Oh yeah, there’s a game this weekend ... With all that has happened this week, there is actually a real NFL football game that will be played on Sunday afternoon between two teams that have gone deep into the playoffs each of the past two years. With one team down their superstar quarterback largely due to his own putzery, can the Green Bay Packers still pull out a road win against the Kansas City Chiefs, now as heavy underdogs? Following the Aaron Rodgers news, the Chiefs were bumped to being favored by 7.5 points, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
What is going on with the Chiefs offense?
The Chiefs have to be the oddest team this year. Their offense is quite good, but they are turning the ball over at a blistering pace. They rank sixth in EPA-per-play and ninth in DVOA on offense, but actually rank first in success rate at 52.9%. The reason, as you’d imagine, is turnovers. Mahomes leads the league in interceptions and his INT% is triple what it has been the past three years. Some of this is some regression that was always coming. Mahomes had routinely thrown far more turnover worthy balls than he ended up with, and regression comes for everyone eventually, but the rate of interceptions right now is not sustainable either.
One of the big drivers of the interceptions has been tipped balls, often off the hands of his own receiver. Some of the Chiefs struggles have been attributed to the league “figuring out” Mahomes by just playing two-high, but that just doesn’t seem to bear out in the numbers.
Mahomes v. two-high coverages by season, top row is 2021 https://t.co/3xJrAhZU59 pic.twitter.com/4movwYqP1Y— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) November 2, 2021
The EPA difference is large, due to interceptions, but the success rate against two-high is still very strong, and like I said earlier, his interception rate is flukishly high right now.
One nifty thing our own Justis Mosqueda has noted is that teams aren’t treating Travis Kelce like a tight end this year.
One of the bigger stories of this season that I think is getting overlooked is how teams just aren't treating some tight ends like tight ends. When MIA/KC are in 12 personnel with Gesicki/Kelce, defenses are treating them like they're in 11 personnel. That's pretty important!— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) October 29, 2021
And because of that, Kelce hasn’t been able to exploit coverage by linebackers nearly as often.
What to watch for when the #Chiefs have the ball tonight:— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 1, 2021
How will the Chiefs move Kelce around the formation to get favorable matchups?
Kelce has been very effective against LBs in coverage this season, but struggled when covered by a DB.#ChiefsKingdom | : #MNFonESPN pic.twitter.com/RycuknB4XL
It will be an interesting chess match as under Joe Barry, the Packers have typically played a little heavier and less dime, but this is a game where we may see more three safety personnel packages to match a safety up on Kelce.
Kansas City’s running game has actually been very efficient but they just don’t run the ball very much. They rank fifth in rushing DVOA but, as was mentioned on this week’s Monday Night Football broadcast, they run the ball on less than 30% of their plays. Often times, passing the ball more is the better way to run offense, but against the bevy of two-high looks they are getting, they may want to run at least a little bit more.
The Chiefs offense is still awesome and should be treated as such. Their failings right now are mostly down to turnovers because they still are churning first downs like literally no one else.
Even after last night, the Chiefs' offense is still the best in the past 20 seasons at earning new 1st downs pic.twitter.com/i5fJTlEbSX— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) November 2, 2021
It’s worth noting that Kansas City’s offense is slowing down, and it’s not ONLY the turnovers.
Kansas City offensive DVOA— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) November 2, 2021
Weeks 1-4: 38.8% (1st)
Weeks 5-8: -9.4% (25th)
Kansas City offensive DVOA without turnovers
Weeks 1-4: 56.3% (1st)
Weeks 5-8: 25.7% (12th)
Weak Links as Far as the Eye Can See
This Chiefs defense... woof. They rank 30th in EPA-per-play and 31st in DVOA. And they’re bad at everything. They post the 29th ranked pass defense by EPA-per-play and 30th by DVOA. The run defense? Putrid. Ranking 29th by EPA-per-play and DVOA. The Packers can come into this game and dictate how they want to attack this defense.
The Packers should be getting a whole slew of weapons back this week. It is expected that Marquez Valdes-Scantling will return, giving Green Bay back a deep threat they’ve sorely missed for basically the entire season. Allen Lazard thankfully avoided COVID, so he returns. Davante Adams, although not taken off the COVID list yet, should be expected to play given the timeline involved. It’s also possible the Packers inch closer to the full strength offensive line as David Bakhtiari may return to left tackle this Sunday and kick Elgton Jenkins inside.
Green Bay can let the game come to them in terms of what they want to do, however the game plan might as well just look like this:
Ben Niemann. Dan Sorenson.— Eric Eager (@PFF_Eric) November 2, 2021
Find them, throw at them. Even if it’s Jordan Love. Kansas City’s pass defense is terrible. If there were any opportunity to “ease” into the NFL, this is it.
I wouldn’t expect Green Bay to come out passing the ball a ton though (or at least any more than they do). The Chiefs run defense is abysmal and we know that’s how Green Bay wants to play. The Chiefs have been poor on the front line with bottom five rankings in both pass rush and run stop win rates.
Remember that when the Packers faced the Mahomes-less Chiefs in 2019, they were able to exploit matchups with Aaron Jones, even with Adams out. Jones ended up with 226 total yards and two touchdowns. With Davante likely back, there will be less of a load on Jones, but don’t be surprised to see LaFleur go back to that well and get Jones matched up on linebackers in space once again. This game will come down to how Jordan Love plays and if the Packers defense can get enough stops or turnovers. If Green Bay can sneak out of Arrowhead with a victory without the league’s reigning MVP, it would certainly make this week suck a whole lot less.