So what’s going against the Pack as they get set to play their fourth prime time game as the season reaches the midway point?
No Davante Adams for a fifth week, possibly no Darnell Savage and Corey Linsley, both are listed as questionable but appear likely to play. Andy Reid and the Chiefs are coming off a Thursday night game, so they’ve had ten days to heal and prepare for a big game against the Pack, hoping to avoid a rare three-game home losing streak. And Reid is notoriously good when he has extra time.
So what’s working in the Pack’s favor? The list is meatier and much more devastating for Kansas City. It starts with not having the reigning MVP and best player in the league, a guy who seems poised to be the face of the NFL for the next decade, as long as he can stay healthy.
Despite the cat and mouse game the team played as Patrick Mahomes was seen participating in practice all week, backup Matt Moore will indeed be the starter and he’s not even the team’s preferred backup. Moore was planning to be a scout till he got the call when Chad Henne got hurt in August. Henne’s back at practice, almost healed from an ankle injury that landed on IR, but the 35 year old Moore will get one last chance at glory. He’s 15-15 in his career as a starter with the Dolphins and the Panthers, with a 59% completion percentage and 46 TDs and 36 interceptions. But he’s never had an arsenal of skill position players like these. More on them in a moment.
Mahomes is just one of six Chiefs starters who will miss this game and they are all important pieces. Let’s start with the offensive line, where the left side is out: tackle Eric Fisher and guard Andrew Wylie. Their best two front seven players, Frank Clark and Chris Jones are out, as is nickel corner Kendall Fuller. Jones and Fuller will be replaced by unheralded rookies, a third and sixth rounder respectively.
Andy Reid is a great offensive game schemer, and with some extra time and a new challenge to morph his offense to make better use of Moore’s talents, I don’t doubt the Chiefs will put points on the board against the Pack. They’ll try to attack the Pack’s run defense with a two-pronged approach: Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy. Both will also be active in the passing game: they have 30 catches for around 250 yards between them this season.
The Chiefs also have the most dangerous group of pass catchers in the league with speedy downfield threat Sammy Watkins returning from injury and the electric Tyreek Hills fully healthy after missing most of the first five games. Reid will undoubtedly look to get the ball in these guys’ hands quickly and creatively to try to negate the Pack’s potent pass rush. Then there’s tight end Travis Kelce, who demands serious attention and will find one on one opportunities as Mike Pettine tries to avoid getting beat deep.
Matt Moore is not close to being Patrick Mahomes, but there’s enough talent on offense to put 30 points on the board, provided the offensive line holds up. Where the Pack should roll is on offense. In KC’s last game in Denver, the defense stepped up against the Broncos’ muddled offense, sacking Joe Flacco nine times. The Chiefs loaded up to stop the run, with linebackers Reggie Ragland and Damien Wilson getting more snaps than usual. But Denver didn’t take advantage of their lack of speed and make the cover the backs as receivers. Matt LaFleur will, he’ll also be able to use his complete bag of tricks against a defense missing its two most disruptive defenders.
The strength of the unit that will take the field Sunday night is at safety, with the Honey Badger moving all over the place and rookie Juan Thornhill (the guy I had my eye on for the Pack at draft time) patrolling the free safety spot. Their corners are average: former Packer Bashaud Breeland and second year guy Charvarius Ward. Rookie Rashad Fenton fills in for Fuller and you can bet Rodgers will test him early and often.
The recipe for the Pack’s offense is to run, run and run some more. Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams should combine for 35-40 carries, with Rodgers using play action to take downfield shots whenever he feels like it.
As talented as the Chiefs are on offense, even without the MVP, and as successful as Reid has been when his team has extra time to prepare, there’s no reason the Packers shouldn’t be able to outscore them, with those three key defensive pieces missing.
Packers 31 Chiefs 27