Monday night, the Bears (4-3) will take on the division rival Packers (5-2) in a battle for NFC North supremacy. The players from each team probably view this as another inter-division matchup that should have major playoff implications. The fans, however, treat this as “Packers Week” and “Bears Week” respectively, as if this game matters more than the 15 others. From an objective standard, this game is very important to the Bears if they hope to stay in contention for a division title or wildcard birth, regardless of opponent. The Packers, on the other hand, can separate from pack and cement their position as NFC favorites. Both squads have star players out for multi-week periods, but rest assured, there will be plenty of firepower on display at Lambeau Field on Monday. Let’s go inside the numbers, supported by the great analytics at Pro Football Focus. (Author’s note: how can anyone be a Packers fan? Just look at this guy!).
On offense, the Packers have continued to do “Packer things,” as PFF’s fifth-best O with a (45.6) grade. Aaron Rodgers (17.3) still shines as the best quarterback in the league not named Peyton Manning (22.3). Rodgers’ success is predicated on elite decision-making and precise passing, as Bear fans have seen all too many times. He continues to thrive despite major injuries to many key pieces including LT Bryan Bulaga (21.6 in 2011), WR Randall Cobb (6.6), TE Jermichael Finley (-2.8), and WR James Jones (1.3). How can a team with so many injuries not just survive, but thrive? Two words: Eddie Lacy. The Packers drafted the running back in the second round of the 2013 draft out of the University of Alabama. This summer, reports surfaced out of Green Bay training camp that Lacy had ballooned to an enormous weight, and all seemed lost for the rookie. “Fat Eddie” has been nothing short of a one man wrecking ball over the last four weeks and, as a result, Green Bay looks stronger than ever. Lacy’s amassed a (5.8) grade thus far, in just five completed games. He’s compiled an Elusive Rating — where PFF boils down a runner’s success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers — of (27.9), better than Arian Foster, CJ Spiller, Frank Gore, Doug Martin, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice (all Pro Bowl caliber RB’s). As a big back, Lacy wears down opposing defenses with tough short-yardage runs that keep the chains moving and kill the clock. The Packers now boast PFF’s seventh-best rushing attack (5.1) and third-best aerial assault (36.0). As a result, defenses are forced to pick their poison; allow Rodgers to quickly strike through the air, forcing you to play from behind, or let Lacy batter you until the clock strikes zero. Head Coach Mike McCarthy has quite the offensive luxury.