Bears-Packers matchups and predictions
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org December 15, 2012 5:36PM
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers throws before an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
RICK MORRISSEY: 27-14 Packers
RICK TELANDER: 18-14 Packers
DAN McGRATH: 27-17 Packers
SEAN JENSEN: 20-14 Packers
ADAM L. JAHNS: 27-23 Packers
MARK POTASH: 24-20 Packer
Updated: December 15, 2012 6:41PM
PACKERS AT BEARS
Time: Noon Sunday at Soldier Field.
TV: Fox-32 (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver).
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM.
Line: Packers by 3.
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
On the ground
On paper, the Bears, with their 10th-ranked rushing offense (17th in yards per carry), should be able to establish a ground game against the Packers’ 17th-ranked run defense (24th in ypc), but don’t count on it. The Packers have allowed an average of 158 rush yards in their last four games, yet have won all four. The Bears are averaging 112 rush yards and 4.0 ypc in their last five games and are 1-4. With Matt Forte limited to 7 carries for 31 yards because of an ankle injury, the Bears rushed for 94 yards on 23 carries (4.1 ypc) vs. the Pack in Week 2. Forte (13-85) is averaging 16 carries per game.
In the air
Dom Capers has stayed a step ahead of the Bears since he became the Packers’ DC in 2009. Jay Cutler has been sacked 26 times (once for every 9.9 drop-backs) and has a 53.1 rating (7 TDs, 16 INTs) in 7 games vs. the Packers as a Bear. He was 11-for-27 for 126 yards with 7 sacks and 4 INTs in Week 2. The Bears are still looking for a secondary WR to break out, but against the Packers, they couldn’t even get the ball to Brandon Marshall. Cutler has targeted Marshall 12.7 times per game but did not throw his way even once in the first half vs. the Pack and only 5 times in the game.
WR Brandon Marshall vs. CB Tramon Williams
Marshall is having the best year of his career (101-1,342, 9 TDs), but he was invisible against the Packers in Week 2, with 2 catches for 24 yards. With 2 picks, Williams caught as many passes from Jay Cutler as Marshall did.
WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL
On the ground
While the Bears struggle to establish a ground game with a Pro Bowl RB, the Packers find a way with third- and fourth-string RBs and backups at LG and RT. In a tie game with the Lions last week, they used 7 straight runs to drive 59 yards for a TD, with DuJuan Harris going 14 yards untouched for the score. With Aaron Rodgers scoring on a 27-yard scramble, the Packers, despite being down 14-0 in the first quarter, rushed for 140 yards on 25 carries (5.6 ypc) in a 27-20 victory. The Bears shut down Adrian Peterson last week only after getting burned for 104 yards in the first quarter.
In the air
The Bears defend Aaron Rodgers better than most teams — his passer rating has been below 100 in 7 of 10 games — but don’t have much to show for it. Rodgers is 8-2 against the Bears, winning 7 of the last 8. The Bears contained Rodgers in Week 2 (1 TD, 1 INT, 85.3), but that’s when Rodgers was in an early-season funk. In his last 10 games, he has thrown 26 TDs and 6 INTs for a 109.6 rating — with Greg Jennings missing 8 games and Jordy Nelson missing 2. Randall Cobb (71-777, 7 TDs) and James Jones (46-562, 9 TDs) have picked up the slack. Cobb had 7 catches for 102 yards vs. the Lions.
DE Julius Peppers vs. LT Marshall Newhouse
The banged-up Bears’ defensive line has not been getting the push it did in the first half. Peppers had 2 sacks against the Packers in Week 2 but has 1 in his last 4 games. He has 15 QB pressures. He had 49 at this time last season.
As feared, the Bears are struggling to win when they rely solely on their offense for points. Without a return touchdown in their last 5 games, the Bears are 1-4. Unless the offense suddenly kicks into gear, it’ll be up to the defense and special teams to chip in. The Bears are 2-8 vs. the Packers in the last 5 seasons. Both victories were keyed by special teams and takeaways (Devin Hester’s punt TD/Charles Tillman’s strip in 2010; Alex Brown’s blocked FG in 2008).
Devin Hester and the Bears’ return game are still looking to break a long one, but that might be the least of their concerns vs. the Packers. PK Robbie Gould is out for the season with a calf injury. His replacement, veteran Olindo Mare, has not kicked in a game this season. Even the outstanding coverage units are at risk against Packers KR Randall Cobb after Sherrick McManis and Craig Steltz suffered season-ending injuries last week vs. the Vikings.