(WFRV) – “I’ve been preparing for this moment. . . now’s the time.”
Jordan Love will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Chiefs in Kansas City under unique circumstances with Aaron Rodgers sidelined and in COVID-19 league protocols.
Love made that statement above to the media in a press conference Friday afternoon, following a morning in which Rodgers told his side and viewpoints of his vaccination situation in a 46-minute interview on the Pat McAfee radio show.
Head coach Matt LaFleur is only focused on the Kansas City Chiefs—and making sure his team is too.
“I think our locker room is totally focused at the task at hand,” LaFleur said in his Friday presser. “I’m not worried about that (Rodgers’ interview) being a distraction. I’m worried about going to play against a really good football team. That’s always been our mindset here.”
Packer Nation and the sporting world will be intently watching Love’s debut, which comes in one of the NFL’s most raucous stadiums and against the two-time defending AFC champions led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Since learning Love would be starting on Wednesday, LaFleur said the second-year player has prepared well for his opportunity in team practices and meetings this week.
“I thought Jordan did a great job, he’s really locked in,” LaFleur said. “I think the guys around him have done an outstanding job, they put the work in, we’re ready to go and we’ll give it our best shot against a great football team.”
The 4-4 Chiefs and Mahomes have struggled mightily this season with self-inflicted wounds, including turnovers and penalties. The Chiefs are minus-11 in turnover differential and Mahomes leads the NFL with 10 interceptions, but their offense still features some of the most explosive weapons in the league with speedster Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.
The Chiefs defense has been gashed on the ground and through the air throughout the first eight games, and LaFleur will again have to devise a game plan with returning weapons Davante Adams and Allen Lazard from COVID-19 protocols and running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon to give Love the best chance to succeed. LaFleur’s game plan against the Cardinals in Arizona was masterful with Rodgers at the controls.
Jones and Dillion, as they did against the Cardinals, will be relied upon to take some pressure off the passing game and Love against a Kansas City defense ranked 22nd against the run. The game plan will not place the brunt of the offense on Love’s shoulders, but the former first-round draft choice will have the opportunity to make plays against a porous Kansas City secondary that will be challenged to match up against Adams, who was activated from the COVID-19 reserve list on Friday afternoon by the team.
The Packers offense may also be bolstered by the return of left tackle David Bakhtiari, though LaFleur wanted to keep the Chiefs guessing for game plan purposes and the decision to activate the All-Pro lineman will probably be announced this afternoon. The Green Bay defense pulled out the win over the unbeaten Cardinals with an end zone interception and have played very well in the team’s seven-game winning streak. The Chiefs offer another challenge with Mahomes’ running prowess and ability to extend plays, and the secondary hasn’t yet faced a match-up challenge of speed and talent that Hill and Kelce present.
NFL Week 9 Picks
Chiefs 30, Packers 23
After a tumultuous week, Green Bay sans Rodgers faces a reeling Kansas City team at a cross-roads of their season. Love can’t carry the weight of the offense like #12, but former MVP Mahomes can. Despite the return of Adams and Lazard, Mahomes and his weapons prevail at home.