Early Bird Breakdown Week 3: Kansas City Chiefs @ Green Bay Packers
Hello fans, welcome to a special Monday edition of Early Bird Breakdown! Let’s recap last weeks action before getting into the game tonight:
Last Sunday night Aaron Rodgers masterfully cut through Seattle’s defense and the Packers’ defense stymied the Seahawk’s offense. Rodgers was incredibly accurate and moved phenomenally in the pocket, throwing off of his back leg, in the air, and all over the place, which is now the norm for Rodgers. Rodgers was also very effective with his hard count against the Seahawks, who had the most jumps offside last season, leading to multiple free plays.
The defense also played phenomenally, albeit against a line that also struggled this week against Chicago. However, that should not take anything away from their performance, they stepped up. BJ Raji looked the best he has since 2010 and was causing havoc for Seattle when they tried to run the ball. The Packers won the game 27-17.
Packers’ Offense vs Chiefs’ Defense:
Despite the hype around Seattle’s defense last week, Kansas City and Denver arguably are both better defenses, all three being among the top four talented defensive units. Kansas City is led by All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston, who last season nearly set the NFL sack record with a league leading 22 sacks and has gotten three sacks in his first two games to start this season. Opposite him is another Pro-Bowl caliber pass rusher in Tamba Hali. The center of the defense is anchored by the return of Derrick Johnson, one of the best interior linebackers in the league and in front of him is Dontari Poe, the best nose tackle in the league. The secondary measures up as well with the return of Pro-Bowl caliber Eric Berry who missed the last few months of the season with a cancer diagnosis and his return should be the story of the year (unfortunately his return date was overshadowed with a silly incident involving deflated footballs). On the outside Sean Smith, one of Pro Football Focus’ highest rated corners mans the number one receiver, and emerging star Marcus Peters, the Chiefs’ first round pick is on the other.
How do the Packers attack so much talent? Well, they got some news yesterday that should help with Eddie Lacy and Davante Adams both being upgraded to probable for the game. Green Bay will have to play the same offensive plan they brought against Seattle against Kansas City, make use of Rodgers mobility to buy time and hit the open receiver. This week will be a little harder with Dontari Poe potentially crashing the middle of the pocket, meaning Green Bay probably will have to double him and leave a tight end or a running back to help double against Justin Houston. Don Barclay and David Bakhtiari will have to play exceptional against these edge rushers to keep Rodgers upright and clean.
Despite Marcus Peters having an interception that he has returned for a touchdown on back-to-back weeks, he is the easier of the two corners to complete the pass against. This will be another relatively lower scoring game for the Packers at home with another brutal defensive match up, but without the crowd noise in Kansas City to jazz up the Chiefs defense, Rodgers should be able to move the ball efficiently enough while making use of his legs to buy time and get the ball downfield. Look for whoever is matched in the slot to be the go-to target tonight, with a rotation of James Jones, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams the most likely candidates to be moved around.
The Chiefs defense has been stout against the run, but they have yet to face as talented of a line as the Packers and as physical a runner as Lacy. While it may not be all that effective early, pounding the ground game in the first half will lead to more success late for the Packers to be able to ice the game.
Packers’ Defense vs Chiefs’ Offense:
Green Bay will need to bring the same intensity this week against the run that they did last week to try and contain one of the most electric runners in NFL history, Jamaal Charles. Jamaal Charles has the highest yards per carry in NFL history for his career, averaging 5.5 yards every time he carries the ball. He is fast, elusive, and the teams best receiver. For those of you who may not watch games outside of the Packers, think of him as an even better Matt Forte (who gained 169 total yards week 1 against Green Bay). Look for the Packers to have a similar defensive scheme focused against the run early against Kansas City to try and contain Charles. His biggest mismatch is when he is at receiver, so putting nickel corner Randall on him as an assignment with help would be the best bracket option for Kansas City’s best player.
Charles is not the only weapon for Kansas City, as tight end Travis Kelce can be very explosive down the middle. With Morgan Burnett out for the game, Dom Capers would be best utilizing Clay Matthews to cover Travis Kelce, as he is the most physically capable of doing so.
The Packers will have opportunities to get turn overs off of pressuring quarterback Alex Smith. While new wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is explosive, Sam Shields should be able to lock in on him one-on-one allowing the Packers to use different blitz looks to get to Smith against a young and only okay offensive line. Green Bay should apply the same blueprint on defense to beat Seattle against Kansas City and they should be able to keep their playmakers in check.
The early forecast is low 60s with a 52% chance for rain that will increase as the game goes on.
The Packers come into this game after a big win against Seattle. They cannot take risk coming out a bit deflated coming off of the emotional high last week. Kansas City is a very talented team, even before they were this good they beat Green Bay when the Packers were 14-0 in Kansas City the last time they played. Green Bay should win this game as long as they play to potential, and nothing historically shows the Packers having a let down at home. Like last week (and it will be a trend this season), the Packers may not win this game on the road but being at home in prime time, Rodgers always seems to be perfect and the Packers defense will do enough to keep Kansas City behind. Green Bay wins 31-20.
As of yesterday morning Lacy was probably benched as questionable, same for Adams. Both are now safe bets to play, with Cobb being my favorite for a big game out of the slot. Jamaal Charles is a must-start for Kansas City, but if you drafted him you knew that. James Jones could continue to be the go-to guy in the redzone. I would avoid Maclin and Adams as they likely will have difficulty getting separation against the corners assigned to them.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University