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Week 18 game preview: Green Bay Packers

The Bears go up to Lambeau feeling good, but can they finally breakthrough?

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Riding this roller coaster of a 2024 season into the final game, the Chicago Bears are feeling pretty good.

After one of the worst starts in the league, they have managed to turn it around to play winning football.

The playoff hopes have evaporated and there’s still a bad taste in the mouth about the coaching staff among the fanbase, but that can all change Sunday.

It’s no secret that the Bears have been unable to break through and beat the Green Bay Packers. It hasn’t happened since 2018. And it’s been exceedingly rare going back a decade-plus.

But Sunday is a chance for the Bears to knock their rival out of the playoffs and really set the stage for positive vibes heading into a huge offseason full of change and opportunity.

The Bears need a win Sunday to cement that they’re going in the right direction. But a close loss, depending on the circumstance, might feel like the progress down the stretch wasn’t all for nothing.

Another ugly loss though and it’s going to leave fans feeling like the team is still stuck without a path to longterm success.

Green Bay Packers

SB Nation site: Acme Packing Company

Record: 8-8, second in NFC North

Last week: 33-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT, CBS

Spread: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bears are 3-point underdogs to the Packers. The total is set at 44.

Bears all-time record against: 95-106-6, including postseason

Historical meetings: Week 16, 1983. The 8-7 Packers came to Chicago to face the 7-8 Bears and second-year coach Mike Ditka. The Packers needed to win to make the playoffs.

Chicago started the season 3-7. They came in winning four of their last five, with the loss being to the Packers at Lambeau just two weeks prior 31-28.

The Bears opened the scoring with a Willie Gault TD from Jim McMahon but the Packers scored twice and held a 14-7 halftime lead.

Chicago turned it on in the second half though, with Dennis McKinnon catching a touchdown and McMahon running in another score from six yards out. The Bears missed their two-point attempt (or bungled the extra point, can’t find for sure what happened).

The Packers took the lead back with a Paul Coffman touchdown and held a 21-20 advantage.

But McMahon took the Bears down the field and Bob Thomas hit a 22-yard field goal to give the Bears a 23-21 win and eliminate the Packers from the playoffs.

Last meeting: Back in week one, the Packers took care of the Bears 38-20 in a game that didn’t feel even that close.

Injury report: The Packers have a lengthy Wednesday injury report with 15 players limited or not participating, plus more full.

Limited participation

  • S Zayne Anderson (knee)
  • RB Aaron Jones (finger/knee)
  • TE Luke Musgrave (kidney)
  • C Josh Myers (neck)
  • DB Keisean Nixon (quadricep)
  • DB Jonathan Owens (knee)
  • WR Jayden Reed (chest)
  • DT Tedarrell Slaton (knee/foot)
  • LB Quay Walker (shoulder)
  • WR Christian Watson (hamstring)
  • WR Dontayvion Wicks (chest)

Did not participate

  • RB AJ Dillon (thumb/neck)
  • S Rudy Ford (hamstring)
  • LB Isaiah McDuffie (concussion/neck)
  • OLB Preston Smith (ankle)

Offense: The Packers come into the game ranked 11th in points and 13th in yards.

Their passing offense ranks 17th and their rushing offense ranks 15th.

Jordan Love (63.1 pct. cmp./3,843 yds./30 TD/11 INT) comes in playing his best football. Since week 11 he’s thrown just one interception and it was four games ago against the Giants.

His weapons are also coming into their own. Rookie Jaylen Reed (60 rec./681 yds./8 TD) and second year receiver Romeo Doubs (59/674/8) are playing extremely well. Christian Watson (28/422/5), when healthy, can break huge plays.

They’re also getting help from WR Dontayvion Wicks (33/520/2) and TEs Luke Musgrave (33/341/1) and Tucker Kraft (28/324/2).

On the ground, the 1-2 punch of AJ Dillion (178 att./613 yds./2 TD) and Aaron Jones (120/545/2) have been effective when they’re on the field, but not finding the endzone quite as often.

Love (47/248/4), on the other hand, is actually the rushing TD leader for Green Bay. Reed (11/119/2) is effective on jet sweeps and end arounds. The Bears LBs and CBs will have be prepared for that.

Defense: The Packers defense ranks 14th in points and 21st in yards.

Their passing defense ranks 11th and their rushing defense ranks 28th.

While defensive coordinator Joe Barry has been much maligned and is Wisconsin’s public enemy No. 1, his unit has plenty of playmakers and is coming off one of their better performances of the season.

Led by Quay Walker (109 tkl/1.5 sk/6 TFL/4 QB hits/1 INT/3 PD), Isaiah McDuffie (86 tkl/5 TFL/3 QB hits/1 PD) and Jonathan Owens (78 tkls/2 TFL/1 FF/1 FR/3 PD/1 sk) are making plays at the second level.

Up front, Rashan Gary (9 sk/2 FF/6 TFL/22 QB hits), Preston Smith (8 sk/4 PD/4 TFL/21 QB hits), Kenny Clark (6.5 sk/15 QB hits/2 FF/3 PD/8 TFL) and Devonte Wyatt (4.5 sk/10 QB hits/5 TFL) are getting after opposing QBs.

In the secondary, Jaire Alexander (0 INT/4 PD/1 FF) should return from his one-game suspension. Despite his high-pay, Rudy Ford (2 INT/6 PD/71 tkl), Keisean Nixon (1 INT/0.5 sk/6 PD/3 TFL/2 FR) and Corey Ballentine (1 INT/7 PD/43 tkl) all have more production.

Key match ups: The Packers offense is playing pretty well overall, but is missing some pieces. Starting LT David Bakhtiari is on injured reserve. Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks and Luke Musgrave missed last week’s game.

The Bears defensive line needs to win their matchups and get after Jordan Love. Love is playing great and handled the Vikings mixed looks very well last week. The Bears secondary is going to have to hold their own against the Packers’ receivers and slow down A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones.

For the offense, rely on the ground game. Since being gashed by the Giants, the Packers haven’t allowed 100 team rushing yards. However, they were burned by Baker Mayfield and Bryce Young in two of those games, so it seems like they’re a unit that can only stop one thing at a time.

Key stats

  • The Packers are 2-6 when scoring 20 or fewer points.
  • The Bears haven’t allowed more than 20 points since they lost to the Lions in week 11.
  • The Packers have the second-fewest interceptions in the league with seven.
  • They have allowed the third-most rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks.
  • The Bears are 2-5 on the road this season.
  • Matt LaFleur has never lost to the Bears.
  • The current nine-game losing streak to the Packers is one shy of tying the longest streak of 10, which was from Oct. 31, 1994 to Dec. 27, 1999.
  • In the seven games Jordan Love has thrown an interception, the Packers are 1-6.
  • The Bears lead the league in interceptions.

Can the Bears finally break through and beat the Packers Sunday? What is it going to take?