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Packers vs. Bears: Five Questions to Ponder Ahead of Week 9

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Packers vs. Bears: Five Questions to Ponder Ahead of Week 9

Slowly but surely, the Green Bay Packers are erasing the historical gap separating two of the most decorated franchises in NFL history.

When the Packers (5-2) and Chicago Bears (4-3) square off in the 187th meeting of the league's oldest rivalry Monday night, Chicago will face the potential of seeing its once dominant lead shrink to just three games. The Bears currently control the all-time series, 92-88-6, and haven't trailed since 1932.

However, the Packers have put a big dent in the Bears' lead in recent seasons.

Green Bay has won six straight meetings between the two teams and eight out of nine overall. Over the last four seasons, the Packers have swept the Bears three times and split once. And since Mike McCarthy took over in 2006, Green Bay has won 10 and lost just five against Chicago, including the postseason.

The gap is closing. Slowly.

Here are five questions the Packers need to answer Monday night to take another step towards evening the all-time series with Chicago:

1. Can the Packers Attack the Bears' Front Seven?

Green Bay has rarely entered a game with Chicago as a heavy favorite in the trenches, but Monday night will certainly be one of them. The Bears have been devastated by injury in the front seven, especially at defensive tackle and linebacker. Gone are Brian Urlacher (retirement), Lance Briggs (shoulder) and Henry Melton (ACL) from a once proud defense, leaving the Packers a golden opportunity to manhandle the game up front. If Green Bay can continue running the football effectively and working the intermediate passing game, the Bears will be in big trouble. This is a bad defense that is soft up front and now starting two rookies at linebacker. Expect the Packers to take this game right to the Chicago front seven from start to finish.

2. How Will the Packers Deal With Chicago's Tall Receivers?

Not many offenses feature the kind of tall, physical receiving options found in Chicago. Brandon Marshall (6-4), Alshon Jeffery (6-3) and Martellus Bennett (6-6) make a difficult trio to handle because even stick-tight coverage can be beat with ball placement and physicality. The Packers aren't exactly big in the secondary, either. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams will both give away several inches, with only Davon House providing the kind of length that could match Chicago's at receiver. It's certainly possible that Dom Capers will elect to use House even more Monday night, possibly as a starter on the perimeter against Jeffery. The Packers know that even with Jay Cutler out, Chicago will take vertical shots to Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett. Matching the physicality at the line of scrimmage and rolling coverage when the Bears attack downfield will be keys for the Green Bay secondary.

3. Will the Packers Pressure QB Josh McCown?

The Packers have turned Jay Cutler into a turnover machine in recent seasons, mostly because of relentless pressure. In 2012, Green Bay sacked Cutler seven times and picked him four times during a Week 2 win at Lambeau Field. Overall, Bears quarterbacks have been sacked 16 times and turned over nine times over the last four meetings. The script doesn't change with McCown at quarterback. The 34-year-old looked efficient in Marc Trestman's timing-based offense against Washington two weeks ago, getting the ball out of his hand quickly and accurately to his playmakers. Despite losing Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, the Packers have continued providing pressure and sacks on opposing offenses. McCown may not give the football away as freely as a pressured Cutler did, but making the veteran uncomfortable will be important given the targets he has in the passing game.

4. Can the Packers Shut Down Another Star RB?

Green Bay's fourth-ranked rushing defense is even more impressive considering the litany of running backs faced by the Packers this season. Frank Gore, Alfred Morris, Gio Bernard, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have each taken cracks at figuring out the Packers front, but only Morris found any consistent space. Green Bay will take its shot at another top running back Monday night, when Matt Forte and his 533 rushing yards and six touchdowns come to town. Expect the Bears to ride Forte early and often, especially with McCown at quarterback. The Packers would feel good about their chances if Forte suffers a fate similar to other top backs against Green Bay this season.

5. Will the Packers Win the Turnover Battle?

Green Bay may be playing its best defense since the 2010 season, but the turnovers still aren't coming. Over seven games, the Packers have just seven takeaways—good for 26th in the NFL—and six games with one or fewer. The Bears are currently sporting a plus-seven turnover margin in 2013, thanks mostly to a more cautious offense and a defense that is turnover-or-bust this season. Chicago has the NFL's second most takeaways with 18, but only four have come in the last three games. If Green Bay can take care of the football, yards and points will almost certainly come in bunches Monday night. In fact, the Bears probably need a giveaway or two (or three) to win a road game with that defense. The Packers would like to start registering more takeaways on defense, but playing a clean game on offense is infinitely more important.

Prediction: Green Bay 31, Chicago 13 (6-1)

Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (33)
This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Bares are a disaster.

GBP - 37
bares - 13

Darrin's picture

Sports talk radio in Chicago even concede the bears don't stand a chance.

GB - 41
Chi - 17

hayward4president's picture

The bears still suck.

Lucky953's picture

+1

Archie's picture

O/U = 50 so Vegas is expecting a high scoring affair. 35-21 seems good to me. Packers of course.

Stroh's picture

50 pts combined would be a low scoring game. Packer ave > 30 pts per game on their own. Not sure bout bares but I'm thinking they score nearly 30 too. 60+ pts would be high scoring. 50 below averages for both teams.

Derek in CO's picture

We've certainly been lucky when it comes to facing other teams best players being injured, even though we are just as if not more injured. I'll take a Bears game without Cutler and Briggs any day. We'll handle the Bears by two TDs at least.

Thedon's picture

Packers are an 11 point favorite right now, that says a lot, still it is a heated rivalry and even if the packers pull away they'll give up points late. I expect this to be at best a one TD game.

