Early Preview: Packers-Chiefs

It's only Monday, but it's never too soon to examine keys to the game and big individual matchup for Sunday's game between the Packers (13-0) and Chiefs (5-8). Kansas City has gone 1-5 in its last six games, leading to the firing of Todd Haley.

Green Bay at Kansas City

Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

TV: FOX; DirecTV: 711. Announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

Keys to the game: The Packers are diligent squeezing the pocket, and reviewing tape certainly will discover QB Tyler Palko can be pressured from multiple angles as the Steelers and Bears have shown. Without a bell-cow running back, the Chiefs bank on their alignment shifts and personnel mixes to get an upper hand, but the Packers have talented equalizers to match up with Kansas City's varied packages. Palko leans on big receivers Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin, but neither easily separates from the Packers' style of bump coverage. The Chiefs were plowed through by Jets RB Shonn Greene for 187 total yards and Packers RB Ryan Grant looked fresh against the Raiders last week. QB Aaron Rodgers has filleted the few defenses who dared to stick with man-to-man assignments, and the Chiefs weren't able to stop passes to backs and tight ends last week.

Matchup to watch: Chiefs QB Tyler Palko vs. Packers CB Charles Woodson: Almost always in attack mode, Woodson will be in Bowe's back pocket much of the game. But when Palko doesn't recognize a coverage change, Woodson and the Packers will pounce by jumping underneath routes. Palko can't fall into the trap of staring down his receivers against Green Bay's opportunistic secondary.

Player spotlight: Packers RB Ryan Grant: Green Bay's passing game is the weapon of choice for play-calling head coach Mike McCarthy. But McCarthy would enjoy having an option, and Grant popped a 47-yard touchdown last week, an indication he and injured starter James Starks (knee/ankle) can bolster the offense in the postseason.

Trending: In an attempt to get their offense moving and out of its funk, the Chiefs have started using a lot of three-receiver sets, with running back Dexter McCluster effectively giving them a fifth wideout. Less and less are they using the tight end, as Leonard Pope saw only a handful of plays against the Jets and wasn't targeted for a pass in the game. Jake O'Connell has been inactive the last two games. Journeyman Anthony Becht is a blocker and not a factor in the passing game. In fact, tackle Steve Maneri is getting more time as a tight end, the position he played in college.

Fast facts: Rodgers needs one touchdown pass to become the fifth quarterback in NFL history with 40 touchdown passes in a season (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Kurt Warner). ... Bowe has gone eight games without a 100-yard receiving game. ... The Chiefs are 1-5 in their last six games, and they've scored just 45 points in that span.

Who will win and why: The Chiefs have scored 10 points or less in six straight games. They lack the firepower to pull the surprise, and the more valid question is whether they can avoid being embarrassed by one of the best passing offenses in NFL history.

Our pick: Packers 38-15.


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