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Week 4 Game Preview: Bears-Packers

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The longest-running NFL rivalry will write its latest chapter Thursday

Packers V Bears

The Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, the NFL literally might not exist without them.

It is the oldest and best rivalry in National Football League. Thursday’s meeting will be the 192rd meeting between the two clubs.

While Thursday Night Football games aren’t always the best games, it is a nice way for the week to wind down because it’s something to look forward to.

The Bears and Packers have previously met four times on Thursday nights, including the last two Lambeau meetings. Coincidently, the Bears and Packers have never played on a Thursday at Soldier Field.

Green Bay Packers

SB Nation site: Acme Packing Company

Record: 2-1, Tied for first in the NFC North

Last Week: 27-24 win over the Bengals in OT

Bears All-Time Record Against: 94-94-6

Historical Match Ups: Too many to name: NFC Championship Game in 2011, Refridgerator Perry’s coming out game on Monday Night Football in 1985, the list goes on.

However, since it is a Thursday night game, let’s highlight a couple of those.

The first time they met on a Thursday was Oct. 17, 1991. The Bears won 10-0 as Jim Harbaugh threw a touchdown to James Thorton and Neal Anderson racked up 116 offensive yards.

The defense shutdown Don Majkowski and former Bear Mike Tomczak. The most fun random stat from that game though?

Rookie James “Big Cat” Williams recorded his only career sack as a defensive lineman. He would convert to OL three years later in 1994 and become a staple RT for the remainder of the decade.

The only other Thursday night win for the Bears came on Thanksgiving night 2015. The Bears spoiled Brett Favre’s jersey retirement night with a big 17-13 upset. The Bears had been 8.5 point underdogs.

Here is the final goal line stand from the Bears to seal it. Classic!

Last Meeting: 30-27 Packers win in Week 15.

The Bears played very well, with Matt Barkley playing damn-near out of his mind, throwing for 362 yards and two touchdowns. Deonte Thompson and Cam Meredith each had over 100 yards while Alshon Jeffery and Josh Bellamy caught TDs. Jordan Howard added 90 yards on the ground and a TD while Aaron Rodgers threw zero TDs.

The Packers took a 27-10 lead late in the third quarter off two Barkley INTS but he overcame his three INTs thrown at that point to rally the Bears to 17 points and a tying field goal with just over a minute to play.

But, as has all too often been the case for the Bears against Green Bay, that was all Aaron Rodgers needed as a 60-yard completion to Jordy Nelson allowed the Packers to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired.

Injury report: The Packers are incredibly banged up. While I don’t think any teams actually practice before a Thursday game, had they actually on-field practice here’s how things shook out Tuesday:

  • Tackle David Bakhtiari was limited with a hamstring injury.
  • Safety Kentrell Brice was a full participant with a groin injury
  • Tackle Bryan Bulaga was limited with an ankle injury
  • WR Randall Cobb was a full participant with a chest injury
  • DT Mike Daniels was limited with a hip injury
  • DT Quinton Dial was a full participant with a chest injury
  • CB Davon House did not participate with a quad injury
  • RB Ty Montgomery was a full participant with a wrist injury
  • LB Nick Perry fully participated with a hand injury
  • LB Jake Ryan fully participated while nursing a hamstring injury and a concussion

Offense: The Packers rank 10th in yards and 15th in points per game. They are averaging 22.3 yards per game.

Their passing attack, as one might expect, is ranked second in the NFL in yards and first in attempts. Their rushing attack, however, is 29th in yards and 31st in attempts.

Aaron Rodgers is averaging 322.3 yards per game but has been sacked a league-leading 13 times. The offensive line injuries are hurting the run game, as well as the Packers playing from behind for most of their last two games.

The Packers have had to rely on Rodgers magic to get the team going and keep them in games, but since he’s arguably the best QB in the league, it’s awful hard to slow him down.

Rodgers is spreading the wealth, with five receivers notching double-digit catches.

Devante Adams leads the team in receiving yards (14 rec./206 yds./1 TD) followed by Geronimo Allison (9/146/0) and Randall Cobb (15/145/0).

Jordy Nelson leads the team in TD catches (13/131/3) and former Bear Martellus Bennett (11/102/0) aren’t far behind in yardage.

Now-full-time running back Ty Montgomery actually leads the team in receptions (18/129/1) but is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry to go with two scores (41 att./124 yds/2 TDs). Rodgers actually has the second-most rushing attempts on the team (13/52/0) showing how much he’s had to run for his life and then Jamaal Williams (5/21/0) is the only other RB of note.

The Packers are going to want to chuck it, it’s what they do best. Running Mike McCarthy’s West Coast offense they are going to spread the field often with the many weapons of Rodgers and let him loose. They will try to run the ball but, as it’s been ineffective through three games when they’ve faced deficits, it really comes second.

They will work in play action to keep the defense honest and Rodgers is a master at the play fake.

Defense: Dom Capers’ 3-4 ranks eighth in yards allowed surrendering 296.7 per game and rank 18th in points allowed, giving up 22.3 per game.

They have allowed exactly as many points as they’ve scored through three games. I am not sure if that says more about their defense or their offense.

The defense has played two bad offenses (Cincinnati and Seattle) and one very good one (Atlanta) while the offense has played two good defenses (Cincinnati and Seattle) and one good bad (Atlanta).

The Packers rank seventh in pass defense and 21st in rush defense. They have faced the fewest pass attempts in the league (Of the 30 teams that have played three games) versus the 12th fewest rushing attempts.

Their defense is allowing 4.5 yards per carry. The Packers have zero interceptions on the season so far and opposing QBs have a 100.8 passer rating against them. However, they are tied with the ninth-most sacks in the league with nine.

Safety Josh Jones actually leads the team in sacks with 2, showing how aggressive Capers can be. Behind him though are Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels and Nick Perry each have 1.5 sacks while Ahmad Brooks and Blake Martinez had one each.

Key Match ups: With Bakhtiari and Bulaga nursing issues this is a prime game for Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd to show up big. Containing Rodgers is hard enough to do but if they can abuse any back ups that might play or exploit the injured starters, it could be a good nice for the Bears front seven.

On the other end of the defense, it’s going to be imperative for the secondary to build off a nice showing against the Steelers. Markus Cooper had a good day in coverage and Kyle Fuller has been resurgent. Prince Amukamara made a couple good plays as well. All of those guys will have their hands full with Nelson, Cobb and Adams. Not to mention Bennett and Allison.

On offense, the line is going to have to build off their strong performance run blocking Sunday and open up lanes for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Keep in mind the Packers have given up a lot of rushing yards through their three games, that is going to be key in keeping Rodgers on the sideline and keeping the game in reach for a team with anemic quarterback play.

What to watch for: Let’s see this Bears rushing attack build off their first strong showing of the season. If Josh Sitton can go (he was limited Tuesday), the Bears could have their original offensive line back but even without him the team played well Sunday.

It’s all going to be up to the defense and the rushing attack because the passing game isn’t established and doesn’t appear to be breaking out anytime soon. So if the Bears are going to win, they need to pull off another strong ground attack supplemented by a shutdown defensive performance.

Key Stats: Green Bay is actually -2 in turnover differential with three interceptions and a lost fumble.

Through three games Rodgers has the lowest QB rating of his career as a starter. The only first-three game stretch with a lower ratio of TD-INTs was in 2010 when he had 5 TDs and 3 INTs and 2012 when he had 3 TDs and 2 INTs through the first three weeks.

The only season he was sacked more through three games was 2012 when he had been sacked 16 times.

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Do you think the Bears can pull off the upset?