Friday, September 26, 2014

Week 4 Preview: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

Sunday marks the 189th meeting of the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. This matchup looks to provide more fireworks than any other matchup in their long rivalry. Both teams have the ability to light up the scoreboards. The Packers have failed to do so thus far, but the Bears have gotten into a offensive groove since their week 1 loss against the Buffalo Bills. This game is winnable for the Packers, but they'll have to capitalize in certain areas to give them their 5th straight win at Soldier field. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense must start out fast.

Through the first 3 weeks the Packers haven't exactly been getting off to a quick start. Week 1 in Seattle they moved the ball, but ended up punting almost right away. Weeks 2 and 3 against the New York Jets and Detroit Lions they started the game off with fumbles. This is unlike the Packers recent offenses who pride themselves on not turning the ball over. The most frustrating part of it is that they know it's fixable. It's just a matter of playing the way they know how to. Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy must get into a rhythm early enough so they can set up the play action. Rodgers loves play action passing, and that's where he's at his best.

The Packers are going to need to receive the ball first and put up points. It'll be a long game if they can't score points within the first two drives. The Packers must get the run game going, and get their fourth and fifth string receivers in the mix. Using three receivers and one tight end isn't suiting this offense well. Jarret Boykin and Davante Adams must pick up the slack. Teams are smothering Nelson, and covering Cobb so easily that it gives Rodgers no options. Adams could be the guy to step up, but thus far he hasn't shown much. Sunday could be the game that the Packers get the "other guys" into the mix.

Going into Sunday Eddie Lacy has been quiet, too quiet. He's only rushed for 113 yards and no touchdowns through 3 games. That sounds like a line from just one game in his rookie year. Yes, the Packers have played three stingy defenses, but that's not an excuse. Since Lacy suffered a concussion in week 1 against the Seahawks he's been running scared. He even admitted early this week he was running with his pad level too high. Lacy is the type of runner who's going to make his money putting his head down and plowing forward.

Coach Mike McCarthy called Lacy out earlier in the week saying "Eddie needs to play better," before stopping himself from ripping into Lacy in a public form. Hopefully that was a good wake up call for Lacy. A lot of people have compared Lacy to fellow Alabama running-back Trent Richardson in the last couple week. Richardson had a solid rookie year, and has since turned out to be a bust. In my mind, I don't believe Lacy is a bust, and I think he's going to get on track sunday. If not it could be a long season for the Packers run game, and Lacy. If Lacy is struggling we may see a switch to James Starks, who has been somewhat impressive thus far when given an opprutunity. The defense will have its hands full against an explosive Bears offense.

Jay Cutler has only beaten the Packers once his career with the Bears. But Cutler has never had such a complete offense at his helm. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are a new version of Randy Moss and Cris Carter in the division. Those two gave the Packers big headaches back in the day, and the new duo will look to do the same. The Packers secondary did a good job quieting Calvin Johnson last week, but that is really the Lions only option. The Bears have 3 solid receiving options in Marshall, Jeffery, and tight end Martellus Bennett. Not to mention they have an all-purpose running-back in Matt Forte. Forte has underwhelmed thus far, and the Bears are ranked 26th in rushing offense. I feel that Forte has been quiet because the offense has been able to pass it so well. Cutler may have turned a page in his career, because he doesn't seem to be making the same errant throws that he was known for.

If the Packers defense wants turnovers this week they're going to have to work hard for them. Cutler seems poised for his best season in years, and rightfully so he has one of the better supporting casts in the league. The defense must get him out of rhythm early and often. They know from prior experience that if you get Cutler rattled he'll get frustrated and start making mistakes. Julius Peppers will be a key player to watch on the Packers defense. The former Bear may be a little more motivated this week to show he has something left in the tank. It'd be nice to see Peppers get a couple big sacks or even an interception.

This will be a tough game, and I don't think fans or anyone in general will have a feel for how it's going to go until the fourth quarter. But in the end I believe the Packers will get out of the losing column and score a much needed divisional victory.

AJ's Prediction:

Packers: 34


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