Aaron Rodgers’ road vulnerability and other storylines from Packers vs. Chiefs
Matt LeFleur has emphasized the run game on offense
A common sentiment for the Packers the last few years was that too much pressure was put on Rodgers to carry the team. Similar to the sentiment that some Chiefs fans have regarding Andy Reid, Mike McCarthy struggled to effectively incorporate the run game into his offensive scheme. It impacted a banged up Rodgers and a struggling Packers defense in a myriad of ways, especially in 2018.
If the first seven games of 2019 are any indication, the run game is a far bigger priority for Matt LaFleur and his coaching staff. Statistically, the Packers are running the ball nearly 25 percent more per game than they did in 2018. Whether it’s a primary or secondary factor, Rodgers play has improved considerably.
Interestingly enough, while a greater emphasis has been put on running the ball the Packers haven’t been very good at it. After rushing the ball for an impressive five yards per carry in 2018, Packers running backs are averaging only 3.9 yards per carry this season.
Perhaps this is why the team has struggled on third down. For a team that is humming on offense, coming off a blowout win against the Oakland Raiders, they are near the bottom of the league converting on only 32 percent of their third downs. Once again, for a team with one of the best quarterbacks in the league this is a surprising stat.
All this said, the Packers are still the type of team that has the talent to run the ball down the Chiefs throat if they don’t keep up with the performance last week against the Broncos. Aaron Jones, the team’s starting running back, has had a very good season to this point rushing for 399 yards and eight touchdowns on 101 carries.
When he needs a spell, the team can turn to Jamaal Williams whose rushed for 196 yards on 43 carries. Finally, if a play breaks down Rodgers still has the ability to pick up a first down. Unfortunately for the Mahomes-less Chiefs, this is a far more dynamic offense than the Chiefs faced last week.
If I was a betting man, I’d guess that Spagnuolo is more concerned with Rodgers and the passing game than the running game. I’d expect he will protect the back end against the pass at all costs and make the Packers beat the Chiefs by running the ball. Considering Matt Moore hasn’t ever been a prolific quarterback, slowing the game down is probably the best strategy to get a win. Here’s hoping we see a similar performance from the defense this week.
The Packers have an elite receiving corp
This is a very similar test to the one that the Chiefs defense had against the Houston Texans. Where the Texans had DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Jordan Akins, the Packers have Devante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Jimmy Graham.
Adams has continued his Pro Bowl play from the last two seasons catching 25 passes for 378 yards. After having a solid rookie season, especially for a fifth-round pick, Valdes-Scantling has exploded this season for 27 receptions for 416 yards and two touchdowns.
Finally, Graham may be a bit past his prime in which he was one of the most dominant offensive weapons in the league, but he is still extremely effective and will be a challenge for anyone on Sunday with his sheer size and athleticism. He’s added strong numbers of his own with 18 catches for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Adams is still listed as questionable, which could take some pressure off the Chiefs secondary, but rumor has it he likely could have played against the Raiders if they felt they needed him. I’d expect their sentiment this week is that they do and he plays. Either way, the Chiefs defense better be ready for a tough contest.