The Green Bay Packers return to action this week and will host the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football. It’s Green Bay’s second-straight Sunday night game and Chicago’s second appearance on Sunday Night Football this season. The Bears are coming off of a two-game losing streak and appear to be in turmoil as frustrations are mounting within the organization. The Packers are hoping to emerge from the week off healthy and ready for the back half of their schedule, which features five home games and three on the road.
The Detroit Lions escaped London with a win over the Atlanta Falcons and now prepare to host the Miami Dolphins, who have won two straight and are coming off of a big shutout win over the San Diego Chargers. Detroit has won its last three games and Miami its last two. The Lions have needed some late magic in their last two games but sit alone atop the North with a 6-2 record.
The Minnesota Vikings got themselves out of last place in the division with a win over the Washington Redskins and have their bye this week.
Let’s take a look at both games a bit closer.
Miami Dolphins (5-3) at Detroit Lions (6-2)
The Lions are riding high and return home to host the Dolphins. Receiver Calvin Johnson should return for Detroit, giving their offense yet another boost. Golden Tate has proven to be a key addition to the Lions offense and helped hold down the fort while Johnson missed the last three games.
The league’s top overall defense goes up against one of the top rushing offenses. Detroit has surprisingly held onto the top defensive spot through the season’s midway point while the Dolphins are churning out 137 yards per game on the ground. Both Detroit and Miami have nine interceptions on the season and taking care of the football is key in this game. Detroit has feasted on the mistakes of opponents so if Miami can keep it clean, they’ll make life a bit tougher on the Lions.
Detroit will continue to be without defensive tackle Nick Fairley and could also be without backup tackle C.J. Mosley. Fairley sprained his MCL and PCL and the Lions are uncertain if and when he will return this season. Mosley was suspended two weeks for the use of marijuana. Technically, he would be eligible to return on Saturday and could play against the Dolphins. If Mosley isn’t active, Detroit will rely on Caraun Reid, this year’s fifth-round pick out of Princeton. Reid has two total tackles on the season. Miami is listing running back Lamar Miller as day-to-day with a shoulder injury suffered against the Chargers. The injury appeared to be minor and Miller insists he will not miss any time. As mentioned, Miami likes to run often and Miller’s health is a big factor in that game plan.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been hot over his last five starts and is thriving against added pressure. Detroit had been able to get pressure with its front four and hold coverage well. We’ll see if the loss of Fairley means more scheming by the Lions defense. Miami nearly beat the Packers and did take out the Bears in week eight so they have played well against these unfamiliar opponents.
Chicago Bears (3-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-3)
All three of Chicago’s wins have come away from Soldier Field this season. The Bears did win their last game at Lambeau Field last season after Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was forced out with the broken collarbone. Prior to that, the Packers had not lost a home game to Chicago in which Rodgers started. They still haven’t won one that Rodgers finished so there is one key: protect #12.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown an interception in his last two games. The Packers are among the league leaders in passed picked off this season with 10 and have a +8 turnover differential. The Bears are sitting at -3 so avoiding the turnover is going to be a big key for the Bears to try and turn things around and salvage their season.
In the first match up in week four, the Bears tallied 235 total rushing yards and may have had more had they not had to try and throw to catch up late. Bears running back Matt Forte had over 100 yards and one would think Chicago will plan to stick with the run and take advantage of the issues the Packers have in stopping it this year. The Bears scored on a jet sweep by receiver Alshon Jeffery and that particular play has given the Packers fits. Expect to see some more of it unless Green Bay can show they have it figured out. The Packers will look to tally up points early and make the Bears one-dimensional. Packers receiver Jordy Nelson had just one catch against the New Orleans Saints last week and Rodgers will certainly be looking to get Nelson more involved this week.
On the injury front, both teams are hoping to get a few key players back. The Packers were without guard T.J. Lang, defensive end Datone Jones, safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Sam Shields last week. There is a chance that Jones and Burnett will be ready to return, although the first official injury report doesn’t come out until after this post is published. Both practiced earlier in the week. Shields’ also practiced, but his status is still uncertain. He would be a welcome addition to a defense that has thrived on the takeaway this season. Lang had not returned to practice as of late Monday but it was revealed that he will not require surgery on his ankle. For the Bears, linebackers Lance Briggs and Jon Bostic both missed last week’s game against the New England Patriots and are listed as day-to-day. Briggs has a rib injury while Bostic is dealing with a back issue. Chicago also lost defensive end Lamarr Houston for the remainder of the season to a torn ACL, an injury he suffered celebrating a sack against the Patriots. Houston is the second player to sustain a torn ACL celebrating a sack this year. Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch was hurt after sacking Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Both teams need a win this week, for different reasons. The Bears want to avoid falling further behind in the North and piling onto the frustrations the last few weeks have brought. The Packers need to bounce back after the loss to the Saints and get the second half of their season started on a positive note. They also need to gain a game on division-leading Detroit. Green Bay hosts the Philadelphia Eagles in week 11 and could use a shot of confidence heading into that match up.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: