2011 NFL Season Week 15: Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs Preview: Arrowhead Massacre?
That’s the dilemma I faced when trying to preview this Sunday’s matchup between the 13-0 Green Bay Packers and the 5-8 Kansas City Chiefs. The same Chiefs team who has scored 25 points combined in four games and the team who fired head coach Todd Haley this week, one year after winning the AFC West. His replacement for the remainder of 2011? Romeo Crennel, who was a dismal failure in his time as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
In the other corner, you have the defending world champion Packers whose offense is a runaway freight train demolishing all teams on the road to another Super Bowl title.
Dysfunction vs. perfect harmony. I think you know where this is going.
Key Chiefs Players
QB Kyle Orton The former Broncos quarterback gets his first start since signing with the Chiefs following his release from Denver in the wake of Tebowmania. Orton did make a brief (one play) appearance for Kansas City earlier this season and promptly was sidelined until this week by a finger injury.
Orton has had very little time with this offense due to his injury. He has not had the chance to develop chemistry with the Chiefs wide receivers and with a ball hawking Packers secondary coming to town, his learning curve just got that much steeper.
WR Dwayne Bowe Even though his TD total is way down from 2010 (15 vs. just four this season), Bowe is on pace for his second consecutive 1,000 yard season. When Jamal Charles went down for the season early in the 2011 campaign, it was expected that Bowe and Steve Breaston both would have decent seasons.
Thanks to the loss of starting quarterback Matt Cassel for the season as well, Bowe’s big season hasn’t exactly panned out. He has been productive between the two end zones, but not IN the end zones themselves. It’s basically been a problem for the entire Chiefs offense to be fair.
With Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams coming to town, Bowe will have his hands full and if the Chiefs hope to have any chance of keeping pace with the Packers Bowe will have to find ways to get open.
LB Tamba Hali Quite possibly the lone bright spot in the front seven for the Chiefs has been Hali. He leads the team with nine sacks and has three forced fumbles. While he isn’t on pace for the 14.5 sacks he had a year ago, Hali is an aggressive pass rusher and has a knack for knocking the ball loose.
With Jennings out for the remainder of the regular season, Jermichael Finley is going to have to make some stronger contributions. He will have his hands full getting past Hali.
CB Brandon Flowers As the team leader in interceptions, Flowers is playing the best in a poor Chiefs secondary.
Leading the team with four interceptions, Flowers presents the biggest challenge for a deep Packers receiving corps that is missing it’s number one wide receiver. He and Brandon Carr form a tandem that has potential, but still is experiencing a lot of growing pains.
Three key matchups.
Packers No. 1 receiver vs. Chiefs secondary With the loss of Jennings, it would be safe to say Jordy Nelson enters the game as the Packers number one wide receiver but given the way McCarthy likes to use multiple sets, any given player could be the “guy” thanks to the enormous depth at the position for Green Bay.
Will the Chiefs be able to adjust on the fly to all the different ways the Packers can line up? Nope.
Rodgers vs. crowd noise The Chiefs may be down but when you hear the crowd you would never know it. Long known as one of the toughest (and loudest) places to play in the NFL thanks to the stadium’s unique shape, Rodgers will be turning to the silent count often during the game.
This is the Chiefs’ Super Bowl. They have a chance to cancel Green Bay’s date with history and the fan base will be all kinds of fired up for Sunday.
The Packers vs. themselves The Packers are a mere three games away from immortality. The pressure is building. More and more national media are camping out in Green Bay as the team gets closer and closer to a perfect regular season.
Will the Packers crack under the weight of history? I haven’t the slightest idea. The team has handled expectations extremely well but this is the granddaddy of them all. A perfect season.
Packers 42, Chiefs 10
I could draw similarities here between these Packers and the 1998 Broncos. Both teams took unlikely roads to a Super Bowl the year before and started the following season out 13-0. The Broncos won a squeaker against (ironically) the Chiefs before falling the following week in New York against the 5-8 Giants.
The Packers two weeks ago had their barnburner against the Giants and last week blew out the Raiders.
That said, the Packers won’t lose this week. The Chiefs are a mess internally following Haley’s firing and the offense is one of the worst in the league.
Packers roll. Two home games away from 16-0.
My God. Do you all realize what we could be witnessing? It sends shivers down one’s spine.
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke