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Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers Preview: What to Watch For

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The Bears invade the not-so-frozen tundra this Thursday for the first time this season...it’s Packer Week!!

Pittsburgh Steelers v Chicago Bears
Jordan “The Baddest Man on Earth” Howard
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Generally the Swiss are thought of as being neutral. Which is why attacking them would be a big no-no. How about Swiss cheese though? As in, what the Packers defense has looked like through three games this season. The Bears might be catching their nemesis at the right time.

If you look at the past three weeks, the Packers defense has surrendered 67 points — which includes a 9-point effort by the Seahawks floundering offense — and 341 rushing yards (113.66 YPG). These numbers definitely would seem to favor the Bears rushing offense. This is going to be a point of emphasis again this week, as it should.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers offense could be just what the doctor ordered for the Bears defense. Sounds odd doesn’t it? Well consider this, through three games, Aaron Rodgers has been sacked thirteen (13) times! Couple that with an injury to Bryan Bulaga, and this could get ugly in the trenches.

The ground game has struggled, as it has for years up north. They are — and as long as Rodger is there that won’t change — a passing team first and foremost. The running game is averaging 3.4 YPC and 69 yards per game, which 29th in the league. The Bears meanwhile have been stout against the run, allowing just 3.4 YPC and 83.6 yards per game. When you consider that they were blown out by Tampa Bay, those numbers are even more impressive.

What to Watch For

On offense, it starts up front with the offensive line. Kyle Long provided a nice boost against Pittsburgh and this will be the first opportunity to have the line a full strength, should Josh Sitton play. As I alluded to earlier, the rushing match-up this week strongly favors the Bears.

If Jordan Howard can get established early — with a sprinkle of Tarik Cohen of course — then the play-action game should be there. Clearly the game plan last week was to avoid throwing the football as Glennon technically passed for 101 passing yards, however the ball only traveled 19 yards in the air. Not exactly what I would consider a potent, downfield passing attack...

Defensively, again it starts up front. Personally, I wouldn’t even bother defending the run. This is not the Packers strength and the Bears are stout up front. No, they need to sell out against the pass. Look at what the Bengals defensive line did to the Packers on Sunday (6 sacks). That was an impressive showing until the Marvin Lewis-led bunch let off the gas and allowed the Packers to come back.

Aaron Rodgers has also been uncharacteristically careless with the football so far this season. In three games, Rodgers has 3 interceptions (including a pick-6) and 1 fumble lost. There will be some opportunities if the pass rush can abuse the battered and bruised offensive line. If there was ever a week to get on track rushing the passer, this is it.

Who to Watch

Jordan Howard: After having, by far, his best game of the season, we will have to see if Howard is healthy enough to sustain a heavy workload on short rest. Keep an eye on his right arm. Is he favoring it? Is he carrying the ball in his left arm only? Does the shoulder cause and problems with blocking or making the offense predictable? These could be crucial, yet subtle keys to watch for as the game unfolds.

The Receiver Group: Following a pitiful performance — in which there was only one catch by a wide receiver (a 9-yard reception by Deonte Thompson) — this receiving corps is going to have to step up. In looking at the weaknesses on the Packers defense, they seem to give up their chunk plays to the wide outs, not backs and tight ends. This needs to be the focal point for the passing game and could prove crucial to the outcome.

The Pass Rushers: It’s time to eat boys, so tie your bibs tight and belly-up, cause “Aaron cordon bleu” is on the menu Thursday night! This needs to be the game that Leonard Floyd finally breaks through. The Packers offensive line is so bad right now that they absolutely must dominate them. Akiem Hicks, party of 6, your table is ready [followed closely by Floyd, Willie Young, Pernell McPhee, Eddie Goldman and Jonathan Bullard]. Boy, would I hate to have to pick up that tab...

Adrian Amos: The former 2-year starter at free safety was barely noticeable after Quintin Dempsinjury. In some ways that is good, but you always want to notice a player for something good. With a week to prepare — coupled with a move to has more natural position of strong safety — I expect Amos to come out and have a nice game. He is better the closer he is to the line of scrimmage and has shown to be a physical presence at times.

Keys to the Game

The Play-Action Passing Game: I fear that no matter what the Bears do defensively, they are still going to give up 24 points to Rodgers. It’s like clockwork. So to counter this, the offense is going to have to score (the earlier the better). I think that they can take advantage of opportunities again this week. But they will actually have to capitalize them, not attempt to cover 74 yards on the ground every drive. This means completing a few deep passes. What’s the worst that can happen?

Oh...right.

The Pass Rush: I refuse to change this key until I actually see this unit show up. The Bears have just 4 7 sacks on the season and have not produced enough pressure otherwise to be truly effective. This team needs turnovers and needs them badly. The secondaries that tend to produce the most turnovers are the ones with a good front that provides pressure. Ben Roethlisberger Aaron Rodgers is difficult to bring down, as he is as slippery as a butcher’s apron...er...do butcher’s cut cheese too?

The X-Factor: Tarik “The Deke” Cohen on special teams. The Bears have had success in the past in the return game against the Packers. I think it is time for Cohen to Crank That Souja Boy so he can do his best Superman impression. It is time for a huge return and what better team to get your first, than the biggest heels in the NFL?

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