NFC supremacy is on the line. Whoever wins this game will be the only 3-0 team in the NFC. It's Monday Night Football, it's against the Green Bay Packers, it's at Soldier Field...WOW! The Packers are the darlings of the football punditry. The Bears begrudgingly get some respect.
My anticipation for tonight's game is off the charts. Green Bay has a great passing defense, yet they've allowed teams to move the ball on the ground against them. The Bears have been dominant vs the run, yet allowed Romo to throw for a ton of yards. Green Bay has a great passing offense, so do the Bears this year. Green Bay can't run the ball, neither can the Bears. Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson, and Clay Matthews. The Bears have Jay Cutler, Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, and Lance Briggs. Big names, big resumes, big rivalry, big game.
179: Number of times these two have faced off; Bears lead the series 91-82-6.
21: Number of combined NFL titles these two hold. GB has 12, the Bears have 9.
12: Number of times Lovie Smith has coached the Bears against the Packers.
7: Number of times Lovie Smith has beaten the Packers while coaching the Bears.
6: Number of interceptions Jay Cutler threw last season vs the Packers.
2: Number of games lost vs the Packers last season.
BEARS: Chris Williams and Major Wright are both OUT with hamstring injuries.
PACKERS: Chad Clifton (T) is probable with a knee; Ryan Pickett (NT) is questionable with a hamstring.
When Green Bay has the Ball:
Aaron Rodgers has a multitude of weapons in the passing game in Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Greg Jennings. Their run game isn't as hot; they average 3.7 yds/carry. One achilles heel for the Pack is that they tend to give up sacks, although they've only surrendered 3 this year so far. The Bears defensive line has to get pressure on Rodgers to have any hope of containing these guys. Julius Peppers and Tommie Harris have to play well.
The aforementioned Julius Peppers vs Chad Clifton (probable) or rookie Bryan Bulaga (Crystal Lake, IL native like the author of this post.) Also, Mark Anderson/Israel Idonije vs Mark Tauscher.
Jermichael Finley is a physical specimen at the tight end position (6'5", 247lbs). He lit up the preseason, but has not had that large of an impact this season (2 games: 8 receptions for 150 yards and no TDs). Watch how he is covered by Pisa, Briggs, Urlacher, the safeties, and/or the nickel. If he ever lines up across from D.J. Moore, expect bad things to happen. In man situations, Danieal Manning is the ideal player to cover him one-on-one.
When Chicago has the Ball:
I think it's about time the Bears established their running game. At 2.8 yards per carry, Chicago has one of the worst run games in the NFL. Green Bay is allowing 5.3 ypc on the ground; good for 32nd in the NFL. One great way to neutralize a great pass rusher (Clay Matthews) is to run right at them. The Bears offensive line is good moving in space, so look for the Bears to attack the edges of the Packers defensive line.
Jay Cutler did not look good last season vs the Packers. Their secondary, anchored by Charles Woodson and Nick Collins, is very good. If the Bears can establish the run, their play-action pass game will work. If the Packers come out in anticipation of this and stone the Bears run game, it will be up to Cutler to attack the Packers defense through the air. With Clay Matthews breathing down his neck, that is one monumental task.
Clay Matthews vs the Bears' protection. Matthews has six sacks in 2 games. He is absolutely killing it right now. The Bears offensive line is leaky. Frank Omiyale will get the start at left tackle. I'm quite sure he'll be given lots of help from the guard, tight end, and running back to block in passing situations.
Mike Martz's ability to change things up and make adjustments allowed the Bears to overcome a very rough start in Dallas. What does he have planned for Green Bay tonight? Does he concoct the right game plan to attack the Packers defense? If the Bears stumble out of the gates again, can he strike gold a second time? We'll find out tonight at 7:30 CT on ESPN Monday Night Football.