Dec 25, 2011; Green Bay, WI, USA; The Chicago Bears line up for a play against the Green Bay Packers during the game at Lambeau Field. The Packers defeated the Bears 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
It’s Bears vs Packers to kick off Thursday Night Football for the 2012 season (in your best John Facenda voice) to continue the oldest rivalry in the NFL. This doesn’t set up to be the usual “black and blue” Bears and Packers 13-10 type of game, but what do I know. I’ve enlisted the help of Lombardi Avenue‘s Ray Rivard to tackle our 5 Questions to get us ready for this epic battle.
1. There’s been a lot of chatter from the Bears after their Week 1 win over the Colts including Jay Cutler wishing Packers DB’s “Good luck” on Thursday. How does that type of chatter resonate with the Packers, bulletin board material or just pointless yapping? What’s the view from up North of Jay Cutler?
The Packers haven’t been big on bulletin board material under Mike McCarthy – at least not in public. The players and coaches may have a different take inside the locker room, but at least in the public eye they don’t say much about their opponents. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to praise their opponents so as not to say anything that’s politically incorrect.
However, for the fans, many take things like this personally and will rail on players like Cutler. He’s one player Packers fans love to hate. I can tell you that Jay Cutler isn’t well-liked in the Northwoods where I live, but I think all Packers fans have a distaste for the Bears quarterback. They love it when the Packers pound on him.
2. The Packers got handled pretty convincingly by the Niners last week in Lambeau. Does that speak to some weaknesses on the Packers or how good the Niners are? Is Packer Nation panicking?
I think the Packers lost to the better team at this point in the season. The Niners might be one of the best teams the Packers face all season and an elite team in the league. They are balanced in all three phases of the game, with impressive weapons across the board. However, the Packers lack of a run game hurt them tremendously. In other parts of the game they held their own and even as badly as the Packers played last Sunday, they still had a chance to tie the game inside of one minute to play. I think that’s a testament to this team’s ability to overcome adversity and come back. A lot has to do with the play of Aaron Rodgers. Again, the Packers defense is in question – especially their inability to stop the run. That’s one area they need to fix in a hurry if they are going to win the division.
3. It looks like Greg Jennings might not be available for the Packer this week with a bad groin while Bears cornerback Peanut Tillman is nursing a bum shin. If we assume neither plays, is that a wash or does one team still have an edge? Who steps up in Jennings’ absence?
I see it as a wash for both teams. Both are great players and are difficult to replace. However, both teams will play to the level of whomever replaces them in the lineup.
As for who will step up for the Packers in Jennings’ loss, you’ve got to look at Jordy Nelson. However, if you saw the Packers play last week, you saw Randall Cobb stand out among them all. He caught nine passes for 77 yards and returned a punt for a touchdown that brought the Packers back into the game in the fourth quarter. The Packers may lean on him even more in Jennings’ absence. Another receiver who got no playing time last week – one Donald Driver – may also hit the field more this week to fill the void.
4. If you wake up on Friday looking at an 0-2 record next to the Packers in the standings, what will be the biggest reason why? What do the Bears need to do to steal a win from Green Bay? What is the Packers’ key for success against the Bears?
As for being 0-2? Wow, that was unthinkable at the start of training camp and now it’s a distinct possibility. It would be difficult to swallow, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world either. This is a long, long season and the teams that hit the field in September look a whole lot different when December rolls around. If 0-2 happens, the Packers coaching staff will need to look deep into the mirror to find the identity of this team. It’s relied too heavily on the arm of Aaron Rodgers in the past and it’s time the other phases of the game are emphasized.
To steal a win in Green Bay, all the Bears need to do is stop the run and put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. If they do those two things and run the ball well themselves, they may run away with an easy victory. If they don’t and they allow Rodgers the time to pick them apart, it could be an excellent game.
For the Packers to win, they’ve got to protect Rodgers and stop the Bears from running the ball and ending up with third and short. They also have to put pressure on Cutler and force him to throw the ball before he wants to. Those types of throws usually end up in the arms of Packers defenders. We’ve seen that happen before.
5. What’s your outlook for Thursday night? Please include a final score.
I think the Packers come back from their poor performance against the 49ers and put together a solid game. I can’t see Mike McCarthy allowing his team to lay an egg two weeks in a row. As always, it will be a dogfight between these two teams. However, it won’t be like past games of 17-10 or 10-7. I think this will be a higher-scoring affair with both offenses getting on a roll. It will probably again come down to special teams and turnovers.Because it’s at Lambeau, I gotta give the Packers the edge. Packers 27 Bears 24
I’d like to thank Ray, who went through a bit of a personal tragedy this week losing his dog, to answer our questions. Be sure to pop over to Lombardi Avenue (they don’t write in crayon, I swear) to check out my answer’s to Ray’s questions and see what Packer fans think about this game.