It has been a wild and wacky weekend in the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs will finish it off Monday night in Green Bay against the Packers. The Chiefs (1-1) are currently behind the 3-0 Denver Broncos and, unbelievably, the 2-1 Oakland Raiders in the AFC West. San Diego crashed and burned in Minnesota Sunday to fall to 1-2. With a game against the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals next week on the road, the Chiefs cannot afford to fall too far behind the pack.
To listen to national experts and Las Vegas oddsmakers talk about it, the Chiefs should save money on the plane fare to Wisconsin and just forfeit the game because they obviously don’t belong on the same field as Aaron Rodgers and the other Cheeseheads, right? Forgive Head Coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City players if they waste everyone’s time by playing the game and seeing what happens. Despite the fact that Rodgers is the reigning league MVP and is exceptionally great at home, the team he leads is far from perfect and has some weaknesses that the Chiefs can exploit.
Here are five ways the Chiefs can beat the Packers Monday night:
1. Hold on to the ball. You might assume I’m talking about the offense and special teams and their five turnovers last week, but I’m actually talking about the Chiefs defense. There were at least four balls that the Chiefs had a chance to intercept last week and all were dropped. I would wager (for entertainment purposes only, of course) that if ANY of those balls were intercepted, the Chiefs’ odds of winning that game would have increased dramatically. If they had held onto two or more of them, the game might have been a rout.
Rodgers doesn’t throw many interceptions normally, and at home he hasn’t thrown one since December 12, 2012 – an amazing streak of 17 games. That is borderline insane considering how much the Packers throw. However, if the defense has a chance to get a turnover, it must capitalize. Running back James Starks has fumbled (6) almost as many times as he’s scored (7) in his career. Eddie Lacy has a gimpy ankle that could potentially affect his ball security, so while the first order for the defense is to tackle the ball carrier, the second order is to try and strip the ball. And for gosh sakes, if Rodgers hits a defender in the hands with a ball by mistake, HOLD ON TO IT!
2. Pound the Packers defense. Green Bay ranks 30th against the run in the league, giving up an average of 154 rushing yards per game. They have been giving up a whopping 5.37 yards per carry, ranking 28th. The Chiefs have perhaps the most complete running back in the league in Jamaal Charles who is 100% motivated to atone for his two costly fumbles last week. Charles is also the man with the best career yards-per-carry average in NFL history (5.5 ypc). Do the math. Running the ball keeps the ball in the Chiefs hands (if they hang onto it) and out of Rodgers’ hands. Both are good things. Green Bay needs to see a steady dose of Charles and Knile Davis for four quarters. Thirty or more rushing attempts by the Chiefs should be a goal.
3. Make Rodgers get rid of the ball early. Watching even a few minutes of game film on Rodgers will show you that he is absolutely his most dangerous when he scrambles out of the pocket and buys time for his wide receivers to get open. If the Chiefs can get pressure on Rodgers with just four pass rushers like they did often last week against Manning, and force him to get rid of the ball earlier than he wants, they can keep containment and cover his receivers with the other seven men. While Randall Cobb is an outstanding receiver, the rest of the group is average. James Jones is a nice story for Packer fans after his year in Purgatory in Oakland, but the fact is that he’s been cut twice this past summer by the Giants and Raiders – two teams that could use receivers. With Jordy Nelson out for the year, there is no Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders situation like the Chiefs faced last week.
Of course, it’s much easier than it sounds, but the Chiefs have the personnel to do it. Jaye Howard owned the interior of Denver’s offensive line last week, and sometimes Chiefs fans are so busy praising players on other teams that they forget Justin Houston is the most disruptive defensive player in the NFL. Yep, I’m including Mr. Watt down with the Texans when I say that. If this defense can rattle the best quarterback of the last 20 years in Tom Brady like they did last year, they can rattle Rodgers – even in Lambeau. The trick will be if Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton leaves cornerback Jamell Fleming alone out on an island like he did against Denver, Rodgers will throw Fleming’s way every time.
4. Hey Andy, use some of that creativity, OK? Andy Reid is exceptional coming out of a bye week (14-2 career record) and considering the Chiefs played the first game of Week 2 eleven days ago and are playing the last game of Week 3, he almost has had a bye week to prepare for Green Bay. Against Houston in Week 1, you had a KC offensive line playing together for literally the first time ever because right tackle Jah Reid had only been with the team for four days. Last week, they were playing against a healthy, exceptionally fast, and aggressive Denver defense that gave quarterback Alex Smith nightmares.
Green Bay is a decent defense with one exceptional player in middle linebacker Clay Matthews but the others are good, but not great. Nose tackle B.J. Raji played well last week, but he’s been up-and-down most of his career. Therefore, the Chiefs should be able to get the running game going which will open up the passing game. Eric Fisher will replace Jah Reid at tackle and the former first-overall pick of the draft should be better than Reid has been there. Reid is ok blocking for the run, but has been a revolving door in pass blocking. If Smith gets more time in the pocket, Reid can pull out more imaginative plays in the passing game. You know, like throwing to wide receivers!
5. Smith needs to be Alex Smith and not Jay Cutler. Pssst … Alex! I’ve been on Team Alex since you arrived in KC, but you made it hard on us this past week. Against Green Bay, just protect the ball … spread the wealth among 7 or 8 receivers … throw for two or three touchdowns … and it would be nice if one was to Jeremy Maclin or Albert Wilson so people around the country would stop talking about the stupid WR touchdown drought. Do you realize the KC Royals have made it to the playoffs TWICE since the last Chiefs wide receiver caught a touchdown pass? Yep, Alex, just don’t put the defense in a bad spot of having to keep the Packers out of the end zone by giving them the ball on a short field. It is time to look like you did in the first half against Houston and not at the end of the first half in Arrowhead last week or the beginning of the second half. Team Alex knows you won’t get fully embraced by the community until you win a playoff game, but beating Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau Field will go a long way of making people forget Peyton Manning and HorseFace Elway walking out of Arrowhead with yet another win. I’m just sayin’ ….
Bottom Line: Smart money says the Chiefs will lose a close one in Lambeau and fall to 1-2 and set off another week of teeth-gnashing around the metro. Fortunately, your Chiefs Examiner has never been accused of being smart! The Chiefs have never lost a regular season game in Green Bay and are a much better team than they showed last week. While I freely admit that the Chiefs COULD go out an lay an egg on national TV, I also believe they can put a scare into the Lambeau faithful and give the Pack everything they have. Half the road teams won their games this weekend, so why not the Chiefs?
Chiefs – 24, Packers – 23