It’s a national stage for Bears/Packer tonight. It’s always fun to enjoy the feast of the NFL all weekend only to be rewarded with the dessert of the Bears playing a meaningful game on Monday night. So settle in for what should be an exciting game. Here’s how I see it…
PACKERS OFFENSE vs. BEARS DEFENSE
If you were drafting Quarterbacks already in the league, how high would Aaron Rodgers go? Easy answer. Third. He’d go behind Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. This guy is the real deal. He is big, strong, mobile and can make all the throws. He’s come out of the shadow of Brett Favre and made his own way.
In the pass game, Rodgers has weaponry. Donald Driver continues to be productive. At 35, he may not be great down the field, but he is still beating single coverage in the red zone and scoring. Greg Jennings hasn’t been as explosive as what he was in 08 and last season, but he’s still a big play threat. But I’m sure what’s keeping the Bears up at night is trying to figure out how to defend Tight End, Jermichael Finley. Finley is a matchup nightmare. He runs like a WR and has good size and hands. His movements are fluid and he’s learning how to attack coverages.
A pass rush is the best weapon against the pass game of the Packers, but Brian Urlacher will probably get the assignment of covering Finley. This will be interesting to watch. Urlacher has been such a force in the first two games at the line of scrimmage and if the Packers use Finley as a decoy, it weakens the Bears by taking 54 down the field.
Back to the pass rush…the Packers have struggling similarly to the Bears of letting up pressure. The Bears defensive line needs to get busy this week (I’m looking at you, Tommie Harris and Mark Anderson). Julius Peppers is getting doubled and tripled, the other guys have got to make plays.
Ryan Grant is out. Brandon Jackson has averaged about 3 yards a carry in his place. John Kuhn is a redzone and goal line threat. Matt Toeina has played great for the Bears, stuffing the hole and making room for Urlacher and Lance Briggs to make plays.
The Bears have done a great job of rallying to the ball and making tackles, that has to continue.
PACKERS DEFENSE vs. BEARS OFFENSE
Last week, the Bears did a lot of smart things. They adjusted personnel and gameplan on the fly. That shouldn’t be ignored. But with a week to prepare, can Frank Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer be trusted to give a similar performance? I’m not sure.
This is a fantastic matchup of coordinators: Mike Martz for the Bears and Dom Capers for Green Bay. Capers is a master tactician and knows how to bring pressure from different angles.
Clay Matthews has 6 sacks on the season. He’s the first Packers player EVER to have 3 sacks in back to back games. He’s extremely versatile and has a crazy range of rush angles. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, did a sack chart for Matthews and it showed that he will move from outside the Tight End to inside of the Guard. Both sides.
So on each play the Bears are going to have to identify where he is. Olin Kreutz’s line calls are critical.
I’m curious to see if the Packers DB play press coverage to try and throw off the timing of Cutler. If Cutler has minimal protection, he can make plays down the field. Will the Packers play zone behind their blitzing or get risky like the Cowboys did last week? The Bears need either Johnny Knox or Devin Hester to back the Packers off. Earl Bennett is totally healthy and having a sure-handed receiver on the field is a plus.
Maybe Martz will out-think us all and figure out a wat to attack the Packers with the run…
Robbie Gould has put 7 of his 10 kickoffs in the endzone with 3 touchbacks. He had 8 total last year. On those 10 kickoffs, the Bears coverage team is only allowing 23.5 yards. That’s an advantage. Hopefully, Robbie will keep it up.
Packers kicker, Mason Crosby, has a big leg. He’s already hit a 56 yarder, but he’s only made 60% of his kicks between 30-49 yards in 6 games vs. the Bears. On the flip side, he’s nailed 2 from 50+.
I’m encouraged by the Bears, but not totally convinced. Offensively, the Bears and Packers have some of the same vulnerabilities: offense line play and lack of a run game. Cutler has been magnificent in the first two games and I expect if the Bears can slow down Matthews, he can be good in this one too, but Rodgers offense is still better. I expect fireworks on the lakefront tonight.
*PACKERS 31 BEARS 27
*I would LOVE to be wrong about this…