Behind Enemy Lines: Six Matchups To Watch

WR Greg Jennings (Dennis Wierzbicki/USP)

We tell you the matchups that will decide Sunday's game. Can Marshall Newhouse keep standout rookie Von Miller in check? Does Denver have the defensive backs to corral Greg Jennings? Can the Packers handle the Broncos' two standout receivers?

Packers RT Marshall Newhouse and TE Jermichael Finley vs. Broncos OLB Von Miller

Bryan Bulaga is a big "if" to recover in only a week's time from the sprained and bruised left knee that knocked him out of the first quarter of Green Bay's last game. Consequently, Newhouse is focused on making his starting debut Sunday.

Newhouse performed better than what was expected of him coming in cold off the bench to spell Bulaga against Chicago but benefited from not having to face a standout pass rusher on the majority of the snaps he played, although he gave up a sack on a stunt by T Henry Melton.

Facing the supremely talented Miller could be a different story. Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, is off to an impressive indoctrination in the pro game with two sacks and two forced fumbles. He is the strong-side 'backer in Denver's 4-3 scheme, so he should be lined up across from Newhouse more often than not, especially in pass-rushing situations.

Miller also has been dropping into coverage. He would be giving up a couple inches to Finley, but the 6-foot-3, 237-pound Miller has the speed and athleticism that seemingly would give the Broncos their best hope to try to contain the unstoppable Finley, who had a career-high three touchdown catches last time out.

Packers WR Greg Jennings vs. Broncos CBs Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman

The image of a wide-open Jennings hauling in a deep ball from Brett Favre in stride and darting to the opposite end zone for an 82-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime the last time these teams met in 2007 still is burned into the memories of Broncos fans.

Jennings beat Dre Bly for the game-winner, completing a huge game of six catches for a then-career-high 141 yards. If the Broncos pick the poison of trying to bottle up Finley in the middle of the field, then Jennings could dominate the perimeter, as he did Sunday against the Bears with a personal-best nine receptions for 119 yards.

Bailey, one of the game's all-time premier cover guys, is questionable to return to action after missing Denver's last outing because of a hamstring injury and may not be the ideal candidate to shadow Jennings. The Broncos are suspect in coverage beyond Bailey, starting with the veteran Goodman, who faced the Packers on a regular basis with the rival Detroit Lions in the early 2000s before Jennings arrived.

Packers CBs Tramon Williams and Sam Shields vs. Broncos WR Brandon Lloyd and Eric Decker From 2006 through 2009, Lloyd caught 59 passes. A fourth-round pick by San Francisco in 2003, Lloyd had 15 career touchdown receptions with the 49ers, Redskins, Bears and Broncos through the 2009 season. And then came last season, when he was named second-team All-Pro with 77 catches, 1,448 yards, a league-best 18.8 average and 11 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3 Decker missed most of his senior season at Minnesota with a foot injury and didn't contribute much as a third-round pick last year. This season, he leads the team with 15 catches, 214 yards and two touchdowns, plus returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown. Those two will test a Packers secondary that ranks 31st in pass defense.

Packers OLB Clay Matthews vs. Broncos RT Orlando Franklin For the second time in four weeks, Matthews will go up against a rookie. Matthews is off to a slow start — statistically, anyway — with one sack but the coaches say he's playing better than ever. Franklin, the Broncos' second-round pick this year, has been flagged twice for holding but has not allowed a sack, according to STATS. At 6-foot-7, Franklin is going to have to stay low as Matthews is likely the best in the business at getting low and working under tall linemen.

Packers NT B.J. Raji vs. Broncos C J.D. Walton

The speed of the Green Bay defense on the flanks will make it paramount that Denver is able to open some holes inside for Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno. But Denver's weakness to date has been the inability to move the line of scrimmage on the interior, with second-year players Walton and left guard Zane Beadles the chief culprits. Raji falls somewhere between massive at a listed 337 pounds and immovable object. Walton and Beadles will have to win this matchup if the Broncos have any chance of having balance on offense and running the Packers out of their preferred nickel defense. In the passing game, Raji, who had 6.5 sacks last season, will be a big challenge. Beadles has allowed three sacks, according to STATS.

Broncos OLB D.J. Williams vs rust

Williams, who's been out since Week 3 of the preseason, dressed last week but wasn't used so his injured elbow could fully heal. He's expected to reassume his starting role as the weakside linebacker this week. The question is how much he can handle. One of the biggest assets to having the team's leading tackler in three of the last four weeks back is that it bumps MLB Joe Mays from certain pass packages for the speed of Williams, Miller and Wesley Woodyard. But having been off more than a month, and limited in training camp with a leg issue, it remains to be seen whether Williams can handle a full complement of snaps. Williams has been a productive starter. Since arriving in the league in 2004, he's the only player in the league with 700-plus tackles, 15-plus sacks and 35-plus tackles for losses.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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