Packers Periscope: Week 17 at Chicago Bears

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The Past: The last meeting in this storied rivalry did not go so well for the Packers; losing the game was actually the smaller matter as the Packers season essentially spiraled out of control with Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone, which would eventually take 7 weeks to heal.  The Packers did do a couple things well, notably Eddie Lacy rushing for 150 yards and James Starks chipping in for another 40 but without Jay Cutler being, well Jay Cutler, the Bears played an efficient and mistake free game with Josh McCown under center and ultimately won 27-20.

For the Packers, this started a team collapse, starting first with the uncertainty at quarterback; Seneca Wallace was injured and placed on IR the next week, Scott Tolzien played with glimpses of potential, but costly mistakes ultimately caused the Packers to call on their old friend Matt Flynn, who had been released by Seattle, Oakland and the Bills in this season alone.  While Flynn was completely overmatched against the Lions in the Thanksgiving game and has been a below average quarterback, he also has shown the moxie that got him drafted by the Packers in the first place, managing to win two comeback games by 1 point, something that many critics have argued Aaron Rodgers has failed to do.

Ironically, while the Packers have done about as well as can be expected without Rodgers, they shouldn’t even been in the playoff race right now as the rest of the NFC north has had an even more inexplicable collapse.  Naturally the Vikings and notably Adrian Peterson weren’t going to be able to repeat their magical season from last year one more time, and more importantly seem just as confused about their quarterbacks as they were last year.  The Bears have been an enigma this year as well; sometimes it looks like they are finally becoming a dominant offensive team, other times it looks like they really wish they had their stalwart defense, at times crushing the Dallas Cowboys 45-28 but then getting destroyed by the Philadelphia Eagles 11-54.  Most startling is the fall of the Detroit Lions, who should have clinched the NFC North months ago.  The Lions have clearly one of the most talented teams in the NFL and unlike the Bears, Packers and Vikings have had a stable quarterback position the entire season, which should have won them the division right there.  Add to that a ferocious defense, and a powerful passing game spearheaded by Calvin Johnson and the Lions should have been the cream of the black and blue.  However, in the last 6 games, the Lions have only beat the Packers and basically killed their playoff hopes by letting a kicker beat them and then sealed their fate with a loss against the Giants.

The Present: Of course the big news is that Aaron Rodgers is slated to start against the Bears, but perhaps the bigger question is how effective can Eddie Lacy be with a hobbled ankle.  The prudent strategy for the Packers is going to be conservative and careful with Rodgers, likely limiting him to a “pitch count” and swapping receivers for more blocking tight ends and offensive linemen to contain the pass rush.  However, if the running game can’t keep the Packers on schedule, Aaron Rodgers is likely going to have to buy time and throw more, leading to more impact on that collarbone.  Luckily, the Bears have one of the worst defenses in the league, ranking 26th overall, 18th in the pass and perhaps most excitedly for the Packers, dead last against the run.  Just to give a comparison, the Packers, who are 30th against the run are more than twice as effective at stopping the run as the Bears, so they are on a historical pace of run defense futility.

The bears also have issues with their quarterback, mostly what they should do with starting/not really starting/maybe staying/maybe leaving quarterback Jay Cutler.  Cutler has been pretty much himself, with flashes of brilliance where it really looks like head coach Marc Trestman’s philosophy has really seeped in and other times where he looks like the mess that Lovie Smith had to save with the defense.  Historically Jay Cutler has been more stray cannon than precision weapon against the Packers but with some more viable receiving threats in Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett against an already weak Packers weak pass defense, who will be without Clay Matthews (who injured his thumb again) might be just enough to cover for Cutler’s mistakes.

The Future: The Bears have always been relatively financially responsible, who sometimes getting themselves into messes due to their inability to draft well during the Jerry Angelo era, most notably trading for Jay Cutler and signing Julius Peppers to a mega contract.  However, the Bears have always been willing to make the difficult cut when they needed to, such as not resigning iconic middle linebacker Brian Urlacher this offseason. The Bears will also have to figure out what they want to do with Julius Peppers, whose last two years contain salaries too outrageous for a old, declining player; most likely Pepper will be forced to take a pay cut or be released outright as it’s unlikely that any team would be willing to take on that contract for a player who clearly isn’t who he used to be.

