The Packers return to Soldier Field for the first time since the 2011 NFC Championship Game. We all know how that one turned out and will be hoping for a better outcome, especially Jay Cutler who left that last game with an injury and a media firestorm ensued.
The Bears had everyone getting ready for a return to the NFC Championship after an impressive Week 1 home win but they quickly came back down to Earth with a big thud down in the Big Easy last week. The Packers, on the other hand, opened up the season with a shootout win against those same Saints and came from behind last week to beat Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. To help get prepped for this epic battle, we exchanged a few questions with Lombardi Ave, the Packers affiliate on our own FanSided network.
1. The Packers head to Soldier Field with the 30th ranked defense. Why the rough start for the Packers D? How does the loss of Nick Collins impact the secondary? Will Jay Cutler be able to move the ball on the Packers defense?
The Packers defense has been gashed through the air by one Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback (Drew Brees) and one rookie quarterback with high potential (Cam Newton). That in itself is an issue and leaves one with the impression that the Packers defense is suspect this season.
However, if you consider that it’s just the first two games of a season when all teams are coming off a lockout, I tend to not worry too much about it at this point. I think defensive coordinator Dom Capers hasn’t shown much in the first two games and the defense has been able to come up big in the red zone with game-changing plays.
Losing Collins is a blow to the defense – no question. Will it be a crushing blow? That remains to be seen. We saw Charlie Peprah come through last year when he took over for Morgan Burnett. Cutler will test Peprah and the Packers defense, but my guess at this point is the Packers’ front rushers will do enough to rush Cutler into poor throws.
2. The Bears have been able to hold the Packers to 21 points or less in their last 6 meetings. Why have the Bears had so much success defensively against the Packers? Will they be able to put up more than 21 on Sunday?
When it comes to the Packers and Bears, they know each other so well that both offenses have difficulty scoring at will. My guess is that it will be that way again in this game. I see the Bears moving the ball on the Packers, but I see the Packers defense again making big plays to thwart the Bears. I don’t see Chicago scoring more than 21 points this time around.
3. For all the pub that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers passing attack gets, they rank a respectable 11th on the ground. James Starks emerged last season after Ryan Grant was lost for the season. What can we expect from the Packers running game? Will they be able to run against the 20th ranked Bears rush defense?
Actually, the Packers running game and clock control may be the difference in this game. Starks is a solid runner and he and Grant seem to complement one another really well – kind of like the Dorsey Levens-Edgar Bennett combo the Packers had in the mid-90s. Grant is a great back to have start the game to soften the defense and then bring in Starks for third down plays.
The Bears have traditionally been very difficult to run on, but the Packers offensive line has shown in the first two games that they are improving in that area.
4. Which Bear on either side of the ball scares you the most?
That’s easy … Urlacher has been a Packers killer for years. He always seems to come up with the big plays to turn a game. The Packers have to neutralize and control him, especially at the line of scrimmage where he can blow up plays and create turnovers at a moment’s notice.
On offense, Matt Forte is a force. He’s the complete package. Again, the Packers have to control him if they have any chance of winning.
5. What’s your outlook for the game? What’s the final score on Sunday?
It will be close through the first half, just like all Bears-Packers games. However, if the Packers can control the clock, wear down the Bears’ defense and keep Cutler and company off the field, they will win going away … but that’s a big “if.”
Also, if the Packers can win the special teams game, that could make a big difference in the game.
I see the Packers winning 27-20.
Be sure to head over to Lombardi Avenue and check out my responses to his questions and talk a little smack while you’re over there.