Despite injuries, the Kansas City Chiefs have an opportunity to upset the Green Bay Packers and prove themselves to the rest of the NFL.
For the first time this season, the Kansas City Chiefs are the underdogs and it only took injuries to Patrick Mahomes, Frank Clark, Eric Fisher, and Chris Jones along with a matchup against the one of the best teams in the NFC. Even then, ESPN still predicts good things for the Chiefs, and most analysts still do not feel comfortable favoring the Green Bay Packers by much.
This game is winnable for the Chiefs, despite what the overwhelming negativity of the Kingdom suggests. Alex Okafor, Bashaud Breeland, and Rashad Fenton are proving to be more impressive every week. Juan Thornhill and Mecole Hardman are improving as rookies. Tyrann Mathieu is a defensive playmaker, and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are still the best at their respective positions.
But with the absence of many key players on both sides of the ball, it is going to take more then just skillful players to pull this victory out. It is going to take a masterfully designed game plan with genius play calling on both sides of the ball. Thankfully for the Chiefs, Andy Reid is one of the best in the business and is going up against a first year head coach in Matt LeFleur.
By looking at the numbers and seeing what Green Bay does well and, more importantly, what Green Bay does poorly, not only does a Chiefs’ victory seem possible, its seems likely. With a game plan built around these strengths and weaknesses, Big Red could solidify himself as a true mastermind of the game of football.
But what does that game plan need to look like? What glaring weaknesses do the Packers have that the Chiefs can capitalize on, and how can K.C. utilize its own strengths to neutralize the strengths of Green Bay?
The Strengths of the Green Bay Packers
A lot can and should be said about some of the Green Bay Packers wins this season. The refs were the only reason they beat the Lions., Kirk Cousins‘ inability to put up any sort of clutch performance is the only reason they beat Minnesota. A six touchdown performance against the 31st pass defense in the league in Oakland sounds better than it is.
Despite the talk, Green Bay is 6-1 and Aaron Rodgers is off to a hot start: 14 TDs (13 through the air and 1 on the ground), 2,019 yards (1,919 net after sack yardage is removed), and a 64.8% completion rate. All while having his number one receiver for only 4 games thus far this season. Rodgers is spreading the ball around effectively (14 different receivers this season, 8 players over 100 yards), and only giving the ball to the defense twice.
But the story of Green Bay’s success has revolved around the players on the other side of the ball, as the defense has been stout in stopping plenty of teams thus far. They’re giving up an average of only 19.9 points per game and forcing 13 turnovers (8 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries). That is without mentioning Jaire Alexander and Kevin King, the standout cornerbacks who have both found themselves in the top ten NFL players for pass breakups.
However, their success only becomes possible through the play of the true stars of the defense: Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. When working close together, QBs are being pushed out of the pocket, pushing Preston to have the 7th highest disruption rate in the NFL, 6th most sacks, and 8th most QB hits, with Za’Darius right behind him at 9th in sacks and 9th in QB hits.
On top of the standout players on the field, the coaches on the sideline have shown up in big ways on the field, keeping the team disciplined and committing the 9th fewest amount of penalties in the NFL. On a team that is defensively based, not committing penalties and making opponents move the ball by their own abilities is important to the overall success of the team.