I got home from a business trip to Milwaukee just in time to see the Chiefs totally collapse against the Broncos on Thursday night. Since I really don’t like Peyton Manning (I have my reasons), this made me sad.
But, of course, I hope the Chiefs are pummeled into dust this week via a remorseless beatdown by the Packers.
Here are some matchups to pay attention to:
Packers vs. Their Emotions
After a huge win over the Seahawks – a team which the Packers have a ton of heartbreak against – it seems only natural that they may let their guard down a bit. Combine that with the fact that next week’s game is against the 49ers – another team with a lot of recent history – this seems like it could be a trap game. If the Packers come into this game sluggish, they’ll pay for it.
Nate Palmer vs. Jamaal Charles
Speaking purely as a receiver out of the backfield, Jamaal Charles is decent. Pro Football Focus ranks him lower than I would have thought: 45th out of 57 pass catching running backs in 2014, 5th out of 55 in 2013 and 39th out of 59 in 2012. Over the past four seasons, he averages 3.28 catches per game for 26.98 yards and .30 touchdowns. That’s not overly impressive (certainly not the kind of numbers I would have expected), but, at the very least, he’s a functional pass-catching running back.
In two games this season, Nate Palmer has performed pretty well when covering the opposing running back. In Week 1, he allowed 1 catch to Matt Forte (on 3 targets) for 4 yards. Last week against Marshawn Lynch, allowed 1 catch (on 3 targets) for 1 yard. It’s obviously a small sample size, but that’s a pretty good start. I don’t think he’s going to completely lock down Charles in this game, but Palmer’s play in coverage could be key to slowing down the Chiefs check-down attack.
Which leads us to…
The Middle Of The Packers Defense vs. Alex Smith
Over the last couple of seasons, the part of the field Alex Smith loves the most is in the middle; 0-19 yards deep. This makes sense, as he is allergic to throwing to wide receivers. (Fun fact: to get Smith to throw to wide receivers, coaches have to refer to them as “tall running backs”). Last season when throwing to this area, he completed 69.4% of his passes with an average of 8.69 yards per attempt, 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Not eye-popping numbers, but good enough to move his team down the field.
Just looking at this year, the Packers seem to have a weak spot in their passing defense down the middle, 0-19 yards deep. (Judging by the fact that A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones patrolled the middle for years, this has been a weak spot of theirs for a long time). For this season, opponents are completing 73.9% of their passes in that area, for an average of 88 yards a game (7.65 yards per attempt), 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The Packers defense looks better than they did last season (at times), but this still seems to be a weak point for them. I have faith that they’ll get better as the season goes on, but they’re still vulnerable at the moment. I’m curious to see how they do when Smith goes to this part of the field.
David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay vs. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali
Against the Seahawks, both Bakhtiari (-4.9) and Barclay (-5.9) were absolutely abused by the Seahawks pass rush. Combined, they gave up 2 sacks and 16 hurries. Those hurries easily could have been hits or sacks if Aaron Rodgers hadn’t been wearing Stanley’s Magic Shoes.
This season, Houston and Hali have combined for 3 sacks, 3 hits and 12 hurries. Bakhtiari and Barclay are going to have to step up their play this week or Rodgers will be under siege from the first snap.
– It’s great to see Eric Berry back on the field, having been cleared of cancer only 9 months after the intial diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I love watching him play.
– Brian Bulaga had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks. Here’s to hoping Rodgers survives that long.
– Through two games, Jeremy Maclin is averaging 4.5 catches (on 8 targets) for 54.5 yards (6.81 yards per target). To put that in perspective, last season he averaged 5.31 catches (on 8.94 targets) for 82.38 yards (9.22 yards per target).
– I’m a big fan of James Starks, but let’s all hope that Eddie Lacy is healthy enough to play on Monday.
Thank you for reading. Dusty Evely is a featured writer for Titletown Sound Off. You can follow him on Twitter @DustyEvely. For even more Packers content, follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.