The NFL can’t think of a better way to prime the pump for Super Bowl 50 than to feature the participants in the first-ever super showdown. But pitting Green Bay and Kansas City against each other is more than just an exercise in nostalgia. Both teams have large aspirations, and this early-season meeting will help both accumulate more information about where they stand in the NFL hierarchy.
Green Bay stands at 2-0 after surviving its Sunday night meeting with Seattle, despite three key players — RB Eddie Lacy, WR Davante Adams, DT Josh Boyd — leaving the game with injuries. Boyd has been placed on IR, but Lacy and Adams could play this week. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are no doubt still angry about coughing up a late lead against Denver and would like to stay relevant in the AFC West with a win. Though KC dropped the decision against the Broncos and still has some lingering problems from the past, like an inability for its receivers to find the end zone, the Chiefs remain formidable and have tremendous motivation not to fall to 1-2 in a tight division. “We’ve moved on,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. “That’s where I’m at. If you’re still on that game, you and I are in a different place.”
Kansas City at Green Bay
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Monday)
Spread: Green Bay -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Passing Fancy
When Green Bay WR Jordy Nelson went down during the preseason with a torn ACL, many thought the Packers were in deep trouble, since Aaron Rodgers’s top receiver and incredible weapon would be missing. But things look pretty good so far, even though Randall Cobb continues to come back from a shoulder injury, and James Jones gets acclimated to the team after an absence. Cobb leads the team with 13 catches and has impressed with his dedication.
“He's a tough competitor," receiver Jeff Janis told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I don't think anything is really going to hold him back unless he physically cannot play. He just showed me what he showed me since I've known him. I don't think you could really even tell during the week that anything was bothering him. He's a tough dude." Jones has three TD catches, and Adams has nine. Rodgers, meanwhile, has been excellent, completing 76.8% of his throws, accumulating five TDs and throwing zero interceptions.
2. Turnover Issues
With about five minutes left in last week’s loss to Denver, there were plenty of Chiefs fans who expected their team to escape the game with a 2-0 record. Then came the tying TD. And with overtime looming, Jamaal Charles lost a fumble that was returned for six points. Hello, 1-1. The Charles gaffe was crippling, but it is one part of a KC’s minus-two turnover margin. QB Alex Smith, while accurate (65.5 percent) has tossed a pair of picks, and the Chiefs have had trouble with fumbles. Since Kansas City’s offense is not based on big plays, it must sustain drives and be more careful with the football.
3. Walking Wounded
It’s bad enough for Green Bay that Nelson is gone. It’s tough, too, that starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga is out for several weeks with a knee injury, and that Boyd is on injured reserve. But if the Packers are without Adams and Lacy for this week’s game, because of their ankle injuries, it could be too much. Sure, Cobb and Jones can handle the heavy lifting at receiver, but Adams is second on the team with nine catches, and Lacy has 94 yards rushing. The Packers have good talent and depth, but every team has its limits.
This is an interesting matchup between a pair of teams with different agendas. Green Bay is on a high after bumping off Seattle last week and can take early control of the NFC North by moving to 3-0 with a victory. The Packers are defying the injury bug, largely because their defense has been sturdy, and Rodgers has been outstanding.
Kansas City, meanwhile, could well find itself two games behind Denver if it loses to the Packers, and the Broncos already have a head-to-head advantage. The Chiefs must cut back on turnovers, find a way to get their wide receivers into the end zone and make sure they don’t let Rodgers and the Green Bay passing attack get too comfortable. The Chiefs are good, but right now the Packers are better.
Prediction: Packers 24, Chiefs 20
— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.