Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2021 Week 9

The 7-1 Green Bay Packers travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the 4-4 Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at 3:25 p.m. Here are six things to keep an eye on heading into the game: 

1. A Love(ly) Day For Football 

With quarterback Aaron Rodgers being added to the COVID-19/Reserve List and officially ruled out for Sunday’s game, second-year pro Jordan Love will make his first NFL start against the Chiefs. In his limited action Week 1 when the Saints game was already out of hand, Love had five completions for 68 yards. He also took one sack and lost a fumble. 

After being drafted in the 2020 season amidst the pandemic, Love didn’t have a preseason his rookie year and remained inactive as the team’s third string quarterback all season. Then, with long-time backup Tim Boyle signing with the Detroit Lions and Rodgers not showing up to minicamp this past offseason, Love was thrust into an interim QB1 role. He’s played in just two preseason games’ worth of NFL action in addition to his time against the Saints, which makes this start all the more significant. 

Head Coach Matt LaFleur mentioned the slight change in the game plan now having the change at quarterback, but this adds an interesting layer to the matchup against Kansas City. Do the Chiefs pop on preseason film to get a look at Love, or do they continue with their existing scouting of the LaFleur/Rodgers offense through the first eight weeks of the season? 

2. Turn(over) The Tides 

The Packers are 25-0 under Head Coach Matt LaFleur when they win the turnover battle, which is something Green Bay has done in all seven of its wins this season. In fact, the team is tied for second in the NFL in turnover differential being plus-eight (along with the Colts), behind only the Bills at plus-13. Against the Cardinals, the Packers had three turnovers for the first time this season. 

On the flip side, the Chiefs lead the NFL in turnovers lost with 19, being minus-11 in turnover differential this season. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes also leads the league in interceptions with 10 through eight weeks. With a young quarterback under center for the Packers, the best offense might be a stout defense, forcing turnovers and giving Love additional opportunities with the football. 

3. Shadowing Speed 

Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill is widely regarded as one of the fastest players in the NFL, running a blazing 4.29 40-yard dash. That speed makes Hill a matchup nightmare for most defenses, and helps to explain his team-leading eight touchdowns and 735 yards through eight games.

On Sunday, he’ll likely be shadowed by Packers rookie corner Eric Stokes, who ran a 4.25 40 in front of NFL scouts at Brandon Marshall’s virtual combine (the NFL Scouting Combine was not held in 2021 due to the pandemic). Stokes has had to line up across from some elite NFL athletes in his few games as a pro, including DeAndre Hopkins, Terry McLaurin, and emerging talent Ja’Marr Chase. Hill is just another challenge for the rookie, and Stokes may be one of the few defensive backs in the NFL who can match the speedster step for step. This might be the premier matchup on Sunday. 

4. Campbell Having S(o)uper Season

Thanks to friend of Cheesehead TV Erin Alyce for the Campbell's Soup jokes, as they are the gift that keeps on giving in regards to Green Bay’s talented inside linebacker. Campbell was just named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for the month of October, cementing his status as the best bargain of free agency ($2 million on a one-year deal). He’s the first Packers defender to win the award since Clay Matthews won it in September of 2010. 

If Stokes vs Hill doesn’t get your juices flowing, Campbell vs Kelce should do the trick. The Packers haven’t given up a touchdown to a tight end since Week 2. In Green Bay’s last five games, opposing tight ends have had six receptions or less for 51 yards or less. You’d have to go all the way to Week 3 against the 49ers to find a productive outing from a tight end, with George Kittle hauling in seven catches for 92 yards and no score. Keeping Kelce locked down and out of reach for Mahomes will go a long way in slowing down the offense. 

Campbell leads the defense in both tackles (76) and interceptions (two) this season, and his stats include one sack, two forced fumbles, and three tackles for loss. He’s currently playing 97% of defensive snaps, which exceeds his previous high of 91% in 2017 when he was with the Falcons. 