However the biggest topic for the Bears front office is what they are going to do with Jay Cutler, who is a front office’s nightmare.  Cutler likely hasn’t convinced anyone that he’s a true franchise quarterback and one that a team could build around, however he just good enough that he could possibly win a Super Bowl with a little luck and he’s a proven (decent) commodity, while drafting a quarterback is still a hit or miss proposition.  Furthermore franchising Cutler likely cripples any leverage the Bears have in negotiations but letting him test free agency is likely going to end poorly for the Bears as well as some other quarterback needy team (the Vikings have a long history of signing NFC North players to name just one potential landing spot) will likely raising Cutler’s asking price.  Based on performance alone, Cutler probably deserves around $15 million (he’s not in the Brady/Manning/Rodgers range but he probably fits well around Matt Stafford or where Joe Flacco should be) but likely will earn much more regardless of where he ultimately ends up next season.

The other concern for the Bears is their history of drafting, which has been largely average to below average.  Chris Williams and Gabe Crimini are the two glaring busts, who both went from potential franchise left tackles to starting guards to playing reserve roles on other teams.  Second round picks, Alshon Jeffery, Stephen Paea and Cory Wotton have all been good players but not earth shattering.  Perhaps the Bears best find was a running back converted to defensive tackle Henry Melton, who is currently on IR as well as dealing with some legal issues as well.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

    My concern is a cheap shot by the Bears, especially when Rodgers starts picking them apart. Barclay will need help. In the first game he gave up 3 sacks to Shea McClellin who had 1/2 sack going into game and has had 0 since. That and like Thomas mentioned. The Packers have to pressure Cutler. Charles Woodson said it best, “We can always count on Jay to throw us the ball”. The defense has actually created 10 turnovers the last 4 games. Give Rodgers the ball 10 extra times and find out what happens. Common Jay, just be Jay!

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I’d like to think that the Bears are better than that; in fact the only team I think would truly go for a cheap shot in the NFC north are the Lions. I’ve always felt like the Bears rivalry was as much hatred as respectful aggression now; both teams hate each other on the field but seem to like each other off the field. Rodgers in particular has picked up the tab for Bears defensive players and helped their wives as well.

      • Bearmeat

        There have been periods that both the Bears and the Vikes were cheap shot artists (Vikes with Randall and Hovan, Bears in the mid-90’s with Favre too)

        But now? Nah. They’ll be fine. If Rodgers runs though… we’re all gonna freakout.

        • marpag

          Erm….. OK, but by far the most egregious act of cheap-shottery in the NFC North (or Central) came from the Green and Gold. Sad, but true.

          Charles Martin’s body slam of Jim McMahon was utterly unprecedented, and probably hasn’t been equaled since. If it happened today, Martin would probably be banned for life. (For you yunguns out there, if you’ve never seen it, just google ‘charles martin body slam’. It must be seen to be believed.)

          Martin was suspended for 2 games. It was the first multi-game suspension (for roughing, at least) in NFL history. Martin smashed up McMahon’s already injured shoulder, and McMahon was done for the season.

          Worse yet, this was 1986. The Bears had just won the Superbowl in ’85, and had one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history. Even without McMahon, the Bears still went 14-2, but lost in the divisional round to the Redskins – a game in which Bears backup QB Doug Flutie went 11 of 31 for 134 with 1 TD and 2 INTs.

          It is entirely possible that Martin’s unfathomable cheapshot cost the Bears a superbowl title.

  • Savage57

    Twas the end of the schedule for 2013
    Like nothing the Packers could have foreseen.
    The Bears at the Spaceship alongside the lake
    chasing a title? – must be a mistake.

    AR’s probably starting, but Clay for sure gone
    What else this season could possibly go wrong?
    Hyde’s playing great, so he’ll probably go down
    Knock out Jay Cutler? – that get’s you McKown.

    No Jermichael, no Randall, maybe no Lacy,
    No Bulaga, no who else, the name’s all get hazy.
    No Jolly for this one, some toughness is gone
    All the rest all banged, up all season long.

    MM looking clueless with his plastic play card,
    DC in his press box, fighting sleep real hard.
    Another run, run, pass series of futile play calls
    Defense looking confused at the snap of the ball.

