With Halloween just a week away, it is only fitting that the Chiefs play their scariest game of the year Sunday against the Green Bay Packers in primetime.
This game is not scary because the Packers are the opponent. Nothing against them but any other week they would be a formidable test for our Super Bowl contenders. However, it is quite scary that Patrick Mahomes will miss a start for the first time in his career. Matt Moore will in fact be the quarterback Sunday and probably the next few weeks and while that might induce fear in most of us, we can rest – somewhat – easy knowing he has a plethora of weapons around him and a dynamic coach calling plays.
Above those points of fear, the Packers should worry the most given the result of their last trip to Arrowhead Stadium. Late in the 2011 season, Green Bay was 13-0 and on the road in Kansas City for a noon kickoff. The Chiefs were 5-8 but were forced to start Kyle Orton at quarterback after Matt Cassel underwent season-ending surgery on his throwing hand. In an ugly game, the Chiefs held Aaron Rodgers to one of the most unproductive games of his career and handed the Packers their first loss of the season 19-16.
On the surface, this week’s matchup and the 2011 upset are completely different. The roles haven’t quite reversed but the Chiefs have moved past the Packers in terms of Super Bowl contention the last couple years. Here is what is similar: the Chiefs are starting a backup quarterback against the Packers this week like in 2011 and Moore wears #8 just like Orton did. That is plenty enough for me to buy into some freaky football taking place on Sunday night.
Now if the Chiefs do not plan on relying on freak coincidences like I am, then there are still reasons to think this team can run with the Packers.
Moore is a veteran and veterans have the experience and adaptability to execute under pressure. I still think they would be better off finding a new guy, but the Chiefs clearly believe Moore is capable of doing the job for a month and I will trust them. Tyreek Hill looks to be fully recovered and back in his dynamic role. LeSean McCoy has broken big runs almost every week and I would be surprised if he does not see close to 20 touches Sunday – given he secures the ball. Andy Reid can draw up a game plan better than most any offensive coach and we should expect to see a lot of thought put into the plays he calls. Especially since the defense still has much to prove in forcing short drives after dominating Denver and Joe Flacco’s statue last week.
That will not be easy to do against Rodgers. He is elite in basically everything he does and will punish the Chiefs if they are not sharp. His ability to extend plays already has me worried about how many times Bashaud Breeland will need to commit a penalty to avoid being burned. Rodgers has the level of chemistry with his receivers that Mahomes has with his so the Chiefs secondary will be targeted frequently. Frank Clark finally emerged last week and it looked awesome but the Packers offensive line is nothing short of amazing with David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga so the Chiefs’ pass rush will have its hands full, even if Chris Jones returns.
In my opinion, there is not a lot riding on this game despite its spot on Sunday Night Football and being a meeting of two likely playoff teams. With the AFC West becoming a dumpster fire last week, the Chiefs have been given some more margin for error in winning the division. While it would be nice to start this stretch without Mahomes with a win, it should not be too alarming if Rodgers blows them out of the water and Moore is unable to keep up.
If Moore was not wearing #8, I would almost certainly pick the Packers to win this game but he is so I think the Chiefs will find a way to win.
Jason Brown is the Sports Editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org