16

December

2011 NFL Season Week 15: Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs Preview: Arrowhead Massacre?

As I wrote on Twitter earlier this week, how do you preview a slaughter?

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.

15

December

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy Has Decisions to Make on Going for 16-0

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy Has Decisions to Make on Going for 16-0

What Should I do?

If the Green Bay Packers keep winning, and the upcoming schedule suggests they might, coach Mike McCarthy is going to have some important decisions to make in the coming weeks about his team’s quest to achieve what only two other teams have done since the merger: An undefeated regular season.

We’ve seen a handful of teams reach the point the Packers are currently at. Most recently, the 2009 New Orleans Saints started 13-0 while the Indianapolis Colts began that same season with 14 straight wins. The New England Patriots went undefeated during the 2007 regular season, and both the 2005 Colts and 1998 Broncos started 13-0. We’ll focus on those five teams.

Each coach approached their undefeated starts differently. So many factors go into a coach’s decision to play their starters, rest them or a combination of both that it’s impossible to nail down a way that is guaranteed to succeed. But by studying what went right and wrong for each coach and his choices, we can hopefully paint a picture for McCarthy to use.

Saints 2009

After starting 13-0, the Saints kept their foot on the gas to achieve perfection. At the time, the 11-2 Minnesota Vikings were still in contention for the NFC’s No. 1 seed, which undoubtedly was a factor in the Saints pursuing every win they could get. The Cowboys ended the Saints’ perfect season in Week 15, but that didn’t stop them from playing Drew Brees and the rest of the starters the very next week (despite a Vikings’ loss) against the Buccaneers. New Orleans lost that game, too, but homefield advantage was secured with another Vikings’ loss.

No players of significance were injured during week’s 15 and 16. The Saints then rested their starters in Week 17 in a loss to Carolina Panthers. The Saints would go on to win two home games in the playoffs before knocking off the Colts in the Super Bowl.

Colts 2009

The Colts went the opposite way as the Saints in ’09. At 14-0 and with homefield advantage locked up, the Colts benched Peyton Manning and several others starters during the third quarter of the Colts’ Week 16 game with the New York Jets. Up 15-10, Curtis Painter and the backups squandered the lead down the stretch and lost 29-15. Coach Jim Caldwell’s choice to play it safe was widely criticized, and even center Jeff Saturday said he didn’t blame the Colts’ fans for booing during the fourth quarter of their Week 16 loss.