Backs against the wall, division title at stake, head coach’s job likely on the line, last home game of the season oh and the 186th meeting with the Green Bay Packers. Could we pile anything onto this Week 15 matchup forthe Chicago Bears and their arch rivals from up North?
The Packers have dominated the series of late, having taken 5 straight games and 7 of the last 8 games. It looks bleak for the Bears, who started the season 7-1 and are now scrapping to keep their hopes of a division title or a playoff appearance alive.
To help us prepare for this epic battle, we’ve enlisted the help of Ray Rivard, editor of our FanSided sister site Lombardi Avenue for our belated weekly 5 Questions. Here are my questions and Ray’s answers:
1. The Packers actually found a semblance of a running game last week vs the Lions. Is that something the Bears can expect to see?
Mike McCarthy has been trying all season to get a running game going. It started well with the pounding style of Cedric Benson … then he went down to what ended up being a season-ending injury. Next up was Alex Green – a different type of runner than Benson who was trying to run between the tackles. In addition, Green wasn’t completely back from the knee injury he suffered last year and just didn’t seem to have the cutting ability needed in McCarthy’s scheme. Even though that wasn’t working, McCarthy was patient and didn’t give up on Green.
The run game started to turn the corner when James Starks made it back onto the field, but he played two games before hurting his knee. Last week, the Packers played just-activated scat back DuJuan Harris, Green and even got newly-acquired Ryan Grant a shot for one play. So, yeah, McCarthy isn’t going to give up on the run game. Expect to see a 50/50 mix of run and pass Sunday.
2. Who’s the bigger threat in the passing game right now, Randall Cobb or the returning Greg Jennings? Compare and contrast their games.
Right now Cobb is the bigger threat only because he’s been playing consistently and has developed a strong chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. Cobb’s ability to get open over the middle and to make the big plays has been the brightest spot for the Packers this season. Cobb’s ability to line up in the backfield, in the slot and as a wideout makes him a target on just about every down. In contrast, Jennings is a wideout who works the edges of the field and can break a long one on any play. He spreads the defense out and attracts safeties over the top and double teams. That’s why the middle of the field opens so well for Cobb who is many times matched up with linebackers – defenders he can easily outrun.
3. Clay Matthews is expected to suit back up against the Bears. Do you think he makes a big impact in his first game back or might he show some rust after missing the last several weeks?
I think he will make an impact, but I also believe the Packers will ease him back into playing condition. Because Dezman Moses has played so well in Matthews’ stead, he will see time in given packages. Matthews is a player who has had hammy problems in the past and I don’t think the Packers want to push him too much in the early going. It would be a travesty to see him lost for the rest of the season and the Playoffs. He will play, but will be limited in this game.
4. What’s your outlook for the Packers beyond Sunday? Do they have what it takes to go all the way? Can they be that team that gets hot late in the season to go on a deep playoff run?
There are a lot of intangibles that always come together at the end of the season as we’ve seen so often in recent years, it’s the team that gets hot at the end of the year that takes it the distance. I’m not sure the Packers are that team. Yes, they have Aaron Rodgers who can carry a team a long way, but because of the injuries and the number of rookie and second-year players the Packers have been relying on, it might be difficult to make it all the way to the promised land. There are other teams that could develop the mojo needed to go all the way – the Giants, the Niners and maybe even the Seahawks – which would really tick me off, given what happened earlier in the year when the Packers played them.
5. Let me get an outsider’s point of view – If the Bears lose on Sunday, are they finished or do you think they can recover to make the playoffs?
Even if the Bears lose Sunday, they still have a very good shot at making the playoffs because of their schedule. Of course, they would have to win out, which shouldn’t be that difficult given they travel to Arizona and Detroit. They should beat the lowly Cardinals, though the Lions will give them all they’ve got – that is unless they implode as a team. I think the Bears have too much pride to pack it in. However, with that said, if the Bears do implode, I think both Lovie Smith and Cutler will be in grave danger of being forced out … especially Lovie. We all know his mantra over the years has been to beat Green Bay. He hasn’t done that over the past four years or five years and it seems that the clock is running out on his tenure.
Bonus question – what’s your prediction for the game on Sunday, including a final score?
I think this will be the typical bloodbath that occurs when these two teams meet. It will come down to defense, special teams and the kickers. If the Bears stick around into the fourth quarter, the Packers could be in trouble. However, the kickers for both teams are questionable – especially outdoors in Chicago in December. Mason Crosby has been inconsistent and will probably miss at least one FG attempt. The Bears’ new kicker, Olindo Mare, is an unknown. He’s been good kicking in good weather, but how he will do in Chicago remains to be seen. I also expect some sort of trick play called from the Chicago sideline. I’m sure Lovie remembers the Packers’ fake punt back in September. The Packers have to be on their toes for the possibility. With all that said, I think Aaron Rodgers has one or two more extra big plays than does Jay Cutler and the Packers end up winning by nine or 10 points.
Packers 26 Bears 17
Thanks to Ray for helping out with our Q&A. Please head over to Lombardi Ave to see my answers to his questions. Contrary to popular belief, that Packers site isn’t done in crayon. Just be sure to shower before heading back to my site.