The Green Bay Packers are currently preparing for their huge matchup against the Chicago Bears on Sunday that might determine the course of their season. If they lose it they will have a long climb to the playoffs, and if they win it can give them big momentum going into the easier part of their schedule.
The Packers have had good success against the Bears lately including huge wins against them last year to win the division title in Week 17 and the 2010 NFC Championship game. The Packers have won four straight games at Soldier Field and nine of their last 11 overall. One player Dom Capers has had figured out during his tenure in Green Bay is Jay Cutler.
Chicago is off to a 2-1 start, but they have been far from setting the world on fire. It took a huge second half collapse from San Francisco for them to avoid going 0-2, and the Jets out gained them 414-257 in total yardage. However, the Jets shot themselves in the foot with turnovers and failing in the red zone. If Geno Smith can put up that kind of yardage on the Bears with no receivers Aaron Rodgers must do the same.
The Bears defense is living on turnovers right now, so if the Packers can avoid them they should have a much better offensive day. Rodgers would be wise to avoid rookie corner Kyle Fuller right now, who has three interceptions and two forced fumbles on the season. Fuller is probably an upgrade from the injured Charles Tillman at this point in his career, and is playing like a clone of Tillman in his prime.
Chicago’s defense is 26th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (144.7), so Eddie Lacy needs to have a breakout game this week. Last year against the Bears he ran for 150 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries when Rodgers went out of the game. Chicago has a completely revamped defensive line, but other than Willie Young they have been underachieving so far.
Mike McCarthy will have to come up with a better game plan to take advantage of the middle of the field, where the Bears are weak with Jon Bostic at middle linebacker and Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy at safety. Jordy Nelson should spend some time in the slot to take advantage of that and the fact they are also weak at nickel corner.
Hopefully some more slant, dig and rub routes are incorporated out some bunch formations maybe, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. The Bears will have two safeties deep like the Lions did most of the time, but the Lions played mostly man under and the Bears will play more zone. That should be better for the Packers receivers since they have had trouble breaking free of man coverage at times.
Defensively the Packers will look to continue their recent success stopping the run and getting after the quarterback. Matt Fore has been struggling and has only averaged 3.2 yards per carry thus far. Chicago will probably be missing starting guard Matt Slauson and center Roberto Garza, and they are not the kind of power team that gives Green Bay trouble like San Francisco or Seattle.
Look for Mike Daniels and Datone Jones to take advantage of the injuries inside. Even if Clay Matthew sits out or is hindered the Packers should still have enough pass rush with Julius Peppers and Mike Neal both playing very well to start off the year. If Brandon Marshall is still as slowed by injury as he was against the Jets that should help the Packers even more.
Everything the Packers want to accomplish for the 2014 season is still right in front of them. They really need to put forth a complete game for the first time this season in Chicago.