    Hawk chasing Bennett as he streaks down the field,
    Splash plays and first downs they consistently yield.
    The Bears’ big receivers leave Shields in their wake,
    Oh Lord how much more of these games can I take?

    Pack down by two scores late in the 4th quarter,
    But they’re not giving up, they start playing much harder.
    Cutty bounces a pick-6 off of Forte’s own head,
    Pack can still win this, Cutty’s fouling the bed.

    Now down by three, they pull an onside kick,
    Could this possibly be a late gift from St. Nick?
    A tough 60 yard field for the go-ahead score,
    If you like Packer football, could you want any more?

    A quick slant to JJ, a back-shoulder throw to Jordy,
    And then lickety-split, they’re at the Bear’s forty.
    A time-out is taken that leaves them just one,
    As the faithful all wonder, can this game be won?

    A dump off to Kuhn, Packer fans’ hearts all swoon,
    but he hurdles a Bear who committed too soon.
    That gains another twelve and another first down,
    What is it about playing title games in Chi-town?

    A bubble screen for 8 to the new guy named Boykin,
    The offense is clicking, the pass game is woikin’.
    2nd and 4 from the 20, 45 seconds on the clock,
    James Starks looks at Aaron and asks for the rock.

    A quick pitch to the right, and there stands McLellan,
    What went through Starks’ head there’s really no tellin’.
    Starks just lowers his head and makes two quick cuts,
    And drives his helmet into McLellan’s wee nuggets.

    He runs through him like a train with a full head of steam,
    And fans there that day still recall Shea’s bleak scream.
    Starks breaks one more tackle and dives ‘cross the goal,
    Bears still suck! Lions blow! And now where’s your Skol?

    As Starks walks off the field, still hearing Shea scream,
    Sees him writhing on the ground surrounded by his team.
    And he bend’s down and whispers, ‘How’s that feel, fool?
    That’s for AR, you Bears-still-suck tool!”

    • BradHTX

      Outstanding, sir! My hat is off to you.

      “…the pass game is woikin’.” Sheer effing brilliance!

    • Thomas Hobbes

      This is seriously better than my writing.

    • Steve Cheez

      Bravo, Mr. Savage!

  • http://GV889@aol.com Jerry

    Nice write up Mr Hobbes. Whats your opine of the Packers future? Looks like Ted T will save some money since BJ Raji turned down 8 million a year(What was he thinking).Is he way over rated or just plain average.Ryan Pickett is getting long in the tooth,is this his last year? Are there any good wide bodies in the up coming draft who could replace these two guys? Is Johnny Jolly’s career over? I have to believe Finley is not coming back.The Packers struck gold with Eddie Lacy,can Ted T find a pass rusher to help Clay Matthews out?

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Raji probably regrets not signing the extension, but I’m guessing he thought he could pull another 2010 season out but ended up more 2011. The bigger problem is that defensive line players in the 3-4 are hard to put metrics on; they can put up no numbers in a game and completely dominate. Frankly I think the Packers are pretty set at DL, Jolly may be back and will probably be at lower than market value (assuming no one bids for his services, which is likely considering his drug issues and his age, and presumably loyalty to the Packers for giving him a shot back). Pickett might be back as a rotational player, especially if Raji doesn’t come back. But Datone Jones has had a pretty decent rookie year for a d linemen and josh Boyd looks pretty good too.

      • Stroh

        Generally agree the DL is pretty set. They don’t need more players on DL, assuming Raji/Pickett return. Jolly should sign a reasonable contract. The players are there for a very good DL assuming they develop. Don’t be surprised tho if Tuitt or Hageman were drafted. Both are prototypical 34 DE’s w/ huge upside. 6’6 310 and good every down 34 DL. They could make the DL absolutely dominant. NYJ didn’t need Sheldon Richardson this year, but he’s the Defensive ROTY.

  • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

    LOL!! That was excellent Savage57, 2 thumbs up for sure!

  • JH9

    It’s great to have AR back. I’m really looking forward to this game! Winning the game would be awesome. However, I can’t help but be sobered by what I have learned about the Packers in these last eight weeks. Our defense is ranked in the bottom third of the NFL. Even if we win, what happens when we get to the playoffs and play against a truly balanced team?

