The oldest rivalry in the NFL gets renewed in a special Thursday night affair, as the suddenly high-powered Chicago Bears will travel to Lambeau to take on the Green Bay Packers, who are looking to end a two-game losing streak dating back to the postseason.
The Bears made a few additions to their offense, none bigger than Brandon Marshall, and for one week, they paid huge dividends. They put up 41 points against Indianapolis, which might not sound like much, but the Packers defense doesn't exactly look like gangbusters.
The Packers ran into the buzzsaw known as the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. Their offense struggled to find any kind of rhythm, while the defense gave up 30 points and 377 yards. They are staring a 0-2 hole right in the face.
Who Will Win The NFC North In 2012?
Where: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI
When: Thursday, September 13 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Watch: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL.com
Betting Line: Green Bay (-6.5), according to Vegas Insider
Chicago Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
Questionable: TE Kyle Adams (Shoulder); DB Charles Tillman (Shin); LB Brian Urlacher (Knee)
Green Bay Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
Questionable: DB Davon House (Shoulder); WR Greg Jennings (Groin); LB Jamari Lattimore (Ankle); LB Terrell Manning (Concussion); RB James Starks (Toe); DL C.J. Wilson (Groin)
What's At Stake?
It's still very early in the season, so everything is going to be magnified and overanalyzed to death.
The Packers were the flavor of the year in 2011 after going 15-1 coming off their Super Bowl appearance. Two straight losses and holes in the defense have taken some of the shine away from this team. They need to figure out a way to make a stop when they need one.
For the Bears, this game could be a great confidence boost. They had a virtual gimme game against Indianapolis in Week 1, so I don't know how much we really learned about them. Heading into Lambeau on a short week, with the Packers coming off a loss is a big litmus test for where this team is at right now.
What They're Saying
Despite their struggles last week, Charles Woodson is feeling good about where the Packers defense is headed the rest of the season.
Here is what the former Defensive Player of the Year had to say about what he expects from the team in 2012. (via Washington Post)
“We’re just getting started here,” Woodson said. “It’s been a long training camp, and we’re trying to figure out pieces and how we’re going to run this defense going forward. I’m going to keep saying, we’re going to be a good defense, trust me.”
Perhaps we are being too hard on the Packers for their performance, because the 49ers are a really good team. They made upgrades on offense this offseason and it showed in Sunday's game.
There are still 15 games left, so it would be foolish to jump off the Packers bandwagon before they even get started.
Bears Player to Watch: WR Brandon Marshall
We all know the history Marshall has with Cutler, and it was apparent in Week 1 that they have not lost a step in their two years apart.
The Packers secondary has been a big problem since the start of last season, so Marshall should have ample opportunity to make plays in this game.
Packers Player to Watch: Defense
I could go with one specific player, but frankly, everyone on the defensive side of the ball has to step up their performance. They have a lot of talent—Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, Charles Woodson, B.J. Raji, Tramon Williams, et al.—but they aren't working well as a unit.
If this team wants to get back to being one of the elite teams in the NFL, they need to find whatever it was they had in 2010. It's not like age is catching up to them, as Woodson and Ryan Pickett are the only two players on that side of the ball over 30 years old.
Key Matchup: Bears Receivers vs. Packers Corners
In addition to Marshall, Alshon Jeffery had a nice showing against the Colts. These are two big, physical receivers who can stretch the field.
The Packers have a good collection of cornerbacks, though they have been susceptible to the pass. It is time for them to step up and make a play here and there. They need to create turnovers and force Cutler into making mistakes, as he is, won't to do.
Plus, I want to see just how much of what the Bears did last week was a product of them actually being improved and how much was just because they were playing the Colts. We can only go by the results we have, and so far, so good.
Even though I have been hard on the Packers throughout this preview, I still think they will take advantage of some holes in the secondary and create a few turnovers this week. It will be physical and intense, as always, but expect the Pack to get back on track.
Packers 27, Bears 23