Game Preview: Packers vs. Bears, Week 10

What to watch as the Packers take on the Bears at Lambeau Field on Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. CT.

Photo by Mike Dinovo—USA TODAY Sports. Graphic design by Brian Carriveau—

Photo by Mike Dinovo—USA TODAY Sports. Graphic design by Brian Carriveau—

The Green Bay Packers (5-3) host the Chicago Bears (3-5) at Lambeau Field on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. CT for a nationally-televised game on NBC's Sunday Night Football.


The Big Picture: What's at Stake?

Coming off loss to the New Orleans Saints heading into the bye week, the Packers look back to get back on the winning track agaist a division opponent they'll face for the second time to kick off the second half of the season.

The Packers already beat the Bears at Soldier Field back in September, but that was a team that was missing the likes of Jared Allen, Jeremiah Ratliff, Shea McClellin and Roberto Garza the last time around.


What to Watch When the Packers Have the Ball

A) The Questionable Status of Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang: The Packers own one of the best guard tandems in the NFL, although both Sitton (toe) and Lang (ankle) are listed as "questionable" on this week's injury report as each of them is trying to fight through torn ligaments with their respective injuries.

After not practicing on either Wednesday or Thursday, both Sitton and Lang appeared to take a small step forward, being listed as "limited" participants on Friday's injury report. Head coach Mike McCarthy said they exceeded their workload.

If Sitton and Lang don't play, the Packers would likely enter Sunday's game with a newly activated J.C. Tretter at left guard and Lane Taylor at right guard, the same position where he struggled in the game against the Saints. Facing a defensive line that includes a healthy Allen and Ratliff could spell trouble.

B) Offensive Line Depth: If Sitton and Lang don't play, the Packers likely enter Sunday's game with Garth Gerhart as the backup on the interior of the offensive line. Tretter, meanwhile, presumably would kick out tackle should anything happen to the starters.

After placing wide receiver Kevin Dorsey on injured reserve on Saturday, the Packers picked up street free agent Jamon Meredith, a 2009 draft pick of Green Bay. Whether Meredith is ready to step in after one day with the organization is up for debate.

The silver lining: One could read into the timing of the release of Derek Sherrod, assuming the Packers must feel pretty good that at least one of either Sitton or Lang will play, otherwise they might have held off for at least a week.

C) Star Power in the Passing Game: The first time around against the Bears, the Packers' star players in the passing game had fantastic afternoons. Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns while Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb each had over 100 yards and two receiving scores.

There may or may not be trouble on the Packers offensive line, but the one constant is the success of Rodgers against the Bears. The only question might be, is he back to 100 percent after suffering a hamstring injury in the Packers' last game?

The Bears secondary will have to pick their poison in trying to stop either Nelson or Cobb. Nelson is among the league leaders with 737 yards, while Cobb leads all receivers with nine touchdowns. They can't both be stopped.


What to Watch When the Bears Have the Ball

A) Packers Secondary Covering a Talented Group: The Packers have a long history of forcing Jay Cutler into turnovers, including two in their first meeting earlier this season.

Green Bay's secondary should be in better shape than they were their last game against the Saints when both cornerback Sam Shields (knee) and safety Morgan Burnett (calf) missed the game due to injury. Burnett, however, was downgraded to "questionable" on Saturday.

No matter who is out on the field for the Packers, they have the difficult task of covering an athletic group of receivers at Cutler's disposal. Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett have the ability to make an average quarterback look good.

B) Reversing the Run-Game Fortunes: Back in September, the Packers allowed a season-high 235 rushing yards to the Bears, including 122 to running back Matt Forte.

That poor performance by the Packers run defense back on Sept. 25 was hardly the only one the one of the season as they currently rank last in the NFL, allowing an average of 153.5 rushing yards per game.

In order to improve, they'll have to get steady play from the inside linebacker spot opposite A.J. Hawk. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has played musical chairs with Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington in the first half of the season, but the bye week might have been the perfect time to pick one and stick with him.

C) Datone Jones Making a Difference: Jones missed the past three games with a sprained ankle dating back to a Week 5 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

After practicing all week and being listed as "probable" on the injury report, it would appear Jones is ready to return. Just being out on the field isn't enough, however. The Packers need an impact from their 2013 first round draft pick.

Having a healthy Jones helps in regards to stopping the run, but his biggest impact will probably come as an interior pass rusher.


What to Watch on Special Teams

Making Sure Tim Masthay Isn't Rusty: There's only been three games in NFL history where neither team has punted, and two of them involve the Packers. This season alone.

Masthay has gotten some of the least work in the league this season but has still done an admirable job despite the lack of work.

Through eight games, both Masthay's gross (47.0) and net (40.8) punting averages are career highs, but the challenge will be to maintain those high marks as the weather continues to get colder, especially if he isn't getting regular opportunities.


Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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