TommyG's picture

A divisional match must never be taken lightly. Just look at how the Rams nearly took down the seahawks despite being double-digit underdogs.

denniseckersley's picture

McCarthy and Rodgers have shit all over the NFC North since they've been here.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree with your 5 questions.

I think this game will be won in the trenches. The Packers have been great on both sides of the ball in the trenches.

On paper this should be an easy win for the Packers. But for whatever reason it seems like the games are always closer and I wouldn't be surprised if it was closer.

That being said, I'm thinking something like 31-16 Packers.

KurtMc's picture

With #89 still out (?), ground and pound. No need to expose Aaron to senseless harm with this scuzbull Chicago team.

TommyG's picture

37-31 packers. We'll be leading 37-10 with 4 minutes to play.

Norman's picture

LOL. Right now I'd take that though, assuming we come through injury free.

#1 priority is a win
#2 priority is no injuries
#3 is so much less important than these two that it really doesn't matter to me who gets how many yards or TD's or sacks.

BrianD's picture

Watch for the Bears to try and shut down Nelson and force Lacy, Starks and possibly even Franklin to fumble. Without either/both happening, they stand no chance against the powerful O and stout defense of the Packers.

TommyG's picture

The Bear's defensive coordinator must be very short on sleep this week. Sure, shut down Nelson, but then he still has to deal with Boykin, White, maybe Jones, and whoever is playing TE. I liked seeing that in the last two games our intermediate passing game opened up the running lanes. I would like to see that continue.

Calabasa's picture

Whats the line on Bears special teams TD's?

denniseckersley's picture

no kidding

Idiot Fan's picture

I am rather afraid of the current state of our special teams, but the Bears' STs are not what they used to be now that Dave Toub is gone (thank goodness). Right now I'd just say that there is the normal fear that comes from any team taking on our STs, or maybe slightly higher because of Hester.

Longspanks's picture

All this article does is give post board fodder to the Bears. My secret formula doesn't add up. Packers are going down. This is a division game. Can't predict division games. Can't wait till my wife makes me a pot roast and cleans the bathroom.

Longspanks

Evan's picture

I usually hate fake troll accounts, but this one made me smile.

MarkinMadison's picture

We gotta quit feeding that troll.

Evan's picture

Couldn't agree more.

Point Packer's picture

If that's even possible.

Evan's picture

All about self-control.

Norman's picture

Your fourth wife right, the one you stole from Sterling Sharpe? ;-)

Mojo's picture

I just realized something. The Packers have four time the Lombardi's(five if you count the coach himself) than their division rivals COMBINED.

Ha Ha Ha

denniseckersley's picture

The Bears Still Suck

DraftHobbyist's picture

The way I see the 5 questions:
1) Yes. With the losses the Bears have had to their front 7 going back to losing Urlacher from last year, and the improvement we have achieved starting with Lacy but extending to guys like Bakhtiari, I see no reason why we won't be able to take advantage of the Bears front 7.

2) The height of Chicago's WR's shouldn't matter because of the lack of excellent QB play from Chicago. It takes a good, precise throw to take advantage of height.

3) Chicago doesn't have a stellar OL, so I would imagine that the Packers should be able to get home a few times. I don't think this is a game where the Packers should concentrate on sacks, though. They should play contain, keep the QB in the pocket, and put a lot of defenders in coverage to take advantage of bad throws. If McCown starts heating up then start dialing up the blitzes, but I don't think that will be necessary. Win on 1st down, especially against the run, and that will allow guys like Mike Daniels to do their thing on 3rd and long.

4) I doubt the Packers will shut down the running attack of Chicago, but they don't need to. They just need to not let Chicago run wild.

5) Turnovers are always a key, and IMO, it's the main reason the Packers have been so successful against Chicago. Chicago is great at creating turnovers, but Rodgers is great at not turning the ball over. The question lies on the other guys who touch the ball, and can our defense create any turnovers? Casey Hayward will be back, and he should be playing much more than last week, so that should help.

jimcal229's picture

Ya'll have owned the Bears for a long long time.As a Bears fan you can't imagine how sickening is was knowing once the Pack got ahead by two scores the game was over. Now this season injuries,the lack of depth on D has made Smiths[thank god he's gone] house of cards D one of the worst in the league. But there is some differences from the same old Bears you are accustomed to seeing.
1. Capers always came up with a game plan that the Bear offensive coordinators didn't have a clue to play against. Trestman and Kromer are the best Bear coaches Capers has faced in years. The Bear receivers and Forte is the best they've have had in years. It won't be as easy this time.
2. This years O line is decent and they can protect the QB and run block. The Rookie Long is down right nasty.
3.McCown is a very good backup His talents match up well against your D. Better than Cutler in some ways.
4. Bears ST is not as good as Toub's but still a little better than yours.
5.Tillman called out his team mates. Its Monday night and there is a lot of pride at stake here and this rivalry is all about pride.
This is going to be a four quarter game. The score will be closer than most think. When its over the Pack will know its "not the same old Bears."

ChiTownSounds's picture

...anyone care to say something NOW? Any given Sunday fellas! (Monday in this case!)

DraftHobbyist's picture

Sure. I'll say something. Jimcal229 was right in pretty much everything he said...once our unprepared backup went in. If Rodgers had not gotten hurt it clearly would have been like any other year.

jimcal229's picture

Its not the same old Bears. The rivalry is going to be competitive again. Trestman and Kromer is the best coaching Capers has game planned against in a long long time.

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"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."
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