1:00 PM ET, December 18, 2011
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
When talk of a perfect season began last month, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he wouldn't discuss the matter until several other goals were reached first.
McCarthy's team is now one victory away from turning its attention to perfection.
The Packers look to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs Sunday when they visit the struggling Kansas City Chiefs, who have a new coach and quarterback.
A week after clinching the NFC North, Green Bay (13-0) secured a first-round playoff bye with last Sunday's 46-16 victory over Oakland. The Packers won their 19th straight game -- the second-longest streak in NFL history -- and can become the fourth team to go 14-0 if they defeat Kansas City. A win would also give Green Bay the top seed in the NFC, leaving the potential to go 16-0 as the last remaining goal for the final two regular season games.
"Obviously, there's no other team that can say they're 13-0 right now and on the precipice of doing something great," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "But there's still a lot left that we need to accomplish. If you really want to look into it, the regular season does mean a whole lot if you get to the playoffs. So we're setting ourselves up nicely."
The Packers had little trouble against the Raiders, leading 31-0 by halftime and winning easily enough that quarterback Aaron Rodgers got an early rest, but an injury to Greg Jennings put a damper on the victory.
Jennings, who has a team-best 67 receptions for 949 yards and nine touchdowns, sprained his left knee in the third quarter and is expect to miss two to three weeks. McCarthy said the Pro Bowl receiver is likely to return for Green Bay's divisional playoff game the weekend of Jan. 14-15.
While the loss of Rodgers' favorite target is obviously a bit of an obstacle, Green Bay -- which leads the league in scoring average (35.8) and has already set a franchise record with 466 points -- has plenty of other offensive options.
Fifteen Packers have scored at least one offensive touchdown, and Rodgers has hooked up with nine receivers for scores.
Jordy Nelson has 51 catches and team highs of 957 yards and 10 touchdowns, while tight end Jermichael Finley has 42 receptions for 600 yards and six TDs. Rodgers also pointed to James Jones and rookie wide receiver Randall Cobb as players he expects to help make up for Jennings' absence.
"We feel that we have enough to move forward," McCarthy said. "Greg will be missed, but with that, it's more opportunity for the other perimeter players."
Of course, McCarthy feels confident about his other receivers in part because he knows his quarterback is fully capable of making plays.
Rodgers, who leads the NFL with 39 touchdowns and a 123.3 passer rating, is trying to become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw multiple TD passes in 14 consecutive games. He also needs just one more touchdown pass to establish a single-season franchise record.
While McCarthy, Rodgers and the rest of the Packers are gearing up for a possible second straight Super Bowl run, the Chiefs (5-8) are essentially looking to ahead to next season.
Although still mathematically alive in a weak AFC West, Kansas City fired coach Todd Haley a day after Sunday's 37-10 loss to the New York Jets and has replaced him with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.
Despite Haley's offensive background, his Chiefs ranked 28th in total offense (293.8 yards per game) and 31st in scoring (13.3). Season-ending injuries to All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles, quarterback Matt Cassel and tight end Tony Moeaki have hampered Kansas City.
Crennel now has the difficult challenge of getting a team that has lost five of six to knock off the Packers.
He has decided to drop Tyler Palko from starting quarterback to third string after he led the Chiefs to only two touchdowns in four games since taking over for Cassel. Kyle Orton will start Sunday unless an injury to his right index finger on his throwing hand causes him problems, and in that case rookie Ricky Stanzi would get the call for the first time in his career.
Claimed off waivers from Denver during Thanksgiving week, Orton dislocated his finger in his only play as a member of the Chiefs two weeks ago at Chicago.
Crennel had considered waiting until later in the week to announce the change at QB in an attempt to unsettle Green Bay, but realized it really wouldn't make much difference.
"(The Packers) look at Tyler and what he's done the last couple weeks, they look at Orton and know he has a finger, they look at a rookie," Crennel said. "So I don't think they're shaking in their boots about those choices."
The Packers lead the NFL with 27 interceptions -- nine more than any other team -- including three off Orton in a 49-23 victory over the Broncos in Week 4.
These teams haven't met since Green Bay's 33-22 win at Arrowhead Stadium on Nov. 4, 2007, which snapped a five-game Packers losing streak in the series.
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1. Continue spreading the wealth in the passing game: Few teams do a better job of using all available weapons in the passing game than the Green Bay Packers. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is excellent at reading coverages and will take what the defense gives, forcing all of his receivers to stay ready on every play. Rodgers is quick to go through his progressions, and the second or third option has as much of a chance to end up with the ball as the primary target.
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Kansas City Chiefs
|Avg Points Allowed||21.2||22.8|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||GB|
|Rush Yds Allowed||GB|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Kansas City leads 2-1|
|Nov 4, 2007||GB 33, @KC 22|
|Oct 12, 2003||GB 34, KC 40|
From Elias: Kyle Orton has been named the Chiefs starting QB in Week 15 against the Packers. He also started Week 4 against the Packers as Denver's QB. Orton will be the first QB to start 2 games against the same opponent for 2 different teams since Kerry Collins in 1998. On Sept. 6 and Oct. 4 in 1998, Collins started against the Falcons as a member of the Panthers. On Dec. 13, Collins started against the Falcons as a member of the Saints. Collins lost all 3 starts that season against Atlanta.
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