Green Bay Packers football is back! Finally the bye week is behind us but we still have to wait a few extra hours before the Packers take to Lambeau Field against the visiting Chicago Bears. This game is on Sunday Night Football, Green Bay’s second-straight appearance in that time slot. It also means three hours of Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth so some of you may want to get your mute buttons at the ready.
We always get a lot of leeway with our headline pictures and during Bears week, it seems none of us can resist finding a less-than-flattering picture of Jay Cutler to use. And make no mistake, we love it!
So we begin the back half of the 2014 season and the timing seems pretty good to be catching the last meeting with Chicago. We previewed the remaining schedule earlier this week on No Huddle Radio (shameless plug alert!) and talked about this Bears game. As with any divisional game, it seems as though you can usually throw out the win/loss records and expect some of the unexpected.
In the case of the Packers and Bears, there’s usually that and then some. Sure, there have been plenty of Packers blowout wins over the last few decades, but it’s still the Bears and you never know exactly what is coming. But, as we all know, the Bears still. . .ya know. Speaking of which, we recently reached the 25-year anniversary of one of the best finishes to a game in this series.
The bye week came at a very opportune time for the Packers, as they seem to be getting a stable of healthy players back in action. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, defensive end Datone Jones, cornerback Sam Shields and safety Morgan Burnett are all listed as probable. Rodgers, earlier this week, said his hamstring was fine, using yet another four-letter word to try and calm Packers nation.
On the other side of the injury equation, however, are two very important questionables in guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. They’re both listed as questionable with just one last walkthrough practice left today. Sitton has a torn ligament in his toe and Lang has a nasty ankle injury.
The Packers’ run game has been mediocre at best to begin with. The loss of Sitton and/or Lang would only deplete that effort further. But if I’m Mike McCarthy (and thankfully for us all, I’m not), I am probably resting both for this game. Again, I understand the importance of these two big guys on the interior of the line, but there’s also another seven games to follow without any added time off. Keep in mind that if both are out, Lane Taylor will be one of your starting guards and that is a problem that needs to get permanently fixed as soon as possible. Sticking one of the starters out there and risking further injury means more Taylor. I say pay me now and hope neither are long-term injuries.
The Packers are 7-1 coming off the bye week under McCarthy and while history doesn’t help today, it is still a nice trend. Last year when Rodgers missed eight games, we all saw some of the issues that the Packers had that he seemed to mask with his brilliant play. The truth is, we’re all very spoiled to watch and expect the most elite quarterback play week in and week out. And as such, I would say that the Packers still have a great chance to win if he starts and finishes the game, with or without Sitton and Lang.
I haven’t even gotten to what the Bears are now compared to a month ago when the Packers saw them at Soldier Field. Chicago has won all of their games on the road this season but Cutler is still their quarterback and he comes to the venue where he has turned in some of his worst performances. That can change at any time, but the defense is healthy and the Green Bay secondary continues to improve each week.
While the players remain the same, defensive coordinator Dom Capers has to figure out a way to solve the run defense. They’re the worst in the league by 10 yards per game, giving up 153 per contest. Green Bay may somehow win the NFC North, but that stat alone will likely make a deep playoff run rather improbable (but not impossible). Chicago’s Matt Forte is exactly the type of back that can give the Packers fits all day long. Why the Bears got away from using him in the first game, I don’t know. Let’s hope that if Forte gets hot early, Bears head coach Marc Trestman gets another of his whacky, mad scientist ideas and then has Cutler trying to throw it 40 times.
Even if the Bears rack up 200 on the ground and Cutler finds his two behemoth receivers for chunks of yards, I still like the Packers in this one. The Bears lack a solid pass rush and will seemingly need to bring added pressure to get to Rodgers. In that scenario, he just carves up what’s left in coverage so good luck, Chicago. You’ll need it!
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: