Packers vs Chiefs: Gameday Preview - 2023 Week 13

The Packers are putting together a Cinderella story, but the Chiefs are the evil empire. We'll learn a lot about how the Packers match up against the elite teams of the league tonight. And we may not like all the answers.

The last time the Packers played the Chiefs was 2021, when Jordan Love got his first career start. The Packers defense rose to the occasion, limiting the Chiefs to 237 total yards and just 13 points. Jordan Love couldn't quite handle the constant blitzing from the Chiefs, though, and, though he passed for more yards and the same number of touchdowns as Patrick Mahomes, they came up short and lost 13-7.

Jordan Love has come a long way since then, but Patrick Mahomes is still the best in the league.

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

Aaron Jones is out for this one, which is a huge blow to the offense. AJ Dillon has filled in admirably of late, but the running attack is much better when the two of them take turns.

A lot of the offense will fall on Jordan Love tonight. The Chiefs blitzed him heavily the first time they met, but Love has proven much better at getting the ball out quick since then.

Tonight, Matt LaFleur will need to come up with a game plan to beat blitzes (with Aaron Jones as a safety valve for screens), and be prepared for multiple looks designed to confuse Love. 

With Luke Musgrave on IR, and both Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks listed as Questionable, the game plan will need to be flexible and take advantage of the unique skills of each member of the receiving corps.

That could prove difficult, as the Chiefs rank 3rd in passing yards allowed and have not given up 260 passing yards once this year, despite facing capable offenses, including Miami, Philadelphia, Minnesota (with Cousins), and the Chargers. 

The Kansas City defense ranks 5th in sacks with 37, led by a very strong defensive line featuring George Karlaftis (8 sacks), Chris Jones (7.5), and Michael Danna (5.5). The Packers have been rotating their offensive linemen at left tackle and right guard, which is normally a disaster, but has somehow seemed to bring out the best in their guys by fostering competition and keeping them fresh (I guess?).

Second-year Karlaftis is an ascending talent, but veteran Chris Jones is the linchpin of the unit. He's one of the few interior lineman that can be mentioned in the same class as Aaron Donald. He has only one fewer quarterback hit than Rashan Gary and more tackles for a loss than anyone on the Packers. As an interior linemen, that kind of production is incredibly rare. Josh Myers and the tag team matchup of Jon Runyan and Sean Rhyan might not be enough to hold him back.

Zach Tom will have a good measuring stick matchup with Karlaftis, who typically lines up on the offense's right, just beside Jones.

The silver lining to the Chiefs formation is that Jordan Love will have most of the pressure coming from in front of him instead of behind him. This will give him time see how quick he has to go to his hot reads.

The Chiefs defense thrives on their pass rush. Their defensive backfield, led by cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and L'Jarius Sneed, is a strong complementary group, but they have not come up with a lot of interceptions. So if the Packers hold off the blitz, and limit turnovers, they may be able to score enough to keep the game competitive.

To do that, they'll need their receivers to make space and get yards after the catch, because they don't have the manpower to win strictly on the ground. Running the ball successfully will be critical to keeping the Kansas City pass rush in check, but they will need to move through the air to keep up in this one.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS ARE ON DEFENSE

The Packers, loaded with backups, played inspired ball last week against Detroit.

They'll face a much stiffer test this week.

The Chiefs offense may not be setting any record books on fire this year, but they're still a top 10 unit and Patrick Mahomes is still the best quarterback in the league.

The Chiefs have a solid rushing attack, led by Isiah Pacheco, who is averaging a respectable 4.2 yards per carry, but it is strictly a complement to their air attack, which is led by All Pro tight end Travis Kelce and rookie receiver Rashee Rice, who each have 5 touchdowns. 

Outside of Rice, the Chiefs wide receivers have been inconsistent this year (punctuated by our old friend MVS dropping a potential game winner touchdown a couple weeks ago), but Kelce is still as productive as they come.

Stopping Kelce has to be job #1 for the Packers defense. With De'Vondre Campbell questionable, they may need to get creative, because Isaiah McDuffie, for as well as he's played, is not a great coverage matchup for Kelce. WIth Jaire Alexander questionable, the Packers may be spread thin trying to account for the nuances of Andy Reid's attack. Darnell Savage was a late elevation from IR, and if he plays, his speed would be a welcome addition to the defense against Kansas City.

Overall, the Chiefs offense has struggled a bit lately. They put 31 on Las Vegas last week, but only managed 17 in a loss against a dominant Eagles defense the week before, and just 21 and 9 to the Dolphins (who they beat) and Broncos (who they lost to) before that.

The common link between their two recent losses has been turnovers: they turned the ball over twice against Philadelphia and 5 times against the Broncos.

