Thursday, November 6, 2014
NFL Preview: The Green Bay Packers vs. The Chicago Bears
It doesn't get much better than this. The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will renew their historic rivalry Sunday night at Lambeau Field. This will be the second matchup between the two this season. Both teams come into this game in much different situations than they were for their week 4 matchup. The Packers are 4-1 in their last five, and the Bears are 1-4. Going into the week 4 matchup. Aaron Rodgers assured the Packers faithful to "R-E-L-A-X" and it seemed to work as the QB went on a tear, and is in the middle of one of his best seasons. The Bears probably wish their fans and Chicago media types alike would take Rodgers advice. But to do that they'll have to beat the Packers on Sunday night. At this point I think it's very possible, so the Packers will have to be play like they have been on offense, and continue to improve on defense.
The Packers must not overlook the bears who are very desperate for the a win at this point. Here are a few things they'll need to do to pull off a prime-time dvisional win.
1. Health: The Packers seemed to have shaken off their bad luck with injuries this season, but then they went to New Orleans. The Packers left the Super Dome in week 8 a beat up team. Even after the bye they seem to still have some lingering injureis that could be an issue on Sunday. Guards Josh Sitton and TJ Lang both had significant injuries that have kept them out of practice all week. Sitton tore ligaments in his big toe, and Lang suffered some ligament damage in his ankle in New Orleans. With offensive lineman their legs and feet are a big part of their position. They must be quick off the snap of the ball, and be able to react quickly on their feet. It seems that both will likely miss the game due to the nature of their injuries. In their absence Lane Taylor and J.C. Tretter would step up, and start their first games in the NFL. Taylor played a good portion of the Saints game, and struggled in run-blocking. He'll need to step it up. Tretter will be making his season debut. He was slated to be the teams center, but fractured his knee in training camp. Rookie Corey Linsley has a strangle hold on the center postion at the moment so Tretter will get his shot at guard. Rodgers and McCarthy have a lot of confidence in Tretter. The line must protect Rodgers so look for the offense to be a little more fast paced than usual with the injuries at hand.
2. Defense: During the 4 game win streak the Packers enjoyed much success on defense. They were able to create turnovers, which was a big problem last season. They were getting pressure on the opposing QB, and most importantly stopping the run. All of that was undone with one sour performance against the Saints. Drew Brees carved the Packers secondary through the air, and Mark Ingram gashed them for 172 yards on the ground. The Packers can only hope that this was a small hiccup in the process of fixing a poor defense. The Bears bring a potent offense that has been relatively quiet over the past 5 games. With receiving options like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett it could make for the long night for any opposing secondary. Matt Forte is an elite running back who had a massive game against the Packers in week 4. But the Bears offense lives and dies with QB Jay Cutler. Cutler's issues with turning the ball over alway seem to surface against the Packers. The Packers defensive line must shut down Forte, and force Cutler to pass. If Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews can pin their ears back and blitz it could be a long night for Cutler against an injured Bears offensive line. If they're going to force Cutler to pass though it'll be on the secondary to create turnovers. There can be no miscues against Marshall, a psychical threat, and Jeffery, a speed threat.
3. Run The Ball: The forecast for Sunday night calls for a high of 37 and low of 29. That's December football in November. The Packers wanted to build themselves into a team that could play in the winter weather. The addition of Eddie Lacy gave this team that separate dimension to be able to play deep into January at home. The run game has been decent at best so far this season, but as the second half of the season starts it'll be a great opportunity to get the run game going. With the offensive line being beat up it'll be key for the Packers to run the ball to take some pressure of Aaron Rodgers as well. Lacy put up his best game as a pro against the Bears at home last season, and it'll be important for him to build on this home success against the Bears. The Bears defense is in the middle of a rough patch, and the Packers should be able to take advantage of some of the weaknesses. Look for Lacy to put together a solid performance under the lights on Sunday night.
I'd be more worried if this matchup was in Chicago due to the desperate nature of the Bears to get a win, but being at home there's no reason the Packers should not be 6-3 by the end of Sunday. Most people will predict that this game could be a rout, but it'll be the opposite. Look for a close tough fought game as I believe both offenses will be quieted by the weather condtions. In the end the Packers are just the better team at this point, and Aaron Rodgers is playing some of the best ball in his career.