The Packers are coming off one of their most exhilarating victories in recent memory — a vengeful, 27-17 win over the rival Seahawks on Sunday night — and they’ll have another nationally televised game this week in which to go for 3-0.
The Kansas City Chiefs travel to Green Bay for a Monday Night Football matchup at Lambeau Field. If the Packers prevail, it will be just the sixth time since 1993 that they’ve started a season with three straight wins. If they fall, it will be the first time since 2013 that they’ve lost a game at home.
It’s Aaron Rodgers and the vaunted — but potentially hobbled — Green Bay offense against Justin Houston and the fearsome — but thus-far flawed — Kansas City defense.
The Packers are 7.5-point favorites, but (obscure trivia alert!) the Chiefs have never lost on the road in Green Bay. Let’s take a closer look at the Week 3 showdown.
3 THINGS TO WATCH
— Packers ankles. Last week, running back Eddie Lacy, wide receiver Davante Adams and defensive lineman Josh Boyd all went down with ankle injuries. Boyd’s was serious and has ended his season. Lacy and Adams have yet to participate in team drills at practice and their status for Monday night’s game — which allows them an extra day of rest — is uncertain. But are critical cogs in the offense, especially Lacy, and the Packers need all their weapons at the ready against a Chiefs defense that gave up the second-fewest points in the league last year.
— Chiefs pass rushers. Kansas City outside linebackers Houston and Tamba Hali make for a dynamic and destructive defensive duo on the edge. The in-his-prime Houston, 26, is tied for second in the NFL with three sacks through two games. His partner, the 31-year-old Hali, is slightly past his prime but has averaged nearly nine sacks a season for his career. He still commands respect and demands attention from opposing offensive linemen. And speaking of those linemen, the Packers have reason to be concerned with the play of left tackle David Bakhtiari, who allowed two sacks and seven pressures against Seattle, and right tackle Don Barclay, who gave up 10 pressures Sunday night, according to Pro Football Focus. Chiefs defensive ends Allen Bailey, Mike DeVito and Jaye Howard are no pass-rushing slouches, either, with four sacks between them.
— Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. In Week 1, the Packers gave up 5 receptions for 55 yards and a 24-yard touchdown to Bears tight end Martellus Bennett. In Week 2, they allowed just one catch for 11 yards to Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham. This will be the third straight game going up against a dangerous pass-catcher at that position, as Kelce is Kansas City’s leading receiver (10 catches, 164 yards, two scores). It will be interesting to see how Green Bay’s defense, especially linebacker Nate Palmer, tries to contain Kelce — or if they can.
— The history subplots. Invariably, there will be much made once again about the intertwined tales of the two quarterbacks from the 2005 draft, Rodgers and Alex Smith. You might as well get a quick refresher now: Smith was drafted first overall by San Francisco, whose offensive coordinator was Mike McCarthy, now the Packers head coach. Rodgers fell to No. 24, where Green Bay selected him, which of course added to the size of the notorious chip on the two-time MVP’s shoulder. Smith, after being cast off from the 49ers, landed with the Chiefs, for whom he’s performed well as the starter. Both quarterbacks say there are no hard feelings and they are friends. You will be reminded of all of this on the telecast Monday night. More recently and interestingly, though, the last time these two teams met was in Kansas City in Week 15 of 2011, when the Packers were 13-0. The Chiefs handed them a 19-14 loss, their only defeat during a season in which they finished 15-1.
— The Packers run defense. It’s facing Jamaal Charles, one of the NFL’s best backs and a man coming off arguably the worst performance of his career. Charles lost two fumbles in last week’s loss to the Broncos, including the game-losing turnover late in the fourth quarter. Conversely, Green Bay’s rush defense is coming off its best performance in quite some time, limiting Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch to 41 yards on 15 carries. The jury is still out on how good the Packers really are at stopping the run, though, as they gave up 141 yards on 24 carries to Chicago’s Matt Forte in the season opener. Last year, Green Bay was the league’s worst run defense the first half of the season, and then average the rest of the way. Against a motivated Charles, much will be revealed in this regard.
1 KEY MATCHUP
Rodgers vs. Chiefs CB Marcus Peters
Rodgers has not thrown an interception at Lambeau Field in a long time. It’s something like 545 years. Or maybe 545 pass attempts. Either way, it’s an impressive streak that has spanned 18 home games, counting playoffs, and included 43 touchdowns. He’s careful with the ball and deadly accurate. On the other side, though, is a cocksure cornerback, a first-round rookie who already has two interceptions and seven passes defensed in his first two games. Peters, the 18th overall pick in the draft, looks like the real deal, and he’s just the type of player — an athletic and instinctive gambler — who could end Rodgers’ pick-less streak. And if he does, watch out: he’s already returned one interception 55 yards for a touchdown.