I feel like the Bears have taken the oddest path they could have taken to get to 2-1, relying on young players to fill in at high levels to compensate for what can only be described as a normally-catastrophic number of injuries. Going to 3-1 with a win against the Green Bay Packers helps the Bears in a couple of levels - first, obviously taking a game on the Packers to keep at least a share of the division, but also pushes the Packers to 0-2 within the division, having lost to the Lions just last week.
Last Year: Finished 8-7-1, which actually led the division and got the Packers into the playoffs as the NFC North champions - and gave them a first-round exit at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
When Last We Met: ... I think this speaks for itself.
The Bears lost in Week 17 to the Packers, 33-28.
|Points||54 (27th)||79 (28th)|
|Total Yardage||868 (28th)||1,063 (20th)|
|Passing Yardage||632 (21st)||595 (6th)|
|Rushing Yardage||236 (27th)||468 (30th)|
Go ahead and stare long and hard at those numbers. Maybe those last two numbers on the right.
We'll lead with the defense first, because those numbers, especially the rushing number, need some fleshing out. The Packers have faced the second-most rushing attempts in the league, having faced the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch, the Jets and their three-headed rushing monster, and last week still allowing 115 yards on the ground to the Lions on 38 rushing attempts. Does that mean they're vulnerable against the run? Not necessarily, considering both the Seahawks and Jets are really good at employing the run in their offense. That being said, this might be the best chance the Bears will have had all year so far to use the run themselves.
The Packers are no stranger to odd defensive formations, opting to open up last week with a two-DT, 5-LB look, and with the linebacking resumes on this roster, can't say I blame them. They picked up Julius Peppers in free agency, and can line him up with Clay Matthews (battling an injury), A.J. Hawk, and Brad Jones. The secondary keeps many of the same faces such as Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, 2011 (fixed, thanks!) draft pick Davon House, and Casey Hayward, and adds Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (the team's first round pick) to the safety mix. The defensive line replaces B.J. Raji (on injured reserve) with Letroy Guion, which is a bit of a step down.
So, that Aaron Rodgers guy, still pretty good at football. Except his weapons aren't quite the same quality as they have been. Jordy Nelson's still holding his own as the team's number one receiving option, and Randall Cobb's got 14 receptions himself for 126 yards as the second receiver, but it looks like he's taken a step back here in the early going. Behind that, Andrew Quarless is their prime receiving tight end with eight receptions (and he's listed as their third tight end on the Packers' web site's depth chart).
Eddie Lacy's likewise taken a step back this year; so far, he hasn't looked to run as strong as he did last year, looking a bit more hesitant as opposed to hitting a hole hard. James Starks is still the number two back, but on 15 carries he's picked up a 5.0 YPC (over Lacy's 3.1).
The Packers' offensive line is always a point of consternation; however, this year, it's not been a strong unit. So far they've allowed nine sacks on the season, and the front five has been a spot of trouble itself. Bryan Bulaga started last week's game after battling a knee injury. Last year's fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari's been starting at left tackle. Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang still man the guard spots, but fifth-round draft pick Corey Linsley starts at center; definitely a unit that's still getting their feet under them.
If the Bears do this: As mentioned, it's as good a week as any to attempt to get the run game going, but also a good week to try to get Jared Allen going. Officially, Allen doesn't have a sack yet this season, and the Bears already have eight on the year (Four from Willie Young, two from Stephen Paea, and one each from Shea McClellin and Ego Ferguson). In 13 career games against the Packers, he's picked up 16 sacks.
If the Packers do this: Of course, the Packers still have Aaron Rodgers, they still have Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson, and they're probably really angry about losing to the Lions. If the Bears don't get pressure on Rodgers and he gets Randall Cobb going, that second target is there for them, and that might open up a few more things for Eddie Lacy. With the injury-riddled secondary of the Bears, the Packers could try to open things up in the air and expand their offense.
Closing Thoughts: Happy Packers Week, folks.