At 2-0, the Packers are off to their best start since 2011, but their work is just beginning. With another tough opponent coming to town in the Chiefs, the Pack needs to bring their best gameplan again, and that leads me to this week’s 3..2..1 countdown.
In case you are reading this for the first time, every Saturday I will use this countdown system to name 3 key players for the team to win, 2 bold predictions, and 1 key stat that they need to win to achieve victory.
But before I get to the list, a huge shout out has to go to every Packer fan for their support last week. I was watching the game from my apartment in Des Moines, IA and with the sheer volume of cheering fans was incredible to hear. I was so pumped to hear that “Get loud Lambeau!” worked so well and I expect this week to be no different. I expect great things from this Monday night and look forward to a 3-0 start.
So without further ado, here is how the Packers can beat the Kansas City Chiefs in 3…2…1…
3 KEY MATCHUPS
- Aaron Rodgers vs. Derrick Johnson
- This one is interesting to me and when I started thinking of matchups, it all started with stopping Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. And there is no doubt that is important, but people forget how good Derrick Johnson is at the MLB spot. A true sideline to sideline player, DJ has shown that he can chase down running backs and receivers on the back side and is a lot of times the smartest guy on the field. The signal caller for a tough defense, he will be making all the adjustments for the Chiefs and that is where Aaron Rodgers comes in. Perhaps the best mind in football today, Rodgers knows how to get in the head of a defense, but he needs to be especially tough Monday. This game could be a battle of minds between two of the masters and the Green Bay quarterback needs to come out on top.
- Nick Perry/Julius Peppers vs. Chiefs offensive tackles.
- Perry and Peppers were exceptional last week when it came to stopping the run. Perry especially held his own against Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks. But after a week, another top back comes to town in Jamaal Charles. Coming off a tough week last week and with a long week to practice, he wants redemption and it will be up to the outside linebackers to keep him from getting past the edge. A true home run threat, he is a lot less dangerous if you keep him between the tackles, and if Perry, Peppers, and guys like Mike Neal and Jayrone Elliott hold down the tackles, it allows the other guys to swarm Charles to bring him down.
- Nate Palmer vs. Travis Kelce
- Finally, we get to the key matchup in the passing game. Sam Shields against Jeremy Maclin is another one to watch, but Kelce is Alex Smith’s top target and is the next great seam busting tight end. A new version of Jimmy Graham, Kelce is a great route runner with spectacular hands who needs to be accounted for on every single play. And Nate Palmer, as the best coverage linebacker, will probably draw the first crack at him. Palmer needs to stay with him when he is manned up and not let Kelce get into any open field. If he can keep him to short gains at the worst, that closes up a lot of Kansas City’s playbook.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- Alex Smith throws more interceptions than touchdowns.
- Alex Smith is known as being a smart and efficient quarterback. That is why he is still a starting quarterback in the NFL. With a lack of arm strength for the deep ball and small stature, he needs to make sure that he doesn’t turn the ball over for his team to have a chance. That showed last Thursday when they played Denver. Green Bay is starting to force some turnovers like they did in past seasons and with Smith in a hostile environment, look for at least 2 interceptions by the defense, led by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who will finally hang on to one this week.
- Ty Montgomery will run a kickoff back for a touchdown
- The Chiefs are known for having a great return game. Knile Davis has run a kick back in each of his first two seasons, and D’Anthony Thomas is a more explosive version of Darren Sproles. But the returner who will change the tide of the game will be Ty Montgomery. He almost broke a couple in Chicago and was solid against Seattle, and I expect him to top that this week. Kansas City likes to overpursue at times to force a turnover, and Montgomery has the patience and the quick acceleration to exploit that and take on to the house Monday night.
1 KEY STAT THE PACKERS NEED TO WIN
- Hold Kansas City under 30% on Third Downs
- The Chiefs are not a major big play offense. They rely on time of possession and the 10 yard routes that Alex Smith throws so well. They intend to draw this game out and make it a slower tempo game. That means that they need to convert whenever they get a third down, and they are usually very good at it. But if Green Bay can stop them more than 70% of the time, that give Aaron Rodgers the ball back that much quicker and more of an opportunity to get on the board.
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.