    I wish I could be a little optimistic. I wish I could believe this was a repeat of 2010. Instead, I can’t help but feel this season is going to end just like 2011 and 2012. There’s a good chance we’ll beat the Bears this weekend but I believe TT must address our needs on defense to get us back to truly contend for another Lombardi Trophy.

    • JH9

      I did a little research as we head into the final week of the regular season and this is what I found:

      As of week 17, 2013 season, the Packers defense is ranked 24th out of 32 teams.

      Only five teams in the NFL have allowed more 4th quarter points than the Packers this year. Only six teams in the NFL give up more total yards per game than the Packers. Only eight teams give up more total points than the Packers.

      I ask my fellow bloggers, is this a winning formula?

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Even if the Packers don’t win I would consider this season a mild success based on what happened. Sure they got a ton of help, mostly from the Lions but I thought they played as well as expected; if I told you before the season that the Packers would win a third of there games without Rodgers I think many would see that as realistic. As for the playoffs themselves, it’s all about getting hot at the right time. Many are predicting a Broncos-Seahawks championship, but we’ll probably see at least one surprise team at the Super Bowl

      • JH9

        Correction… They only won two games and tied one without Aaron Rodgers, but that is not my point. My point is that without AR, the weaknesses of this team have been exposed. IMO, that’s the defense and coaching.

        • Thomas Hobbes

          I would argue that’s the same with all teams that have been built around a star quarterback. The packers are designed to put up a ton of points and take the ball away on defense. Naturally when the offense doesn’t put up crazy numbers the defense is put in a disadvantage, earlier in the year when Rodgers was healthy they had one of the best run stuffing units in the league.

          • JH9

            With all due respect, Thomas, I challenge you to show me one team that has won the Super Bowl with defensive statistics as bad as the Packers have this year.

            • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

              The 2006 Colts did. BUT Bob Sanders was out for most of the year and came back for the playoffs. He was the best player on their defense and shored up both the run and pass D.

              • JH9

                You’re close…

                In 2006 the Colts in 16 games yielded 360 points and 5316 yards. In 2013 in 15 games, the Packers have given up 400 points and 5611 yards.

    • Jemstone

      I would love to see them in the playoffs. But yeah, with all the injuries they are not going to get all that far. Line play on offense and defense is just not that good.

  • Big T

    Anyone have any guesses as to who the Packers will be playing in the superbowl?

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Most apropos would be Kansas City, it’s the 2005 draft drama all over again.

  • Archie

    A win and the Pack will fall 10 picks in the draft (22 instead of 12th) and they will get lambasted in R1 of the playoffs by the 49rs – one and done all over again. Almost seems we would be better off losing and regrouping for next year. Yet I will be rooting for a win over da bears and another North Div crown. But, boy, going to the playoffs with this defense seems like suicide. But hey, we can make money along the way. Pack/Bears OVER and 9rs over the Pack regardless of point spread. Let AROD stay healthy is all I ask so that we can live to fight another day. TT loves top draft big men in R1. Name the last big man he drafted in R1 who suceeded……Bulaga is as close as you get and he has missed two years due to injury and was so-so when he played. Was he a better pick than Dez Bryant? Definitely not. Demarius Thomas? Nope.

    TT’s top picks since 2006:
    Hawk
    Harrell
    Raji/CMIII
    Bulaga
    Sherrod
    Neal (R2)
    Perry
    Worthy (R2)
    Jones

    Excepting for CMIII, that is one sickly list of top picks. Add to that the exodus of Nick Collins (inj), C Woodson (age), Dez Bishop (inj), Cullen Jenkins (TT’s hubris), Scott Wells (TT’s hubris), Greg Jennings (GJ’s hubris) and you can see why this team has steadily backwards since 2010. In fact, even 2010 should be viewed as a miracle.

    The NYG played a pivotal role in putting the Packers into the playoffs in 2010 (line drive punt down the middle to DeSean Jackson in closing seconds returned for winning score) and 2013, should we make it. This time around it was the defeat of the Lions.

    • Albert

      I understand being realistic. Tell me, Archie, is there an ounce of optimism in any of the following: TT (or any of his decision making ability), MM (or any of his coaching abilities), DC, or any other facet of this team?
      Look at most of the previous Superbowl winners. A story can be told of the “luck” events to get them there. Hell, even Tom Brady found his place as a result of a superstar’s injury.
      Truth is, TT and all he assembled DID get us a Superbowl victory. He has proven to be able to achieve the pinnacle of success in the NFL. While it may never happen again, we are more than fortunate. I’m sure Florida could use a few fans for Tampa or Jacksonville. Perhaps their absence of even mediocrity would give you enough fodder to appreciate TT.