5. Special Teams Shakeup 

The Packers parted ways with long snapper Hunter Bradley this week, elevating Steven Wirtel from the practice squad to the active roster. Green Bay’s special teams have significantly improved this year, with punter Corey Bojorquez averaging 47.8 yards per punt with a long of 82. The Cardinals also muffed a return on Thursday Night Football last week which the Packers recovered, giving the team its first special teams turnover of the season. 

On field goal operations, the Packers have found less success, with Mason Crosby making 76.5% of field goals this season going 13-of-17 after having a 100% success rate in 2020. It says a lot about the efficiency of the 2020 Packers offense that Crosby has already exceeded his number of field goal attempts in 2020 (16) through only eight games in 2021. 

Green Bay lost kick returner Kylin Hill for the season in Week 8 with an ACL tear, and it’s unclear who his replacement will be just yet. Punt returner Amari Rodgers is one candidate, with receiver Malik Taylor also taking on some of the return duties previously. The Packers elevated running back Patrick Taylor from the practice squad to the active roster this week, too, so he may be a third candidate to see some action in the return game. Aaron Jones is attributed with one kick return this season by Pro Football Reference, but it seems unlikely the Packers would want to risk an injury to their star running back by putting him on return duty. 

6. Mini-Bye Healing Powers 

While losing the reigning MVP is, of course, a huge blow to the offense, the Packers team heading to Kansas City might be one of the healthiest all season. Green Bay is set to return three receivers this week in Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Allen Lazard. All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari has yet to be activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list, but it’s possible he could make his 2021 season debut against the Chiefs, too. That’s a lot of firepower to support Love in his NFL debut. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers are relatively healthy. Cornerback Kevin King returned to practice as a full participant. Only lineman Kingsley Keke has yet to practice this week, as he’s in the concussion protocol. A big name is also back in the building, as Za’Darius Smith returned to Green Bay this week after back surgery, though he’s yet to be activated from injured reserve and when he’ll return remains unknown. Additionally, the team continues to sound optimistic about fellow All-Pro Jaire Alexander and his ability to return to the defense at some point this season. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

12 points

Comments (15)

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NickPerry's picture

November 05, 2021 at 07:25 am

I'm becoming more and more optimistic about Sundays game by the minute. Maybe it's because I'm a Packers Homer to the 10th degree, or maybe it's because this team is MORE than Aaron Rodgers despite what many outside of Green Bay think.

As Maggie alluded to, the Packers have the 7th ranked defense in the NFL. They've done this without Z Smith for all but about 20 compromised snaps in week one, and Zarie Alexander arguably a top 3 CB in the NFL. They've created TO's for their offense and are getting better each week. I DEFINITELY feel better about this defense than I did at anytime with Mike Pettine's defense...And they're only getting better.

The Chiefs WILL load the box and the Packers WILL try to run against it. One of Aaron Jones best traits is making a man (or three) miss. One of AJ Dillon's best traits is just running someone over. Either way could, should be effective against the Chiefs. My guess is each break off some nice chunk runs, hopefully for TD's when the Chiefs do this.

Spaggs, the Chiefs DC, is going to blitz the hell out of Love, at least that will be my guess. Love had to stand tall and KNOW where his blitz beaters are. I also have a feeling were going to see Jordon Loves legs in this game. Love just has to handle his emotions for the first few series. Once he's in the flow I think he'll be fine. I think MLF is the PERFECT coach to get Love on track and keep him centered. Lets not forget MLF's reaction when the Packers drafted Love. That fist pump and what I think was a "Fuck Yeah!!" when Rodgers Goodell announced the pick, suggests at least IMO that MLF got HIS guy.

Get ready folks, the Packers are getting ready to unveil their future at QB. It's going to be a show and MLF is FINALLY going to dispel that rumor who think a 33-7 coaching record in his first 40 games is ONLY because of Aaron Rodgers and not the OTHER 52 players on the roster.

Packers win 31-23 and Love and the defense all DRINK a "Six-Pack" on the flight home. Why not, they'll have earned it!!

