NFL Preseason Preview - Kansas City (1-2) at Green Bay (1-2)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - It may not count in the standings, but the Green Bay Packers will have a chance to atone for their only loss of the 2011 regular season when the reigning NFC North champions host the Kansas City Chiefs in the final warm-up for both teams from Lambeau Field.
The lone blemish on the splendid 15-1 record the Packers took into last year's playoffs came at the hands of the Chiefs, with Kansas City delivering a 19-14 upset at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 15. The contest was the Chiefs' first outing under then-interim head coach Romeo Crennel, who was elevated to the permanent post after the club won two of its final three bouts.
Green Bay may need to get off to a quick start to avenge last season's loss, with head coach Mike McCarthy planning to play his regulars for only a brief period in the first quarter. 2011 NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers likely will be out after the opening series before giving way to backup Graham Harrell.
While the final outcome may be essentially meaningless, Thursday's matchup is an important one for Harrell. The former practice-squad player began camp as the overwhelming favorite to take over for the departed Matt Flynn as Rodgers' main understudy, but he hasn't performed well in the preseason, leading to speculation that the Packers could target an available veteran in the days leading up to the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against San Francisco.
Harrell went just 5-of-12 for 26 yards and took three sacks in relief of Rodgers in last week's 27-13 victory at Cincinnati. Over Green Bay's three games, he's completed slightly over 50 percent (32-of-63) of his throws for 261 yards with two interceptions and only one touchdown.
Rodgers' overall numbers haven't been particularly good either, but he did engineer a pair of first-half touchdown drives against the Bengals and capped both possessions with scoring runs. The standout signal-caller led all players with 52 rushing yards on six scrambles in addition to the two touchdowns.
As a passer, Rodgers finished 12-of-22 for 154 yards and was intercepted once.
Running back Cedric Benson had an impressive debut in a Packers uniform during last week's triumph. The ex-Bengal, signed by Green Bay midway through training camp, gained 38 yards on only six rushes and added a 10-yard reception.
Wide receiver Greg Jennings caught two of Rodgers' passes for 37 yards in his first preseason action of the year, having missed Green Bay's first two tests with a concussion. Tight end Jermichael Finley (thigh, personal) has yet to appear in a game this summer, but is expected to get in some work on Thursday.
Notable Packers who definitely won't play include running back James Starks (toe), defensive end Ryan Pickett (calf) and cornerback Davon House (shoulder). Starting inside linebacker Desmond Bishop (torn hamstring) was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday.
Crennel will take the same approach as McCarthy for this game, with the starters receiving limited reps before being pulled. The extra snaps could come in handy after the Chiefs were blown out at home by Seattle this past Friday.
Kansas City struggled in all phases in its 44-14 trouncing by the Seahawks. The defense allowed 189 rushing yards as well as two touchdown passes by Seattle rookie Russell Wilson, starting quarterback Matt Cassel had an interception returned 75 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and the special teams permitted a 92-yard punt return score to Golden Tate.
There were a few good performances on the Chiefs' side, however. Undrafted rookie running back Nate Eachus rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown on only 10 carries, slot receiver Dexter McCluster came up with seven catches for 61 yards and a score and top running back Jamaal Charles amassed 32 yards on six attempts.
Cassel stayed in the game until late in the third quarter and ended with 168 yards on 19-of-34 passing with one touchdown and the aforementioned pick.
Kansas City will be without several defensive starters for Thursday's tilt as they attempt to get healthy for the team's Week 1 opener against Atlanta. Cornerback Brandon Flowers remains sidelined with a heel problem, while end Glenn Dorsey (knee), free safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) and nose tackle Anthony Toribio (ankle) are currently banged up.
Rookie Dontari Poe, the Chiefs' first-round selection in April's draft, will take over for Toribio.
The Packers edged the Chiefs by a 20-19 count at Lambeau Field in last year's preseason closer, evening the overall series at 6-6-1.
08/29 09:46:03 ET