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QB duel is centerpiece of colossal Packers-Broncos clash

Who will deliver epic performances in this week's matchups?

Air & Ground matchup of Week 8

Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) -- This is just the fourth matchup in NFL history between teams that are 6-0 or better, and just the third of the Super Bowl era. The winner will likely emerge from this game as a prominent fixture in any "Super Bowl 50 favorites" conversations. This is hefty stuff.

The centerpiece of this colossal clash is the quarterback matchup. Five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning and two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers combine to tie for the most MVP awards for opposing quarterbacks (matching last season's Manning vs. Tom Brady showdown). As Rodgers is enjoying the prime of his career, Manning appears to have passed it. Manning is tied for the league lead with 10 interceptions. Rodgers, meanwhile, is one touchdown pass short of being tied for the league lead in that category, while throwing just two interceptions.

Both Manning and Rodgers are coming off their bye weeks. This is noteworthy. Since the implementation of the bye week in 1990, Rodgers (123.2) and Manning (109.7) have the two highest passer ratings in games after the bye week (minimum of seven starts, of course). Manning has won his last nine starts coming off the bye week; Rodgers has won his last six. Something will have to give.

Standing in the way of these two great passers are the defenses of the Broncos and Packers. The Broncos and Packers are the NFL's top two scoring defenses this season. The Packers' defense is tops, allowing 16.8 points per game. The Broncos are tied for second with the Minnesota Vikings, allowing 17.0 points per game. Rodgers and Manning better keep their heads on a swivel, because this game also features four of the NFL's top-15 sack artists. Von Miller (second), DeMarcus Ware (fourth), Clay Matthews (seventh) and Julius Peppers (14th) each rate near the top among active defenders in sacks per game.

One tough stretch

After squaring off against the unbeaten Broncos in Denver on "Sunday Night Football", the Packers travel to Charlotte to take on the undefeated Carolina Panthers (entering Week 8; the team hosts the Indianapolis Colts on "Monday Night Football") in Week 9.

Great Moments in Air & Ground History

Broncos 31, Packers 24 (Super Bowl XXXII) -- John Elway and the Broncos finally got off the schneid when it came to Super Bowls (the Broncos had lost four; Elway was part of three of those defeats) after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the game's history over the heavily favored, and defending champion, Packers. This classic championship clash featured dueling future Hall of Fame quarterbacks -- Elway and Brett Favre -- a massive effort by game MVP Terrell Davis, and an Elway scramble that will be a part of Super Bowl highlight mashups for as long as football is played.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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