      • Thomas Hobbes

        Hell you can draft superstars and still suck. Can you imagine what’s going through the head of Martin mayhew?

        • Bedroske

          Let’s hope Martin isn’t thinking of changing anything.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      You’ve basically answered your own argument. Why do you want the packers to tank, get a high draft pick and then watch as TT messes it up?

      In all seriousness, drafting is still a crapshoot for every team and Thompson has been better than average. There’s nothing anyone can do about injuries, you can argue that Harrell was a bad choice since he had such an extensive injury list but outside of that the football gods can be a cruel mistress.

      • Bearmeat

        Amen. And IF/WHEN Bulaga/Sherrod/Worthy/Perry/Neal/Tretter/D. Harris get healthy… watch out.

        It’s likely that at least 1/2 of those guys will turn out to be at the very least good starters. And 1 or 2 might end up being blue-chip players.

        • Bedroske

          Finley (perhaps), Hayward, Bostic, Franklin, etc.

    • marpag

      Better yet, let’s try to lose for the next THREE years. Then we’d be AWESOME!

      • Thomas Hobbes

        Yah look what happen to the jags! Oh wait…

      • Stroh

        Yeah, maybe then we can pay a WR like a franchise QB! Wouldn’t it be great to have a WR and a QB both making 20M a year?

  • Since ’61

    Not wanting to make the playoffs because you may lose in the first or to have a higher draft pick is the height of absurdity and goes against every reason for fielding a team. Do everything thing possible to make the playoffs and then take each playoff game one play at a time. For those worried about Rodgers getting hurt, he is no more at risk than any other player on the field. As for losing in the first round, that could happen, remember we were 15-1 in 2011 with a bye and we lost. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that we can win this year. As for the draft pick, that’s a crapshoot even if you have the #1 pick. If this season has proven anything it’s that you can’t predict injuries or the outcomes of the games. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

    • marpag

      Gotta take issue with the comment that Rodgers is “no more at risk than any other player on the field.” At the very least, I think it’s misleading. I understand that we could get into a huge, unanswerable debate about hypothetical probabilities, but we can’t argue about this: If the structural integrity of any bone in your body has been compromised, you are at greater risk. I seriously doubt that Rodger’s collarbone is 100% “good as new.”

  • http://jersyal.com tim

    Recall 2010 when they were longshots to make the playoffs. Injury riddled defense, no running game – They were on the road and underdogs throughout. No chance of a championship a lot of us thought. Yet they did it by winning one game at a time with rejects like Walden, Starks, Lee, Bush, quarless and others just making plays. Since 61 is right. Don’t ever let the opportunity pass.

  • GBPDAN

    I agree that anything can happen once you get into the playoffs, but unlike 2010, the 2013 Packers playoffs D doesn’t have a ball hawking all world DB like Woodson, and all pro Safety like Colins, a young difference maker Raji (what happened to this guy?) And all world difference maker in CM3, a younger Pickett, a stud inside LB Bishop, a on top of his game Williams.

    The 2013 offense, unlike 2010, doesn’t have the starting O line talent either. No Clifton, Wells or Bulaga.

    I’m sorry, but, I don’t see the comparison between the 2010 and 2013 Packers

  • http://jersyal.com tim

    Powion-by-position they are worse off at some, but etronger at some. In 2010 a lot of the guys were unknowns at the time. Sitton, Lang, wilson, shields, even Jordy Nelson. We know their abilities better now. Now we have our Micah Hydes, Josh Boyds, lattimore, Richardson…etc. They aren’t the same players, but a potentially similar scenario. And we’re in better shape at some positions. Example, back then we had a very iffy running game, no Randall Cobb, an very inexperienced Quarless and were on the road the whole time. And as you may recall the D was making due with guys like Walden, Zombo, Wilhelm, Pat Lee, Bush..being key parts. My point is that if, and once we get to the play-offs, with the offensive firepower, AR and a little momentum, like in 2010 anything can happen