Tale Of The Tape: Green Bay Packers At Chicago Bears
- QuarterbackDespite suffering a gut-wrenching loss to the Steelers at home in Week 16, the Packers can win the NFC North title with a win over the Bears in Week 17. If Aaron Rodgers (left shoulder) can return to the starting lineup, the Packers have a major edge. While backup Matt Flynn has proved fairly resilient, he lacks the arm strength and decision-making ability to come close to matching Rodgers’ productivity.The Bears blew an opportunity to clinch the division as they were obliterated by the Eagles. Jay Cutler was unable to rally his team when it got down early. Cutler is among the most physically gifted passers in the league, but it does not always translate to effective leadership and passing. He has struggled vs. the Packers in the past and must show he can come up big in a huge game.
- OffenseThe Packers are committed to running the ball this year, and that attitude has helped them quite a bit since Rodgers suffered his injury. Rookie Eddie Lacy (ankle) may not be at his best, but James Starks ran well in gaining 47 yards on 10 carries against the Steelers. Jordy Nelson can get open and make big catches while Jarrett Boykin is a tough receiver who could make a difference here.The Bears have a variety of options they can turn to in their gameplan, and it begins with versatile running back Matt Forte. He is a solid runner who is also an effective pass catcher. Brandon Marshall is a dangerous go-to receiver, while Alshon Jeffery has a huge catching radius and may be the most-improved player in the league. Tight end Martellus Bennett almost never drops the ball.
- DefenseThe Packers have struggled on defense throughout most of the season as they rank 26th in yardage allowed. Green Bay appeared to suffer a big blow when linebacker Clay Matthews reinjured his thumb against the Steelers. He may not be able to play in this game. A.J. Hawk leads the Packers with 116 tackles and he also has 5.0 sacks.The Bears have been awful on defense this season and they were at their worst against the Eagles as they gave up 289 rushing yards. The return of linebacker Lance Briggs was expected to give them a lift, but he was not ready to perform. Safety Major Wright leads the Bears with 92 tackles, while defensive end Julius Peppers has a team-high 6.5 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Packers have been much improved on special teams this season, as rookie Micah Hyde has given them a lift on punt and kickoff returns. Mason Crosby has connected on 31-of-35 FG attempts, including 5-of-7 from 50 yards or longer.The Bears have suffered a major drop-off in this area as they have been vulnerable in coverage and former All-Pro Devin Hester has lost much of his effectiveness. While PK Robbie Gould is one of the best in the league, punter Adam Podlesh is a liability.
The Bears blew an opportunity to win the division in Week 16, and now they must find a way to rally against an opponent that has beaten them in six of their last seven meetings. If Rodgers can play, the Packers would appear to have a big edge. If not, it could come down to a last-minute possession. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor