The Packers have been riding high the first two weeks of the season, beating their most hated rivals and their most worthy fellow NFC woe. Will tonight's tussle with the unassuming Chiefs be a letdown? Or will it be another notch in the win column? Here are five things to watch for in Monday night’s Packers-Chiefs game.
1. Chance for Packers defense to stop another elite running back
Looking at Green Bay’s overall rushing defense statistics Week 2 against Seattle, it didn’t portray a terrific performance from the Packers. But that was only because of Russell Wilson’s success running the ball (10 carries, 78 yards). Marshawn Lynch was contained as well as any team could ever hope to contain him, as he finished with 41 yards on 15 attempts.
Green Bay faces another challenge from a top-three NFL running back in the form of Jamaal Charles. He’s a two-time first-team All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowl selection. Charles has the ability to single-handedly take over a game.
Charles is going to enter Monday night’s game rested and motivated. Kansas City has had 11 days since its last game, and that game was lost by the Chiefs due to a last-minute Charles fumble.
The Packers ranked 31st in total run defense after two games, but positivity should exist within the organization after the success it had with Lynch. Can Green Bay do it twice in a row against the best the NFL has to offer at running back?
2. The availability and effectiveness of Eddie Lacy and Davante Adams
Lacy and Adams will benefit greatly from having an extra day of rest. They did not participate at all in Thursday’s practice, which is a sign on a normal game week that playing Sunday is unlikely. But Lacy and Adams recovered well over the weekend, as the Packers upgraded the status of both players to probable.
Assuming both suit up Monday night, the question still remains how well they can perform. James Starks performed very well in Lacy’s absence in Week 2, rushing for 95 yards on 20 carries. Starks’ only negative moment was his lost fumble. Rookie Ty Montgomery also stepped in nicely against Seattle once Adams was hobbled, finishing with four catches and 37 yards.
It will be important to keep an eye on Lacy and Adams all night and see how they handle playing through their respective ankle injuries.
3. Forcing the rare Alex Smith interception
An interception thrown by Smith is just as unlikely as one being thrown by Rodgers. In fact, both quarterbacks have thrown just 25 interceptions since 2011 in regular-season action.
Suffice it to say, Smith does a very good job at not turning the ball over. The term "game manager" gets thrown around a lot for Smith, but that shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a bad thing for any modern-day quarterback to be. Turnovers are often the most important factor to a win or loss in the NFL.
If the Packers can find a way to force Smith to throw a contested ball, Green Bay needs to find a way to come away with it. It could be the difference in the outcome.
4. Aaron Rodgers able to continue his dominance?
Rodgers has a 128.4 passer rating through two games. It’s a small sample size, but Rodgers obviously has a history of playing at that high level. He does have two league MVP awards, after all.
Rodgers has performed that well despite not having Jordy Nelson or having a fully healthy Randall Cobb. Now, Lacy and Adams are banged up, and Cobb’s still isn’t completely healed. Plus, Bryan Bulaga remains out, leaving Rodgers with Don Barclay to protect him from the right side.
ProFootballFocus rated Kansas City as having the third-best defense after two games, so it won’t be easy for Rodgers to dominate yet again. However, at the level Rodgers has been playing at, it’d be foolish to put anything past him.
5. Preventing a big game from Justin Houston
Houston has three sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defensed so far this season. He also has seven quarterback hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.
Most of Houston’s time will be spent rushing against Barclay, and that is a huge advantage for the Chiefs. In Week 2, Barclay allowed 10 quarterback hurries.
Houston is going to have some type of impact on the game. Players of his caliber usually do. But Green Bay’s offensive line can’t allow Houston to be the difference-maker.