people miss, runs through tackles, he's a strong guy and he has great speed," special teams coordinator Mike Stock told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We think it would benefit us. We're prepared do whatever we need to do. If he's dressed (on Monday) it would be a bonus, it would help us.”

The Packers may use Robinson because No. 4 receiver Ruvell Martin is questionable with a sore lower back.

Henry could feature

Broncos running back Travis Henry took part in practice on Saturday and is hopeful he can play against Green Bay. Henry suffered a rib cartilage injury against the Steelers last week and missed most of this week’s practices. He will receive a pain-killing injection before Monday’s game.

"Better than I did yesterday and the day before," Henry told the Rocky Mountain News on Friday when asked how he felt. "Game-time decision, you know. Go in Monday early and do what I got to do.

“I plan to (play), I want to play. I've got to pass a couple tests they want me to pass before they clear me. I'll do all the shots and (the Broncos) have to test me out, see if I can take a lick."

Henry has rushed for 549 yards and one touchdown this season and is a major part of Denver’s ninth-ranked rush offense.

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Packers at Broncos
VegasInsider.com

Denver (3-3 straight up, 1-5 against the spread) had so much fun in the national spotlight last week that it decided to do it once more this Monday. After beating Pittsburgh as 4 ½-point home favorites, 31-28, the Broncos can gain even more ground in the AFC West race with a victory in Week 8.

The Broncos needed every bit of the 324 yards they gained against the Pittsburgh defense after giving up a 14 point lead late in the fourth quarter. But anything can happen when you get the ball last and Denver made the most of it by having Jason Elam drill a 49-yard field goal as regulation time expired.

The Packers come into this Monday’s contest well rested after having a bye last week and sit atop the NFC North. The time off was probably a good thing since the Green Bay (5-1 SU, 4-1-1 ATS) offense looked worn out in its 17-14 win over the Redskins as a three-point home “chalk” on Oct. 14. Outside of their close call two weeks back, the Pack have enjoyed a return to respectability because of two things: Brett Favre and their defense.

The longtime gunslinger has completed 64.8 percent (160 of 247) for 1,715 yards and nine touchdowns. In Week 6, Favre tossed two scores for the second straight week. On the defensive side of the ball, Green Bay has allowed 17.8 PPG and 323.8 YPG this season.

There is no mistaking that the Pack has the edge in terms of quality wins for the year thus far. But wins at the Giants and versus the Chargers are a bit misleading since both clubs were struggling to find an identity on the field at the time. Denver, on the other hand, didn’t have a quality win over any playoff caliber squad until last Sunday’s home fixture with the Steelers.

The sportsbooks have installed the Broncos as three-point home favorites with a total of 42 ½. However, that is a default spread for any team that is playing at home.

You can back Green Bay to win outright on the money line at plus 155 (risk $100 to win $155). Meanwhile, the Broncos are listed at minus 175.

Normally you can gauge who will win a game based on what the glaring mismatch is statistically. In this contest, we have a pair of mismatches that benefit both teams: Green Bay’s ability to stop the run, while the Broncos excel at defending the pass.

The Packers have allowed just 100.2 rushing YPG in six games and are anchored by linebacker A.J. Hawk. Their job will be to stuff a Denver running game that is ranked ninth in the NFL, averaging 130.7 YPG at this point in the year. The back of choice for Mike Shanahan’s offense is Travis Henry. A seven-year veteran out of Tennessee, Henry has rushed for 549 yards, but just one score.

Denver’s secondary, led by Champ Bailey, Dre’ Bly and John Lynch, is as close to an impenetrable group as you can find in the league. The trio helps the Broncos rank second by giving up just 164.7 YPG through the air. Meanwhile, Green Bay has the second best passing offense in the NFL, throwing for 273.7 YPG.

So with both sides having a decided advantage against the others strength, where do you go for the unknown quantity? How about the Packers’ running attack…or lack thereof going up against a lackluster Denver defensive line for the x-factor?

Green Bay owns the worst running game in the league, gaining just 65.7 YPG in 2007. The Broncos, however, have shown that they can’t stop the run by ranking 32nd out of 32 teams by allowing 176.2 YPG this year.

The Packers are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five matches where they were installed as road underdogs. However, the Pack is 0-2 SU and ATS when playing in the regular season at Denver since 1990.

Kickoff is slated for 8:00 pm EDT, with ESPN handling broadcasting duties.

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Re: MNF - 10/29

Green Bay (5-1 SU, 4-1-1 ATS) at Denver (3-3 SU, 1-5 ATS)

The Packers are coming off their bye week hoping to continue their surprising start to the season when they visit the Broncos tonight in a nationally televised contest from Invesco Field.

Green Bay went into its bye by beating Washington 17-14 as a three-point home chalk on Oct. 14, even though QB Brett Favre threw for just 188 yards and two INTs. For the season, Favre has nine TDs and six INTs. The Packers are off to their best start since going 8-1 to open the 2002 season and are winning despite a rushing attack that is last in the league at 65.7 yards per game.

Denver came out of its bye and scored a big 31-28 win over Pittsburgh last Sunday as a four-point underdog, ending a three-game SU losing streak and a five-game ATS skid. QB Jay Cutler had the best game of his short career, completing 22-of-29 passes for 248 yards and three TDs with two INTs.

Denver has two significant injury concerns heading into tonight’s contest as a pair of starters, left corner Champ Bailey and running back Travis Henry, are both reportedly game-time decisions. Bailey missed the Steelers' game with strained quad while Henry suffered bruised ribs late in the contest. The Broncos are 3-0 SU in games Bailey has missed. If Henry, who is averaging 91.5 ypg., is absent, rookie Selvin Young (18 carries) and first-year player Andre Hall (no carries) are expected to handle the ball-carrying duties

The Packers are 0-5 all-time in Denver, and they are 14-18 SU and 17-14-1 ATS on the road on Monday nights. On the flip side, they’re 2-0 SU and ATS on the road this year and 5-0-1 ATS in their last six away from Lambeau Field. Overall, Green Bay is on an 8-2 ATS roll dating back to last season.

Despite last week’s spread-cover against Pittsburgh – its first of the 2007 season – Denver is just 2-11 ATS in its last 13 home games. On Monday nights, the Broncos are 18-9-1 at home, but only 11-16-1 ATS.

Favre is 17-15 SU in his career on Monday nights, but he’s lost his last five in a row. The Packers’ legend is 3-1 all-time against Denver in the regular season, and he’s thrown for 751 yards, six TDs and nine INTs in those four contests. The only time Favre played in the Mile High City, he went just 7-for-23 for 120 yards and three INTs in a 31-10 loss as a 3½-point favorite in 1999.

The over is on runs of 10-1 overall for Denver (5-0 last five), 9-0 for Denver at home, 4-1 for the Packers overall and 19-9 for Green Bay in October.

ATS ADVANTAGE:  GREEN BAY and OVER

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