Being who I am, a diehard Chicago Bears fan who spent most of my adolescent years living in Wisconsin and a recent avid blogger, I would be remiss if I did not discuss the pending showdown this evening between the two oldest rivals in the National Football League. The 2010 Superbowl champion Green Bay Packers looked to be on a repeat run last season, until they got tripped up by the Kansas City Chiefs. It would seem that after this game they lost some confidence because they got manhandled by the New York Giants in the playoffs. The team the Packers beat in the 2010 NFC championship game, the Chicago Bears, started the year slow last season and were on a five game win streak when quarterback Jay Cutler broke his throwing hand thumb while making a tackle after an interception thrown straight to Johnny Knox’s hands that he bobbled up into the air and was grabbed by a San Diego Chargers defender. That was for all intents and purposes the end of their season.
Enough about last year, let’s look at what is happening this year and more specifically, what might transpire in tonight’s marquee matchup. As most people know, the Bears were extremely aggressive in the offseason; they were not going to let the catastrophe that took place last season happen again. They signed more than capable backups in Jason Campbell and Michael Bush. They traded for Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and drafted promising rookies Shea McClellin and Alshon Jeffery. The Packers also made moves to try to strengthen team weaknesses, their first six draft picks were defensive and their top two were hoped to help the defense from the get-go. Nick Perry is one of the prototypical new hybrid players that can be a small defensive end or a large linebacker. Jerel Worthy is being looked to help plug holes up front and take some blockers from the playmaking linebackers (namely Clay Matthews) so they can hopefully stop the ball carriers at or before the line of scrimmage. The team that experienced the most success with their new faces week one was easily the Chicago Bears. It is hard to judge, seeing that Chicago was fortunate enough to play the team with last year’s worst record and Green Bay played a team that was two Kyle Williams fumbles away from playing in last year’s Superbowl. With this in mind, when judging the newcomers from both teams the Bears outperformed their Packer counterparts.
Green Bay’s obvious weakness is their defense. When they do not get pressure on the quarterback they give up large chunks of yardage through the air. They have an okay rush defense, but Chicago has two running backs who are capable of rushing for 100 yards every game. Luckily for the Packers the Bears biggest weakness right now is their offensive line play. They performed decently in their week one outing, once Dwight Freeney was sidelined with an ankle injury. As I told my roommate earlier this week, if you can’t block him just fall on his ankle. Not my suggestion, just what it seemed J’Marcus Webb’s mantra was last Sunday.
Green Bay’s biggest strength is their offensive passing game. They have the best wide receiver corps in the league and an extremely talented tight end who has yet to live to his potential. Bad news coming out of Green Bay is the fact that Greg Jennings might not play (well I guess that’s good news for the Bears). Not to worry though, Jordy Nelson is more than capable of taking over the number one spot and Randall Cobb and James Jones are more than capable of playing 80-90% of the offensive snaps, which they will most likely have to do seeing as running the ball is not something Green Bay has recently done well. Chicago’s biggest strength is their two-headed rushing attack. Matt Forte can run inside, outside, knock people over and make them miss. Michael Bush is a little bigger version and can do most of what Forte can do; including bowl people over far more effectively. With Green Bay worrying about the Bears two bruising backs it would be smart to employ the play action and in addition have Cutler run some bootlegs. Quick passes would also be a good decision for the Bears to employ this evening.
Keys to a Green Bay Packer victory.
- Get good pressure on Jay Cutler, he is known to try to force throws and people in his face will expedite that process.
- Pay attention to Matt Forte, he is an integral part of the offense, whether it be rushing or passing. Always know where he is on the field.
- Bottle up Brandon Marshall. He is a big time receiver and can beat a team with short, medium or long throws.
- Play sound special teams. Chicago has a knack for making big plays in the special teams game, Green Bay cannot be complacent or lazy In this.
- Keep Aaron Rodgers protected. The Packers receivers are talented enough and the Bears defensive secondary is inexperienced enough (especially if Charles Tillman cannot go tonight, pray that he can) that they can do damage with four players downfield. Keep a tight end or running back in, if Rodgers gets time he can make any throw.
Keys to a Chicago Bears victory.
- Establish the ground game early. It would seem the only way Chicago can throw the ball is if they take attention away from the fact that they are trying to.
- Limit big plays on defense. Use the fundamentals and play soundly. Green Bay has an explosive offense that can put points on the board quickly, if they frustrate the receivers they can take control of the game.
- Cutler has to make good decisions. The Packers defensive backs have amazing hands. If the ball goes to them they are going to pull it down.
- Use Alshon Jeffery. Marshall is going to draw double coverage all game, Jeffery should have some single coverage jump ball opportunities, go to him, he can make it happen.
- Do not play scared. Go for the big play and take some chances.
Best case scenario for the Bears: The Packers run game is stymied and the pressure on Rodgers is too great for him to make any downfield throws. The Bears run game takes off and Cutler makes some great throws keeping Rodgers off of the field. Score being 33-17.
Best case scenario for the Packers: The Bears have trouble running the ball and as such cannot find any holes in the Packers secondary. Cutler makes some bad throws and the Packers take advantage of the resulting short field and run up the score. Packers win 40-13.
My reality prediction: Bears win 34-27, whether it goes to overtime I cannot know, but I think it is a distinct possibility.
I’ll be leading the Bears cheering section at Station 280 tonight, come and join me.