The Past: Week 17 of the 2013 season was one of those games that you knew was going to be special; not only did the Packers and Bears, who have the longest rivalry in NFL, get to duke it out for a playoff berth but they got to do it at the expense of the Detroit Lions (as usual the Vikings were irrelevant). To add more spice to the game, this was the first game back for both Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, who has suffered a broken collarbone and leg respectively. And naturally it would come down to a pass from Rodgers to Cobb for 48 yards on 4th and 8 that broke the game for the Bears who ultimately lost 33-28.
The Present: While the Lions and Packers definitely have the most talent in the NFC North both have been plagued by inconsistencies this season, which has left the good but not great but relatively consistent Bears as the likely front runner for the NFC North (I’m not convinced the Lions don’t end the season like they always do by imploding). While the Bears of old had always been predicated on defense, Marc Trestman has morphed the cover-2 defensive team that Lovie Smith gave him into a high powered offense highlighted by two star wide receivers and Jay Cutler, who probably embodies Brett Favre in terms of his play style. On offense, the Packers have to deal with a defense that is much improved, although the teams they’ve played aren’t exactly known for being high powered. Eddie Lacy has a great shot at redeeming himself after 3 consecutive weeks of tough sledding against some of the NFL’s most powerful defensive lines. Finally, the Packers receivers also get a shot for a little redemption, while the Bears have been fantastic in pass defense, the defensive secondary is susceptible even though the Packers failed to take advantage of a similarly feeble Lions secondary. On defense, the Packers pass rush came to life against Matthew Stafford, recording 2 sacks and 2 interceptions including the first for rookie Ha Ha Clinton Dix. If the Packers can limit the damage from Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jefferies they stand a good chance of winning the game.
The Future: The Bears are in a relatively good cap situation and legitimately has a chance to win it all in the next couple seasons; ironically the bears largest economic mistake is the $8 million that they are still paying to Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers. The Bears have swapped NFC North pass rushers by signing former Vikings Jared Allen and are currently paying him more ($12.5 million). Ironically both have graded out about the same to really the Bears have spent extra money for little gain. In the next couple years the Bears don’t have many free agents they must resign, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman are both on contract years at the moment, but both are on the tail ends of the careers and may not be resigned or might have to take a significant paycut to remain. Matt Forte and Alshon Jefferies are up in 2016 and only Jefferies is a priority since Forte will be 30 at that point, which is typically the end for a running back, especially with as much mileage as Forte has with the Bears.
This years draft brought some dearly needed help in the defense secondary, with first round pick Kyle Fuller playing exceptionally well for a rookie. However outside of Fuller, the rest of the 2014 draft class has been underwhelming. The Bears chose back to back defensive linemen in Ego Fergurson and Will Sutton and neither has played particularly well. Pre-draft darling safety Brock Vereen has been average at best but hasn’t had many snaps to prove one way or another what type of player he is. Finally the only offensive player in the first 5 rounds was running back Ka’deem Casey, who has gotten a grand total of 5 rushing attempts over 3 games.
Overall, the Bears are in a similar position as the Packers; both teams have enough talent to win a Super Bowl should things go their way but aren’t likely considered powerhouses or front runners for the playoffs. Both have relatively stable salary caps and don’t have huge commitments down the road. Both have become high powered offenses with defenses that try to take away the ball, which varying degrees of success. If mimicry truly is the most sincerest form of flattery, the Packers really should feel good about the Bears taking a page from them in building a team.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.