Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Broncos

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Okay, let's get this out of the way from the very beginning.

How many Packers fans can look at the Denver Broncos and not think about Super Bowl XXXII? Yeah, I thought so. I can't do it either.

But don't worry my fellow Cheeseheads, because this time the Packers have the Broncos coming to Lambeau Field. And the Packers never, ever, ever lose at Lambeau Field in December.

At least, almost never.

Under Mike Sherman, the Packers are 18-2 overall in December, home and road. And with a playoff spot on the line, Lambeau Field should be rocking.

The Broncos are a very talented football team with one of the best running backs in the game leading the way in the form of Clinton Portis. But Portis is injured and might not play much, if at all, considering that the Broncos already have a playoff spot locked up.

But anyone who saw the way the Broncos dominated the Indianapolis Colts last week knows that even without Portis, beating the Broncos isn't as easy as a day at the beach.

Quentin Griffin looked like a Pro Bowler against the Colts. In fact, it seems like whoever the Broncos line up at running back turns into one of the game's greats.

That's the sign of a sound offensive scheme and a talented offensive line. And there's no question the Broncos have both of those.

They also have a veteran quarterback Jake Plummer who seems to be finding his rhythm in the offense.

Plummer brings savvy and experience to the game, plus some ability to run the football.

He might not look like it standing there, but Plummer is one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the league and he'll keep the Packers defense on their toes.

The thing Plummer doesn't like, however, is pressure. So one of the keys to victory will be getting a good push up front -- probably mixing in some stunts -- to make sure Plummer always has a hand in his face.

Even if they don't knock him down, the Packers defense has to wear him down.

Dating back to when Plummer played with the Arizona Cardinals, Darren Sharper has proven to have a good read on the man they call Jake the Snake. In big-game situations like this, Sharper usually comes through with a key sack or a key interception, and I'm going to predict that he gets both against the Broncos.

The one thing the Packers have to be aware of though, is the Broncos' tendency for screen passes.

Meanwhile, Denver also can do some downfield damage with the very fast wide receiver Ashley Lelie, plus veteran tight end Shannon Sharpe.

Nick Barnett's ability to read Sharpe and stay with him on crossing routes should play heavily into the Packers' ability to stop the Broncos.

The Broncos offensive line excels at run blocking, but there should be some opportunities for the Packers to be successful with the blitz.

When the Packers have the ball they'll be facing a defense that's aggressive and willing to take chances.

Trevor Pryce is one of the best defensive players in all the NFL.

The Broncos like to mix things up, use some stunts and bring pressure with some corner and safety blitzes.

Brett Favre has to be able to spot these tactics ahead of time and make the proper audibles at the line of scrimmage.

Whenever the opposition blitzes that means someone is getting single coverage, and it doesn't matter if it's Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson or Javon Walker, the Packers have receivers who can excel in 1-on-1 situations.

Based on how successful the deep ball has been the past two weeks, you can bet that offensive coordinator Tom Rossley will feel very confident calling for big plays. You only need to hit one or two big shots to change the complexion of a football game, and right now the Packers are deadly with play-action.

That's because Ahman Green is still the focal point of any defense, despite Favre's back-to-back four-touchdown performances.

The opposition is correct to pinpoint Green, because the Packers have to be able to run the ball to be successful.

That's going to be especially true this week because the Broncos are a team that does well in shootouts. So even though the Packers have sufficient firepower to stay with them, they want to do their best to control the tempo.

If the Packers can slow the game down and make it a game of muscle, they should do well.

The key will be to remain patient, wait for the opportunities and then make plays.

The atmosphere in Lambeau Field should be electric.

It's not quite the post-season, but it is a playoff-like scenario because the Packers must have this win.

In many ways, the Broncos are the best kind of opponent to face at this point, because if the Packers pick up the victory and move into the playoffs, they'll be hot off a four-game winning streak and will have proven to the rest of the NFL that they belong.

It's crazy that in such an up and down season it all comes down to this.

If the Packers win, everybody watch out for flying elbows as a lot of fair-weather fans hurry to climb back on the bandwagon.

I still wonder why they left in the first place.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*

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