The Packers will need to bring heavy pressure, which their front rotation has excelled at. The Kansas City line can win a lot of one on ones, so the blitz package might need to mix in some inside linebackers and corner blitzes, this week. They can dig deep into recent film to see which coverage schemes might have given Mahomes more problems, but by all appearances, it's just a matter of playing physical defense with pressure up front and tight coverage on the back, which is what they did last week against Detroit.

Unfortunately, Patrick Mahomes is no Jared Goff.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Packers are hot and playing confident as they return home for a primetime game with a real chance at the playoffs.

All that makes for a great story.

But at the end of the night, the Chiefs are legit Super Bowl front-runners and the Packers are wild card hopefuls.

The home crowd adrenaline and hot streak confidence can help them out here, but they are over-matched, and there is no better coaching staff in the NFL than the one they will square off against tonight.

Chiefs 30, Packers 20

 

 

 

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Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

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Comments (15)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
LambeauPlain's picture

December 03, 2023 at 07:50 am

"(with Aaron Jones as a safety valve for screens.)"

A very safe safety valve as he won't play tonight. Wish he was.

Even without AJ, the two teams match up rather well. I think the Packers can surprise at the Taylor Swift Concert in Lambeau this evening.

Neither team runs the ball nor defends it well. IF the Packers can do both better than their averages this season they will create an important advantage with less reliance on the pass and defending it. On paper, this looks to be a battle of two air forces. If the Packers can surprise with better than expected run Offense and Defense, that paper will be quickly tore up and anything can happen, including a Packer W.

The Chiefs may be looking past the Pack a bit. Another wildcard is Love's recent clicking with his receivers at a most opportune time in the season.

I am taking the Packers.

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mnbadger's picture

December 03, 2023 at 08:23 am

I agree with the author's summary as well as LP's follow up.
If we tackle well, win the turnover battle while matching up special teams and field position, we'll win.
Catch te ball, offensively and defensively.
JB has to let his boys play aggressively.
Someone has to prevent mlf from bad in-game decisions.
Simple as that.
Pack 26 - busboys 24.
GPG!

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LeotisHarris's picture

December 03, 2023 at 09:17 am

It's difficult for me to view the Chefs and an "evil empire", especially with Andy at the helm, and the Packers certainly aren't a Cinderella story, but I'll roll with it. I'm looking forward to the game tonight; a much different feeling than the Lions game.

If an NFL game needs to break out near Taylor Swift, we might as well win. GPG!

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dobber's picture

December 03, 2023 at 10:26 am

What's the over-under on camera cutaways to the Taylor Swift box tonight?

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Spock's picture

December 03, 2023 at 02:25 pm

Whatever it is the "over" is probably a safe bet!

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Oppy's picture

December 03, 2023 at 09:21 am

Kc’s starting three CB’s are above average. Seems like tonight would be a good time to not only give malik heath more time, but feature him in 4 wr sets.

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dobber's picture

December 03, 2023 at 10:27 am

"Kc’s starting three CB’s are above average"

You don't get to be a Superbowl frontrunner if you have glaring and exploitable holes.

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SinceLombardi's picture

December 03, 2023 at 09:33 am

Tonight probably won’t be the turnover fest the Lions provided on thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean the game will quickly go south either.
If the packers play penalty and turnover free football there is no reason they can’t keep this close. Mahomes does toss up an occasional int. If we get one , make sure we get points. Don’t allow and 3rd and 10 scrambles by Mahomes or any 20 yard runs by Pacheco.
A little run blocking would be nice tonight. It could be the difference between a W and an L.

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dobber's picture

December 03, 2023 at 10:32 am

"If the packers play penalty and turnover free football there is no reason they can’t keep this close. "

I think you hit the nail on the head. Defense needs to get off the field on third downs. Offense needs to be efficient and effective....and even then, the Packers are going to have to play with an intensity level like what we saw on Thanksgiving.

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stockholder's picture

December 03, 2023 at 01:18 pm

With every win. My draft board is changing.

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mnbadger's picture

December 03, 2023 at 01:46 pm

seems obvious.
GPG

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 03, 2023 at 02:53 pm

I'll take "Bama players over Georgia's. Four one picks just from the receivers in the Washington v Oregon contest.

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Oppy's picture

December 03, 2023 at 05:59 pm

Shouldn't your draft board stay the same, while your pick changes?

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Bitternotsour's picture

December 03, 2023 at 11:07 pm

Your best work on the draft is in hindsight.

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EskyBrian's picture

December 05, 2023 at 06:32 am

I thought they'd play inspired ball, and just fall short.... glad we were wrong!

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