Green Bay Packers: Thursday's Game vs. the Bears Will Be True Test

Jared DwyerCorrespondent IIISeptember 11, 2012

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The season could not have opened worse for the Green Bay Packers

Not only did they lose to a Super Bowl contender in the San Francisco 49ers, but their hated rivals the Chicago Bears showed that they may have finally cured their offensive impotence.

The loss against the 49ers should not have come as too much of a surprise since the Niners do have one of the league’s elite defenses—defense wins championships, remember.  So it is reasonable to expect an offense, no matter how elite, to struggle against an elite level defense.

But it was how they lost, giving up so much yardage to 2011’s 26th ranked offense—ranked below both the Jets and Broncos—that should be the main concern for the Packers and Packers’ fans.

We all knew that the Packers' defense was not going to suddenly turn into the Ravens' defense over the offseason, but an improvement was expected.

In Sunday’s opening loss the defense looked as it did last season: disjointed and incompetent.  There were busted coverages and mismatches galore throughout Sunday’s disappointing loss at Lambeau Field.

The defense gave up 377 total yards of offense to a team that averaged only 311 in 2011.  But that’s what happens when a mediocre offense meets an even worse defense.

Sunday’s game against the 49ers did serve as somewhat as a barometer of where the teams defense stands.  However, a true gauge of where the Packers as a whole stand, comes this Thursday when they welcome the Chicago Bears to Lambeau Field for NFL Network’s foray into season-long weekly game broadcasts.

In both meetings between the two rivals, Green Bay bested Chicago by double-digit points despite giving up total yardage numbers of 291 in week 3—their third lowest total in 2011—and 441 in week 16 —when the Bears outgained the Packers by 78 yards.

It would be safe to assume that the Packers defense from week 3 of 2011 will not be the defense showing up on Thursday; and that is worrisome.

Outside of their early struggles in their game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Chicago Bears showed their offense is much improved from a year ago.

They finally have a real threat at wide receiver in Brandon Marshall to go along with a good quarterback and enhanced running attack which they showcased in their victory over the Colts.  In their win Sunday, regardless of it being over the Colts, the Bears made football observers take notice that they are a legitimate challenger to dethrone the Packers as division champions.

After years of waiting, the Bears at last have a group that can put points on the board, and stay on the field long enough to give their defense much needed rest between series; improving their play.

We’re talking about an offense that has improved from the Josh McCown led team which put up 441 total yards of offense on the Packers defense and outgained the Packers’ offense; albeit in a 35-21 Christmas day loss in Green Bay.

But the addition of Marshall is not only beneficial in the actual play of the team, but also the mental aspect of the defense.

The psychological effect that the addition of Marshall will have on the Bears defense will be invigorating.  In the past, the defense, consciously or subconsciously, knew that they were responsible for all points—both accumulating and denying—and the outcome of a game.

Now they know that they only have one role with the team and that is stopping their opponent from scoring.  They no longer need to worry about putting points on the board to make up for an inept offense to win a game since they now have an offense that is capable of doing so on its own.

It is not just a new Bears offense the Packers will see on Thursday, but a new Bears team.  The results from last season’s victories against Chicago should be not be on the minds of the Packers and Packers fans, for it is a different Bears team that will take the field Thursday night than the one that the Packers topped twice in 2011.

How well the Packers perform against the Chicago Bears will be a good indication of where the team is and where they go from there.  If Aaron Rodgers is stymied again and the defense puts up little resistance, then the Packers will have a lot to consider in their following ten days before facing off against the Seahawks in Seattle.

But if the offense performs as expected and defense improves, the Packers and Packers’ fans will have little to worry about.