Week 3 Preview: Can the Packers Start the LaFleur Era 3-0?
The Packers and Broncos do battle Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Packers remain undefeated in the Matt LaFleur era, while new Broncos head coach Vic Fangio has yet to score his first win. Will either side break their streak? Find out in our prediction below.
This week’s Tale of the Tape is a good example of how teams’ records, their stats, and their actual performance sometimes need significant explanations.
To wit: the Broncos outperform the Packers in almost every metric we track but are 0-2. The Packers, for their part, are pretty much in the middle of the pack league-wide in every measurable except their defensive DVOA.
The Packers also outperform the Broncos in point differential, which also illustrates a key takeaway fans should keep in mind for every statistic they read: it’s not just what you do that matters, but when you do it. The Broncos may have outscored and outgained the Packers so far, but they haven’t done it when it’s mattered most. Thus, they’re 0-2.
The Joe Flacco/Aaron Rodgers comparison also demonstrates the importance of putting stats in context. Flacco is 0-2 as a starter (even if QB wins aren’t a thing) but has by and large statistically outperformed Rodgers. He’s thrown for more yards and has done it more efficiently, as exemplified by his very strong ANY/A number.
But Rodgers has outperformed Flacco in one key area: the red zone. Listen to our latest episode of Blue 58 at the top of this post for a full breakdown of Rodgers’ dominance in this area of the field so far in 2019.
Player to Watch
On this week’s podcast, we mentioned a very curious statistical nugget: the Broncos have yet to record a sack in 2019. That’s hard to believe, as they employ two dynamic pass rushers: Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. And even though they haven’t put up big numbers so far this year, it would be foolish to ignore the impact these two could have on the game.
Miller has been one of the NFL’s most productive edge rushers since he entered the league in 2011. In fact, he might have a legitimate claim as the NFL’s best edge rusher, hands down. He’s the only player to total more than 95 sacks and 195 quarterback hits since 2011. Even if he hasn’t managed a sack so far this year, there’s very little reason to suggest he’s lost a step at age 30.
Chubb, meanwhile, is no slouch. The 2018 5th overall pick had a very good rookie season with 12 sacks and 21 quarterback hits. Sure, it’s hard to isolate his performance from Miller’s, but that’s no knock on Chubb. He can only play the opportunities he has, and he’s taken full advantage of the chance to play opposite from one of the league’s premier defensive players.
What happened the last time the Packers and Broncos played?
Even without Jordy Nelson, the Packers came out of their Week 7 bye in 2015 flying high at 6-0. But they came down hard in a prime time matchup with the Broncos. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips took Aaron Rodgers completely apart that day, holding him to just 77 yards on 22 pass attempts, sacking him three times (including one for a safety) and forcing a fumble. The Broncos won 29-10, but the Packers were lucky to put a single point on the board.
Who’s going to win?
Just as our guest did on the latest episode of Blue 58, I think the Packers will handle the Broncos on Sunday. The Packers have shown too much firepower on defense for Denver to make this competitive, and though he’s kept a relatively clean sheet so far this season, Joe Flacco remains a turnover waiting to happen.
However, even though I think the Packers will win, I wouldn’t say I’m 100% comfortable with the prediction. I’d put my confidence at about 80%, better than I’ve felt in any game so far this season, but not quite a slam dunk.
Packers 27, Broncos 13
Our survey results this week show Packers fans are a confident bunch heading into Sunday’s game. A whopping 96 percent of voters believe the Packers will win on Sunday. Another 92 percent believe the Packers will make the playoffs this year.
Packers fans are pretty confident in their coaches and front office, too. Join us on this week’s episode of Blue 58 for a more comprehensive breakdown of the poll results.
One Last Thought
The Packers will wear their 1930s/1940s-style throwbacks for Sunday’s game and I think they’re just fine. They’re fine! But as I’ve said many times before, the Packers could have done so much better with their throwback offerings.
The Packers’ uniform history is a lot weirder and wilder than we’ve been led to believe. I’d love for them to embrace it a little more. Here’s a start: combine the throwbacks with the remnants of the Color Rush phenomenon from a few years back and get yourself a fun, solid colored throwback that pays homage to the 1953 Packers. Sure, that wasn’t a great season, but who cares? The less glamorous parts of Packers’ history led to some great moments, too. Embrace the full spectrum, starting with the jerseys.