By Jeff Joniak-
Offense: Weapon Exposure
Green Bay will try to take away Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall as much as possible, so the rest of Jay Cutler’s arsenal will need to be unwrapped to stress the Packers defense. Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, Marquess Wilson, and others can target areas of opportunity to get the rhythm and tempo of the offense revved up once again.
Avoiding turnovers against the Packers and limiting three and outs will be necessary. Forte in particular is the biggest offensive key. An active Forte in both phases will mean the offense is moving the chains. Keeping Forte active in the passing game will complement his runs. The Packers have allowed 363 points. They have allowed 4.61 yards per carry in the run game.
Quarterbacks have a 95.5 rating against them. They are giving up 7.70 yards per pass attempt and have only a 1.9 interception percentage. What they do have are sacks. They are eighth in the league with 43, but a league-tying best 25 of those have come on blitzes. The Bears did not handle the blitz well in Philadelphia – they must on Sunday afternoon against the Packers.
Defense: Challenge To Play Better
Aaron Rodgers returns to quarterback the Packers, but they will probably look to hurt the Bears with the run. After regressing in Philadelphia, the challenge is for the unit to get off blocks and make plays. Players should live for this chance to make it right with focus at an all-time high.
The bottom line is more important than the damage done to this point. And the bottom line is this: win and you’re in and once you’re in, anything can happen in the postseason. This defense is in no way a playoff-caliber defense, but it doesn’t mean they can’t make the handful of plays that change the course of a game, especially this one.
If Eddie Lacy rebounds from a bad ankle and plays, defenders will have to get their minds right because you have to want to tackle Eddie Lacy. He’s one of a small group of backs with over 600 yards after contact. He’s piled up 1,354 yards from scrimmage and is an offensive rookie of the year candidate.
Special Teams: Win Field Position
Green Bay for much of the season has had one of the worst kick return units in terms of average now at 20.3 good for 30th, but Micah Hyde slipped free in the final moments of last week’s loss to Pittsburgh with a 70-yard return that gave the Packers a chance to tie the game.
He had the three longest returns of the season for the Packers in that one game. Green Bay’s kick coverage ranks 29th giving up nearly 27 yards per return, with a league worst five returns more than 50 yards. Field position was not good for the Bears in Philadelphia – it has to improve against the Packers, in a game where every yard could make the difference in being a division champion or missing the playoffs.
It was coordinator Joe DeCamillis who set the tone for the week with this simple quote on Monday: “If you can’t get up for this one, then you don’t really belong playing in this league.” Enough said.
Intangibles: Recover Confidence
When last they met in Week 9, the Packers were the NFC North leaders with a 5-2 record, and the Bears were 4-3. In the 17th week of the season, in the 16th game, it is winner take the division. How will the Bears respond after getting torched in Philadelphia?
It’s the 188th meeting and it is a play-in game. The Bears will be trying to sweep the season series for the first time since 2005, but the Packers have won three straight at Soldier Field. The Bears will be trying to get to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. They will be trying to prevent the Packers from winning the division title for the third year in a row.
If the Bears recover their confidence Sunday afternoon and beat the Packers, it will make a statement about their resiliency. Getting into the playoffs matters, when you consider the last three Super Bowl champions all played on wild card weekend.