Love Will Be Aided With Three Receivers ReturningPosted:Nov 6th, 2021 10:11 am
Think about the last ten days in the life of a Packer fan.
It begins with an improbable win on the road against an unbeaten team, with the Pack playing without eight starters. Five days later, Aaron Rodgers shows himself to be at first deceitful and then misinformed after announcing he tested positive for COVID (first and foremost, we hope he recovers quickly). And Sunday it ends with Jordan Love's debut as a starter at Arrowhead. Fair or not (and probably not), we will all feel one way or the other when it comes to the Pack's future, depending on how he performs agains the Chiefs.
We should have spent this week talking about the seven game winning streak and the anticipation of the State Farm Bowl, where we finally get to see Rodgers vs. Mahomes. But alas, for the second straight time, we are denied. Last time it was Mahomes' injury; this time it's Rodgers' selfishness (ooh, I probably pissed off some of you there). You know, for me, if you're ultra committed to your team and you're unvaccinated, maybe don't attend a big team Halloween party even if you are proud of your John Wick costume.
So, on to the game. Love will be greatly aided by the return of the three receivers who missed the Cardinals game--getting MVS back will help clear out underneath throwing lanes for Love. The Chiefs will probably need to supply some safety help when MVS goes long. They tend to play a lot of man coverage and hope that their pass rush forces QBs into quick decisions. Obviously the return of Davante Adams will provide the ultimate security blanket for Love, who will be at the mercy of mad scientist Steve Spagnuolo, who will need to be clever because his corners will be hopelessly overmatched in this one.
The Chiefs' DC is renowned for blitzing a lot and disguising coverage and generally making things difficult for inexperienced QBs. He'll have to be creative, because his unit is wretched this season, ranking 25th in points, 27th in yards and 22nd in takeaways. Seven guys in their secondary allow passer ratings of over 100--and they have not faced a lot of great QBs.
You have to believe the Pack will use a similar game plan that we saw against the Cardinals. Run the ball early and often and put Love in favorable down and distance situations. The Chiefs have been a little better against the run of late, led by young linebackers Willie Gay and Nick Bolton, the reigning defensive rookie of the month.
I trust Matt LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett to craft a game plan that suits Love's talents. It would be nice to have David Bakhtiari back, but the Pack didn't activate him for this game, obviously being uber careful and certain of his health before putting him back out there. My guess is he returns next week at home against Seattle. My biggest concern is ball security with Love. He was strip sacked in mop up duty against the Saints in the opener and guys like Chris Jone, Frank Clark and the newly acquired Melvin Ingram will be licking their chops.
Almost as interesting will be seeing how the Joe Barry's defense handles the enigma that is the Chiefs offense right now. They're a couple weeks removed from getting nearly blanked by Tennessee 27-3 and are coming off a short week and an uneven performance against the almost mediocre Giants. In that game, in ten drives they scored two touchdowns--none in the second half in a narrow 20-17 win.
Mahomes has thrown a league high ten picks and looks unsettled and unsure. Some of that might be because his rebuilt offensive line has been very hit and miss, especially up the middle. Left tackle Orlando Brown has been worth the trade they made, but they're without right tackle Mike Remmers, and their two rookies, center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith have struggled, especially in pass protection.
Tyreek Hill remains the most electric big play receiver in the game (though Jamar Chase is closing). Barry's defense takes away the plays over the top, so look for Mahomes to find Hill with a lot of quick passes where he can make things happen in space. He was targeted a ridiculous 18 times Monday night, catching 12, but was held under 100 yards. We'll take that. Travis Kelce is coming off a nightmarish game catching just four for 27 yards and dropping a pair of passes. He's been un-Kelce-like for a few weeks. Let's hope he doesn't find his game just yet.
We'll see if DeVondre Campbell is asked to do some work on Kelce, or if that will be the task of a corner or safety. This week, Campbell became the first Packer to win an NFC Defensive Player of the Month award and has completely given the defense a different feel. Funny, how long have we all clamored for a high end athletic inside linebacker? And who would have thought Gutey would find the answer in a street free agent who just needed to find the system that matches his talents.
If Andy Reid could convince himself to run the ball, the Chiefs offense could get its legs back. The combo platter of Darrell Williams and Derrick Gore were productive against the Giants and the Pack can't sell out on the pass. They've been solid against much better rushing attacks, but will be without Kingsley Keke and maybe the resurgent Dean Lowry too. He's questionable with a hamstring injury and if he misses the game, the Pack will be thin up front and may need help from rookies TJ Slaton and Jack Heflin.
The line on this game was even on Tuesday morning and jumped to 7.5 by the end of the week. The only way the Pack doesn't cover is if they lose the turnover battle. They currently rank second in the league at +8 and KC leads the league with 19 giveaways, but Love's nerves and inexperience factor in. He'll be playing in probably the loudest outdoor stadium in the league. Packer fans will not be as noticeable as we're accustomed to.
Until I see the Chiefs' offense look like the Chiefs' offense I remain skeptical. If they struggle against the very average Titan and Giants defenses, I don't see how they rise up against the Pack's ninth ranked unit. The X-factor is Love, of course. With his arsenal of weapons and solid offensive line, he appears more than ready to show that he's ready for his big moment.
I'm not going to overreact to Love's performance how ever it goes. It's an invaluable, unexpected opportunity for him to show where he's at right now. Favre and Rodgers didn't provide a glimpse of their greatness in their first starts. It's a process for Love, but the reality is the world will overreact no matter how he plays.
At 7-1 and owners of the NFC's top seed at the moment, it's less than ideal to not have the reigning MVP on the field, of course. But if the Pack is going to lose a game, losing on the road to an AFC team is as painless as it gets. But I don't think they're gonna lose.
Packers 26 Chiefs 24