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Injuries seem to bug Bears more than Packers

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews tackling Jay Cutler could return Sunday against Bears. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, tackling Jay Cutler, could return Sunday against the Bears. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP

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The Bears and Packers are almost too familiar with each other. But a few introductions might be necessary Sunday at Soldier Field.

Injuries and lineup changes have given both teams a different look since the Bears and Packers met Sept. 13 at Lambeau Field. The Bears could have nine new players at different positions. The Packers could have 10.

But while the Bears have struggled as injuries have mounted, the Packers are thriving. As they did in the 2010 season when they won the Super Bowl, the Packers (9-4) are finding ways to win with key starters missing.

They’ve won seven of their last eight games despite losing 13 starters for a total of 71 games this season. Nine players are on injured reserve. The Packers have only eight players who have started every game. As long as quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the eight, it doesn’t seem to matter.

The Packers overcame a 14-0 deficit to beat the Lions at Lambeau Field last week without nine players who started in Week 2 against the Bears, including cornerback Charles Woodson (broken collarbone), linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring), running back Cedric Benson (foot), tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip) and guard T.J. Lang (ankle). Wide receiver Greg Jennings (groin) returned after missing eight games with a groin injury. Woodson, Lang and Matthews could return Sunday.

Matthews’ availability could be a key factor. He had 31/2 sacks in the Packers’ 23-10 victory in Week 2.

Then again, the Packers usually find a way. When they lost starting linebacker Desmond Bishop in the preseason, D.J. Smith replaced him. Smith sacked Jay Cutler on the Bears’ first offensive snap, and the Packers were off and running. Third-stringer Brad Jones is expected to start for Smith on Sunday.

The Packers always seem to get stronger against the Bears. They lost rookie linebacker Nick Perry to a season-ending wrist injury in Week 7. He was replaced by Erik Walden, who had three sacks against the Bears in a similar spot role in Week 17 that helped propel the Packers past the Bears and on to that eventual Super Bowl victory.



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