GO PACK GO!!

11 points
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NickPerry's picture

November 05, 2021 at 07:27 am

Holy shit guys...Sorry, got a little long winded on that comment..I just LOVE this team this year and REFUSE to believe Rodgers selfishness will stop our 7 game winning streak. NOT THIS WEEK!!

8 points
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dobber's picture

November 05, 2021 at 07:51 am

"Spaggs, the Chiefs DC, is going to blitz the hell out of Love, at least that will be my guess."

This is probably right, but they might also rush four and play coverage--especially early-- to see if they can get Love to make mistakes, and slow down the Packers offense by making them string together short gains into long drives. Everyone knows ARod can move the chains, they might make Love prove he can do it before taking too many chances and exposing their weak secondary. Aside from blitzing in passing situations, I fully expect them to clog the inside gaps with plenty of run-blitz calls: especially when Dillon's on the field. Two back sets (they can split Jones or Dillon out if they want) to keep KC guessing, and hitting the edges with 33 when KC shows those looks would be the ticket.

6 points
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Minniman's picture

November 05, 2021 at 01:23 pm

Great posts on strategy thoughts Dobber and Nick.

With MVS back active, I too fully expect to see a number of 2 back sets, but along with MVS doing a number of post routes.

My tip is that MVS gets a long range TD as KC dares Love to throw an accurate deep ball (they'll blink and cover 17 running a crossing route and let him get open).

If Bakh doesn't play, then this will be an obvious sign that he's still not even 70%. I don't think that there's a better situation where you would want your all-pro LT in a game (covering the rookie QB in his first in-season game).

2 points
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barutanseijin's picture

November 06, 2021 at 08:44 am

KC probably wants the ball in Mahomes’ hands. Long drives would help the Packers in that it would minimize Mahomes chances.

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dobber's picture

November 05, 2021 at 07:47 am

"1. A Love(ly) Day For Football "

If Love plays within the offense, makes his progressions, and doesn't get risky with the ball, he should be fine. KC is far weaker against the pass than they are against the run...and they aren't great defending the run. That said, the Packers aren't going to run 60% of the time and win unless KC completely falls apart. Love will have to take some shots to keep the KC defense honest...here's hoping he can connect on those. I'd like to see him deliver the ball with a little more zing and confidence than what we saw in the preseason.

"Head Coach Matt LaFleur mentioned the slight change in the game plan now having the change at quarterback"

This might be a tremendous understatement...

"3. Shadowing Speed "

This will be the story on Sunday. Hill and Kelce are both tremendous catch and run receivers. They're going to get their chances. The Packers need to be sure-tackling and limit their YAC. They also draw so much attention that the Packers can't let the RBs, Hardman, or Pringle burn them for big plays (see: Miller, Scotty). KC's offense has been off for the last several weeks, but I sure don't want THIS to be their get-well game.

"5. Special Teams Shakeup"

I'm guessing Taylor will be returning kickoffs this week. ;)
...here's hoping it's only once..

Tonyan will need to be replaced on the right edge on placekicks...we'll see how much difference that makes in protection.

7 points
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Reghamster's picture

November 05, 2021 at 04:24 pm

A sharp analysis Doppler as always . The big issue is that rookie qbs aren't as capable of going through progressions like a Rodgers can. They also move out of the pocket in a hurry under pressure especially if they feel they are mobile e.g. Justin Fields and try to make heroic and risky plays which become turnovers . I know that ML F will scale back the offense and help Love but there is more to the game than counting on the run game and our defense . The Packers aren't designed that way. We score just enough to win and limit their scoring . Easier with Rodgers than Love I fear.
I am a believer in Love . He will be a good qb in time . He has to learn in a hurry though . I expect a few too many rookie mistakes: Bad and hurried throws without that zing : misreads of defenses he hasn't seen in college or vanilla pre season : too many quick decisions to run the ball rather than find an open receiver : turnovers! Still GPG ! The Chiefs are more vulnerable than in recent years and have a lousy defense so..anything is possible . It is why they play the games .

