The Past: As with division rivals, the Packers and Bears meet twice a year and the second time is almost always more interesting as it’s a chance for the loser to even out the score. Last year Shea McClellin knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the 1st game with a broken collarbone and essentially won the game for the Bears, only to see the Bears lose at home in the 2nd game to the Packers on a last minute, 4th down 48-yard touchdown to Randall Cobb. This year, the Packers and Bears essentially traded points with no punts on either side of the ball and over 600 yards of total offense. In the end, while the defense was porous (especially against the run), the Packers were able to capitalize on two Jay Cutler interceptions and ultimately won even though the Bears had more rushing yardage, more time of possession, 3rd down efficiency and 1st downs.
The present: The Bears have fallen down somewhat since then, going from a quality team with a legitimate chance to reach the playoffs to somewhat of a disappointment at 3-5. For an offense featuring the cannon arm of Jay Cutler, multifaceted running back Matt Forte and receiving threats Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jefferies and Martellus Bennett, you would expect to see one of the more explosive offenses in the league, but the Bears are 14th in offensive efficiency according to Football Outsiders and are actually a better running team (ranked 8th) than they are a passing team. Unfortunately, this is a huge problem for the Packers who have the worst rushing defense in the league, but whether or not the Bears will be able to stick with the running game or be able to keep the game close enough to warrant running the ball will be the key to the game. On defense, the Bears have been for decades a defensive powerhouse featuring a fast middle linebacker and a tampa-2 coverage. However, since Marc Trestman took over the Bears haven’t been the same to the point where the Packers are actually a better defense than the Bears according to Football Outsiders (23rd vs 16th). The Bears biggest weakness is against the pass, where they rank 25th in the league, so really the question becomes does the run kill the Packers first or does the pass kill the Bears first? Considering it’s a passing league and Rodgers vs. Forte, I’d give the advantage to the Packers.
The Future: The long term prospects of the Chicago Bears was covered before their first meeting this year but with half the season now over with, playoff implications are much more apparent. Simply put, the Bears are right now a team on the outside looking in in terms of playoffs. In the NFC North by itself, the Lions and Packers both have better records and better division wins, not to mention the Packers own a tie breaker over the Bears at the moment. Most people don’t even qualify the Minnesota as a good team let alone a playoff caliber team and yet the Vikings actually have a better record than the Bears. Some will argue that the Lions will implode as they always do down the stretch and the Bears will play better and overtake the Vikings, but at the end of the day it seems unlikely that the Bears will be able to pass both the Lions and the Packers for the NFC North Crown. In terms of getting in as a wildcard, the Bears would have to be better than likely the Eagles/Cowboys or the 49ers/Seahawks, which is probably a tall task either way.
The Bears remaining schedule isn’t too bad, with 3 divisional games in the next 4 weeks, but also have to play the Cowboys and Saints. Assuming they win out minus the Packers, Cowboys and Saints, the Bears will sit at 8-8, which likely isn’t good enough for a playoff berth.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.