Packers LB corps vs. Chiefs RB corps
Coming off a strong effort against the Raiders and RB Michael Bush, Green Bay's run defense hopes to pick up where it left off vs. a Chiefs ground game that's a far cry from last year's top-ranked unit that featured Jamaal Charles, who has been out all year with a torn ACL. Charles was the NFL's second-leading rusher last season (1,467 yards) and averaged 6.4 yards per carry. Without him, the Chiefs have had to count on the rotating trio of journeyman Jackie Battle, veteran Thomas Jones and second-year pro Dexter McCluster. Kansas City's 2011 running attack is ranked just above average (15th) but managed only 65 yards on the ground last week in a loss to the Jets (3.1 ypc) and has only one 100-yard rushing effort from its backs (Battle in Week Five) through 13 games.
Battle is a 238-pound battering ram with very good athleticism and straight-line speed. Jones, who packed a potent 1-2 punch with Charles last season, is averaging only 3.1 yards yards per carry this season and looks like he could be on his last legs. McCluster, a second-round draft pick last season, is quick and tough with a knack for making big plays, both rushing and receiving. Former Raven FB LeRon McClain is a solid lead blocker who can catch the ball out of the backfield and provides leadership.
Packers ILBs A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop missed last week's game with calf injuries suffered on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. They were more than adequately replaced by rookie D.J. Smith, who had 10 tackles and an interception that set the tone for a spirited defensive effort overall, and Rob Francois, who had nine tackles, a forced fumble and his second interception in three weeks. Another backup, OLB Frank Zombo, contributed three tackles and a sack after missing the previous three games. Bishop has not practiced all week and is expected to miss his third straight game, while Hawk should be good to go after participating fully in practices all week.
Don't be surprised if Packer OLBs Erik Walden and Clay Matthews turn it up a notch after being relative nonfactors last week (Walden did have a fumble recovery vs. Oakland).