2 points
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Lphill's picture

November 05, 2021 at 07:57 am

Packers can win this game as long as the defense brings pressure , the Chiefs barely beat a depleted Giants team and even without Rodgers the Packers are better on both sides of the ball than the Giants .

5 points
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dobber's picture

November 05, 2021 at 08:02 am

I would argue it's more that the Packers need to play from ahead. Pressure will be important, but Mahomes is an excellent improviser. KC can still score when it needs to--certainly against a lesser opponent like the Giants--to win a game. Love needs to put pressure on KC to score throughout the game, and he needs to be in a position where he's not playing catch-up.

4 points
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Minniman's picture

November 05, 2021 at 01:31 pm

As you and Nick mentioned up the post, I too expect lots of early blitzes on Love to not let him get in a rhythm at all. This will be the key to a KC win.

I think that we'll see a heavy dose of Lewis as the 6th o-lineman early.

If Bakh plays, then perhaps Jenkins to C to help Runyan and Royce.

Fortress Love! (........ either way, the puns for the next half decade (or more) are going to be brutal!).

1 points
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CoachDino's picture

November 06, 2021 at 03:17 am

mike wahle was on andy hermans podcast today. ive heard him afew times and am a fan. being an accomplished ol he has the credentials along with the ability to communicate to a civilian like me. he suggest the jenkins to center as well, also liked meyers with moving runyan to lg upon return. did say how its nice to have your two best ol bakh and ej next to eachother....

0 points
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Minniman's picture

November 05, 2021 at 01:06 pm

Thanks Maggie, hopefully Campbell doesn't fall into a (War)hole this month, right?

........... Don't blame me........ you went there first!

1 points
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Reghamster's picture

November 05, 2021 at 04:08 pm

Well a very good overview Maggie . I am like Nick in being a Packer Homer to the Nth degree . But I am a bit less sanguine about the Packers chances with a rookie qb starting for them. Doppler has his usual effect of bringing sharp analysis to the game ahead.
In my humble opinion , as the WFT proved, there is nothing guaranteed about our running game I am inclined to believe that the Chiefs won't blitz much in the beginning and just make Love beat them .
I think the game will come down to three things principally: third down conversions , field position and turnovers. We do need to garner enough yards running to limit our 3rd downs to short conversions and thus help Love and keep possession of the ball. Clock management anyone ? Secondly , we have to hope we don't have any quick 3 and outs and give a short field to the Chiefs or similarly via turnovers which may happen with Love in. Finally , we can hope that our defense helps limit Mahomes and causes him to turn the ball over as he has been prone to lately. We may be able to convert in some short field situations.
The Chiefs are vulnerable.. They almost lost to a second rate Giants team at home . It will be close and low scoring affair . If we can't get more than 24 under Rodgers as qb what can we expect with Love . It is worth recalling how few rookie qbs ever win their first game . But GPG! Thanks since the 19th century

2 points
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jont's picture

November 05, 2021 at 07:42 pm

KC is a hard one to figure this season. They've had a few injuries but not enough to drop to .500 while Mahomes is missing targets and misreading too many coverages. Their D hasn't improved over last year.
Given their success in recent years it is hard to see how they lose to GB, but given their play THIS season it is hard to see them win... yet they've moved to -7.5 (from -5.5 or -6.0 after the Rodgers news broke). I don't get it. I guess people are expecting an end to the interception festival Mahomes has been hosting each week.
I see a close game-- and if Love plays well, a good shot at a GB upset.

1 points
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CoachDino's picture

November 06, 2021 at 03:42 am

gb was a 1 pt dog pre ar, jumped to 8 and is 7ish i think. kc is a terrible place for visitors with the crowd noise, tougher on arookie qb. what kc team shows up? they r still potent. i realize people see the team getting healthy this week, but really isnt so. offense:qb,enuff said, lt,te and center......defense: z,keke and ja. arguble the 2 best players. name a team much worse off this week? that said, i still can see a gb win

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