Something has to give early in Sunday’s massive tilt between the Broncos and Packers. Green Bay has outscored opponents 66-9 in the first quarter this season. The Broncos, meanwhile, haven’t allowed a point in the first quarter all year.
We wouldn’t bet against this Broncos defense, even against Aaron Rodgers. The pass rushers get all the attention, but the secondary is absolutely loaded. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris could be the best cornerback duo in the league. And the improved play of cornerback Bradley Roby, safety Darian Stewart and safety David Bruton have made the team extremely difficult to pass on.
It starts with Talib. During his winding road to the NFL, detailed in our NFL Journeys series, he was a star cornerback at the University of Kansas. Harris arrived at Kansas two years after Talib and has been learning from him since. Now, Harris might be the superior cover cornerback, although Talib adds a level of physicality and playmaking ability. They remain highly competitive with each other, including piling up interceptions for scores. Talib has two this year; Harris has one.
“It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a race for the most pick-sixes this year,” Harris told the Denver Post this week.
On Sunday, the Broncos‘ secondary will face the best receiver group they’ve seen all year. But the Packers‘ receiver group has plenty of questions. Randall Cobb has been highly inefficient and trying to overcome a shoulder injury. Davante Adams should be playing his first game in a month and youngster Jeff Janis could wind up playing a role. James Jones has been Green Bay’s best receiver by far, and specializes in catching passes even when he’s well covered. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Talib on Jones plenty — he’s excellent when the ball is in the air and it’s tough to outmuscle him.
The focus will be on the defenses Sunday, and for good reason. The Packers and Broncos are first and second in points allowed-per-game this year. One key for Rodgers will be to make quick decisions and get the ball out of his hands before the Broncos blitz gets there. And getting open quickly against Talib and Harris is no easy task.