The Kansas City Chiefs will attempt to kick off the Romeo Crennel/Kyle Orton era with a win when they welcome the undefeated Green Bay Packers to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
Following an embarrassing 37-10 loss to the New York Jets, the Chiefs parted ways with head coach Todd Haley and demoted starting quarterback Tyler Palko to third string. Kansas City’s playoff hopes — as slim as they were before the loss to new York — are all but gone and all that’s left is playing spoiler.
And what an amazing feat it would be if the Chiefs could spoil the amazing season the Packers are putting together. The defending Super Bowl champions 13-0 and have just been leveling teams with their all-world offense led by soon-to-be MVP Aaron Rodgers.
The Chiefs actually got an early look at this nearly unstoppable Green Bay attack in the fourth week of the preseason. In that game it took the Packers just eight plays to put seven points on the board before sending Rodgers to the bench to prevent injury before the regular season.
Now the Packers have perfection in their sights with the new look Chiefs standing in their way. Only a few teams have truly challenged Green Bay this year and though it’s hard to imagine Kansas City being the next, here are the three players to keep your eyes on from each team if this is going to be a game.
Offense: Kyle Orton
If there is one glaring weakness for the Packers, it’s their pass defense. They give up more yards in the air than all but one team in the NFL, giving Orton a chance to make some plays during his first start as a member of the Chiefs. It will not, however, be his first start this season against the Packers.
Back in Week 4 Orton threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns against the Green Bay defense. His biggest problem was one that has plagued most of the Packers opponents: turnovers. Orton was picked off three times, including one for a touchdown by Charles Woodson.
With Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin, Orton will have plenty of playmakers he can rely on to move the ball down the field. If the Chiefs quarterback can avoid turnovers, we might just see a game that’s within reach in the second half.
Defense: Derrick Johnson
The Chiefs defense has put together some impressive efforts this season, but they will need to play out of their minds Sunday if they hope to beat the Packers. Johnson has been the most consistent player for the defense and will need to lead that effort.
Last week against the Oakland Raiders, LB Rolando McClain was able to get to Rodgers on his way to two sacks and seven tackles. Johnson has been successful rushing the passer when Crennel has given him the opportunity, something that should happen early and often Sunday in a way to repeat McClain’s success.
Johnson is on pace to break the Chiefs single-season tackle record and should earn an All-Pro honor. A big effort against Rodgers and the Packers could lock it up for the linebacker.
Special Teams: Dexter McCluster
With the Packers rarely being forced to punt, the Chiefs will need to do their damage in the return game on kickoffs. McCluster handled five of the six kick returns against the Jets but was average, at best with a 17.8 yard average.
The Chiefs offense should be able to move the ball in the air, but to keep up with Green Bay McCluster will likely have to turn in a big time kick return (or two).
Offense: Aaron Rodgers
Is there any other player on the offense that matters?
Sure, the Green Bay offense has a lot of weapons, but when you have a guy that is playing the game at a higher level than we’ve ever seen, it all starts with him.
For those of you that are hoping maybe Rodgers will take it easy on the Chiefs with an eye on the playoffs, it’s not quite that easy. While the Packers are going to win their division, they have still yet to officially lock in home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A win at Arrowhead on Sunday would guarantee a trip to the Super Bowl would go through Green Bay.
The only way the Chiefs will get to see much of backup Matt Flynn is if things are out of control early.
Defense: Charles Woodson
The Packers defense gives up plenty of yards, but there’s a reason why the team is still undefeated: turnovers. Woodson leads the NFL with seven interceptions with one of those coming against Orton earlier in the season.
Orton and the Chiefs offense will need to throw the ball if they want to try and keep things close and they should avoid Woodson the same way they should have avoided Darrelle Revis last week.
Special Teams: Randall Cobb
If it wasn’t bad enough to be forced to focus so much on just trying to contain Rodgers and the offense, things don’t get any easier on special teams. Cobb is the best young returner in the league, handling both kickoffs and punts for the Packers.
The rookie has two return touchdowns — one punt, one kickoff — including a league-best 108 yarder.