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Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers: 6 Key Players for NFC North Showdown

Zack PearsonCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2017

Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers: 6 Key Players for NFC North Showdown

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    A chance to go up 2-0 on your division rival is huge.

    The Chicago Bears have that chance on Thursday night as they travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers on Thursday Night Football. The Bears looked impressive against, well, an unimpressive Indianapolis Colts team. The Packers, on the other hand, struggled against one of the more complete teams in the NFC, the San Fransisco 49ers.

    It would be a shock for the Packers to start 0-2, especially at home. With another loss at Lambeau Field, the Packers would have lost three straight at home dating back to last season.

    Both teams face critical injuries that could easily effect the turnout of the game. The Bears are hoping Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman can go to boost that solid defense of theirs, while the Packers aren’t banking on receiver Greg Jennings playing in Thursday's game.

    It’s the NFL’s oldest rivalry, it’s primetime football and it’s the Bears and Packers battling for early NFC North supremacy. Here are six key players for Thursday’s showdown in Green Bay.

6. Randall Cobb, WR/Returner

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    Cobb is a difference maker on special teams and while he isn’t Devin Hester, he can still take the ball to the house. Cobb had a 75-yard punt return in the fourth quarter against the 49ers, but this week he’s going against one of the best special teams units in the NFL.

    With Jennings doubtful, Cobb’s role in the offense increases. Donald Driver will still be the No. 1 receiver for Aaron Rodgers, but Cobb will see a lot more action on offense. Cobb leads a cast of receivers that includes Jordy Nelson and James Jones that will have to be playmakers for Rodgers and the Packers' offense on Thursday.

5. Jay Cutler, Quarterback

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    Cutler had a rough start to the game against the Colts, but he righted the ship and led the Bears to an impressive victory. With Brandon Marshall out there, it looks like Cutler has reached his comfort zone. But, could that be a concern for Chicago who has seen Cutler target Marshall 15 times, completing nine of those targets?

    Cutler has struggled at times in primetime games that include Thursday night games since he has been a member of the Chicago Bears. Not to mention his 0-3 record at Lambeau Field as a Chicago Bear.

    This is a big time game, and big time players need to make big plays. This is where Cutler comes in. Get the job done Jay, and the Bears will go home happy.

4. Cedric Benson, RB

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    The former Chicago Bear gets a crack at his old team, playing for their biggest rival. We all know the Packers have a great passing attack led by Aaron Rodgers, but the kink in the offense has been the running game. James Starks hasn’t given Green Bay a reason to believe he’s the answer, so they went out and signed Cedric Benson.

    Benson struggled in his debut with the Packers by gaining 18 yards on nine carries. If Green Bay want’s to win, they need to get the run game going. That task is all on Benson, who would love to run down Chicago’s throat early and often.

3. Brandon Marshall, WR

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    Marshall had a nice Bears debut with nine receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. Partnered with his former teammate in Denver, the chemistry returns to Chicago. Now it’s needed big time against a division rival in a crucial game.

    Marshall won’t only make an impact by catching Cutler passes, but his presence will cause extra attention and double teams at times. This will open up chances for other receivers like Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and rookie Alshon Jeffery.

2. Charles Woodson, DB

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    Charles Woodson is a playmaker, there’s no denying that. He’s never shy on going against the NFL’s best receivers, and this week will be no different. Woodson will be lined up against Marshall most of the game, and he'll look to shut down the big physical receiver.

    Shutting down Marshall will be a huge key for Green Bay’s defense, who continues to give up chunks of yards—much like last season.

1. Bears Defensive Line/Packers Offensive Line

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    The Bears defense is hurting. Injuries to Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher have the Bears defense starting to worry. The secondary showed an impressive performance against the Colts, and the defensive line reeked havoc for Andrew Luck…at times.

    While Julius Peppers is a wrecking ball on the defensive line, he will require extra attention from the Packers offensive line, who struggled against the 49ers. Henry Melton will need to bring another solid performance much like the one he displayed on Sunday.

    This matchup is so big that both lines needed to be included. Green Bay has struggled, and it won’t get any easier Thursday night. The Bears defensive line must get pressure on Rodgers and throw off his timing early.

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