On defense, the Packers lost sack master Clay Matthews to a broken thumb and the pass rush has suffered mightily as a result (-21.3, second-worst in NFL). The lack of rushers has exposed the secondary as well, where the Packers maintain an awful (-19.4) rating. The Bears, by comparison, own a (-15.4) grade, so it seems that a poor pass rush has compounding effect on the entire defense. Expect the Packers to get better in this regard when Matthews returns. The Bears, unfortunately, can only hope Julius Peppers found Ponce De Leon’s Fountain of Youth during the bye week. Green Bay excels in run defense (22.0), eighth overall. Second year DL Mike Neal anchors against the run with a (7.0) grade, despite being somewhat undersized. Unheralded linebackers Brad Jones (4.1), Jamari Lattimore (3.4), Andy Mulumba (3.1), and Nick Perry (2.3) each provide significant run support as well. Mammoth nose tackle B.J. Raji has been fairly pedestrian thus far in 2013 with an overall (-1.9) grade, but he’s enjoyed facing the Bears in years past. In fact, in eight career games against Chicago, Raji has a (12.5) grade. The Pack is fortunate to have safety Morgan Burnett back in the lineup as he’s amassed a (3.4) grade (Top 20 in NFL) since missing the first four contests due to a hamstring issue.
The Bears have slipped considerably in pass protection, despite the offense’s overall improvement. Chicago now sports a futile (-29.5) grade; only the Arizona Cardinals have struggled more. Jordan Mills has regressed at an alarming pace as he now owns the league’s worst pass block grade for offensive tackles (-19.3). A lack of viable alternatives will keep Mills in the lineup, but his play must improve if the Bears would like to avoid another injury to a quarterback. Matt Slauson (4.0), Roberto Garza (1.0), Jermon Bushrod (0.5), and Kyle Long (-0.5) are keeping the unit afloat, but only Slauson has an above replacement player grade. These players do support the league’s fifth-best run block (4.9). Most of the starters have more “mauler” than “finesse” type attitudes, so the discrepancy between run block dominance and pass protection ineffectiveness makes some sense. Brandon Marshall (12.3) and Alshon Jeffery (7.7) have been the best wideout tandem outside of Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker thus far, so Bears fans should feel great about finally having franchise receivers.
The Bears’ defensive struggles have been well-documented in prior columns. Earlier this week, this author spotlighted the rookie linebackers’ opportunity to shine. Expect Rodgers to pick on Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene early and often on Monday night since they both have been asked to make immediate contributions when they would be best served with another offseason of preparation and study. If the Bears can keep the game close and avoid further injury, they can use this game as momentum heading into a pivotal showdown with the Detroit Lions in Week 10.