Hello and welcome back to Early Bird Breakdown. It’s week 15 of the season, last week the Packers hosted the Falcons. Before going into this week’s match up we will take a look back at the recap.
The Packers were inspired by the firing of Mike McCarthy. The players knew they had to play better specifically to not be blamed for the Packers issues as many players contracts can be on the line as well. The Falcons, now winless in their last 5 games after their trip to Green Bay, may have to look at a coaching change as well. Green Bay blasted past the Falcons 34-20 which was not even that close.
Packers’ Offense vs Bears’ Defense:
Last week was a good week for the offense letting out all of their frustrations and likely sending a message to the fans, media, and their former head coach about the, “issues on offense.” This week however they are not playing a bottom-tier defense, they are playing one of the best defenses in all of football.
Chicago is third in both total defense and points-per-game against. They are tied for the fourth most sacks and do so usually without needing to blitz.
The Packers have two big keys going into this though. The first is that Rodgers is currently on an NFL record interception-less streak. Chicago offensively has the 7th most turnovers in the league, yet lead the league in turnover differential simply because of how many turnovers they generate. Turnovers will be critical in this game, as the Packers nearly lost week one when Khalil Mack had a strip-sack-touchdown to end the first half. If the Packers play turnover free, they will be in this game until the end.
The second key is that Aaron Jones has emerged and will bring balance to the offense. Jones was suspended during the first meeting with the Bears and should provide a good threat to keep the Bears honest.
Packers’ Defense vs Bears’ Offense:
Chicago’s total offense is below average, ranking 22nd in the league but they do make the most of their chances as they are 7th in scoring offense. Head coach Matt Nagy is one of the best offensive minds in the game and will likely have an interesting scheme setup for the Packers. How defensive coordinator Mike Pettine responds and adjusts during the game will be a great chess match and there are some factors working against the Bears.
Mitchell Trubisky has had a nice bounce back season after looking terrible his rookie campaign. Still, offensively the Bears only seem to play playoff caliber football an average of two quarters a game. They stagnate, make mental miscues, and go three and out for solid stretches before turning into a quick-scoring juggernaut. The team has a lot of weapons emerging though.
Running back Tarik Cohen is leading the Bears in total yards and receiving yards. Wide receiver Allen Robinson has shown flashes of his Pro Bowl days in Jacksonville which led to his big contract with the Bears. How these two weapons are handled combined with pressure on Trubisky will determine how effective the Bears are.
The emerging star corner Jaire Alexander should be tasked with covering Robinson and likely will win that match up as long as Pettine shadows Robinson all game with Alexander. Cohen is a bit trickier to scheme, he can lineup anywhere and is faster than every Packer defender besides Alexander. Zone coverage may need to be used nearly every play Cohen is on the field while man coverage should be the approach when the primary back Jordan Howard is on the field.
Also a factor in this game and especially against the Packers rush is that Trubisky is actually an incredible runner. He is very fast for a quarterback and has kept many drives alive with big runs. The front seven needs to approach this as if he will make runs and maintain their rush lanes. If they go to wide to try and get a sack that likely will lead to a scrambled first down.
The weather will be a pleasant (relative to Green Bay) 43 degrees at kickoff with partly cloudy skies and other than the typical lake front winds nothing out of the ordinary.
The Packers looked really, really good against a really, really bad team last week and showed great promise for the future. However, a lot of that was off of the emotional high of the firing of McCarthy and players wanting to send a message. Some of that should carry over to this week, but the challenge is much, much higher. Green Bay still has not won on the road this season and goes into Soldier Field against a team playing for a slim chance at a first round bye (they need to win out with the Rams losing out). The Packers if they play completely turnover free while Chicago has one of their bad offensive games should win, but I am not sure both of those will occur Sunday. Rodgers is still a bit hobbled and the Bears pass rush is fierce (which is what made Rodgers hobbled in the first place). The Bears offense also clicks enough that I think they will put up enough points at home to win the game in a tight one, Chicago wins 27-24.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University