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Five Key Matchups vs. Packers, revisited

Sunday's matchup of the unbeatens will feature many great individual battles, including these five that could have quite the impact on the outcome.

CBs Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. vs. WRs Randall Cobb, James Jones

With quarterback Aaron Rodgers' spectacular ability to manuever around pressure in the pocket to string out plays, cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. knew that their duties to stick to their receivers would go beyond the initial stages of a route.

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Unlike previous weeks in which the Broncos' tandem forced turnovers, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers avoided throwing dangerous passes, but Harris and Talib didn't allow much to the Packers' starting receivers. Jones, who had been averaging 20.2 yards per reception coming into Sunday's game, was targeted twice and just caught one pass for a total of two yards. Cobb had more success with 27 yards on six receptions, but hardly found the success Green Bay needed.

Individually, Harris and Talib each excelled. Talib allowed just one catch on one target for three yards with no yards after the catch, per Pro Football Focus. Rodgers threw toward Harris more with five passes in his direction, and though he completed four, they totaled just 23 yards. Harris had five tackles and one forced fumble. The tight coverage forced Rodgers to spend more time going through his progression, which gave Denver's pass rush more time to close in on him.

PFF differential: 2.0
Harris: 2.0 Talib: -0.6 = 1.4
Jones: -1.2 Cobb: 0.6 = -0.6

TE Owen Daniels vs. LB Clay Matthews

Daniels didn't always match up against Matthews in his successes and Matthews wasn't solely frustrated by Daniels, but Daniels had his best game of the season against the Packers' linebacking corps, which struggled in coverage.

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Daniels got to show off his wheels with his most production game yet. With 44 yards on three receptions, Daniels averaged 14.7 yards per catch, succeeding in moving the chains on each reception, including two on long-yardage situations. He also had a hand in keeping Manning clean in pass protection and in establishing the run.

Matthews didn't succeed in getting to Peyton Manning before he released the ball, though he did have two quarterback hits. Daniels caught one pass after starting in Matthews coverage. As the tight end crossed from the right hash, Matthews switched coverage to C.J. Anderson with linebacker Nate Palmer, who was a couple steps behind. Daniels picked up 18 yards for a first down.

PFF differential: 2.8
Daniels: 1.3
Matthews: -1.5

LG Evan Mathis vs. DT Mike Daniels

Mathis rotated with rookie teammate Max Garcia on the line, but Mathis bore the brunt of the work in the rushing game at left guard. Garcia played 15 snaps at left guard (16 total), three of which were rushing plays, but of Mathis' 52 snaps, 31 were on the ground. And the 11-year veteran delivered, as he has for much of the season despite being a late addition to the roster in the final weeks of training camp. On those rushing plays, the Broncos totaled 147 yards with two touchdowns.

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And as far as pass protection, Mathis allowed two QB hurries but didn't give up any hits or sacks. It's been a remarkable improvement for the entire line since the beginning of the season after the Broncos gave up seven sacks in the first two games. Since then Manning has been sacked just five times, with zero in the previous two games. The additional time allowed Manning to stay comfortable in the pocket and find his receivers as they work to find space downfield.

Conversely, Daniels was contained and had little impact on the Broncos on pass or run plays. He mustered just one defensive stop, two QB hurries and one QB hit. After rating as the Packers' top defensive player through six weeks, Daniels was not much of a factor in Sunday's game. PFF differential: 4.0
Mathis: 3.5
Daniels: -0.5

OLB DeMarcus Ware vs. QB Aaron Rodgers

There's no question the Broncos can apply enormous pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but the pairing of Rodgers' arm with his feet posed a difficult challenge with his ability to stretch out plays while eluding the pass rush as his receivers separate from the secondary. How quickly the outside linebackers, defensive linemen and bevy of blitzing defenders could get to Rodgers would be imperative.

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After missing the Broncos' previous game before the bye week against Cleveland and most of the Week 5 matchup against Oakland, Ware came back refreshed and energized. Ware tallied one sack, which resulted in a safety after he knocked the ball out of Rodgers' hands. His and the rest of the defense's pressure was vital to disrupting the Packers' offense, which ended up allowing three sacks and gained a meager two yards per pass play.

In all, Rodgers had the worst game of his career as a starter, statistically speaking, with just 77 gross passing yards. With three sacks for 27 yards lost, the Packers' net passing yards dropped to just 50 yards.

PFF differential: 2.3Ware: 1.9
Rodgers: -0.4

DE Derek Wolfe vs. RG T.J. Lang

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In his third game since returning from suspension, Wolfe had his best game yet. Despite playing on just 29 defensive snaps (55 percent), he led the team in tackles with seven combined (three solo), including one tackle for loss. Wolfe was most effective in defending the run, and he had his hand in two third-down stops to end a couple Green Bay drives. Packers running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined for just 47 yards on 16 carries, and combined with an early deficit, the Packers offense became one-dimensional.

Lang, who has been one of the Packers' best linemen in pass protection and run blocking, was unable to help Green Bay establish the run and against arguably the best defense in the league, the Packers couldn't get the balance necessary to space the field and keep the Broncos off-balance.

PFF differential: 4.0Wolfe: 4.9
Lang: 0.9

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