Jay Cutler better be on the lookout for Clay Matthews
The Bears were lucky enough to play the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, and it was a complete mismatch. The Chicago defense forced Andrew Luck into three interceptions and apart from an early Colts defensive touchdown, the Bears were never really challenged.
Green Bay played in a playoff preview last week and ended up losing to the San Francisco 49ers. A season-opening loss against a top-five team isn't ideal for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations of its own. Having an easier season opener usually works best, and the Packers felt the effects when they lost a tight game.
After some trash talking over the past week, the Bears vs. Packers should be an exciting and heated game. Here's a look at six players to watch in Thursday night's matchup.
Cutler clearly has a main target, his name is Brandon Marshall
If there is one guarantee for this game, it's that Brandon Marshall will get significantly more targets than the rest of the Bears receivers.
Against the Colts, Marshall racked up 119 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions. The ball was thrown to him 15 times, nine more times than anybody else on the team.
Getting 15 targets a game means you are the undisputed No. 1 option and that the quarterback relies on you to catch what he throws.
The Packers defense didn't played well in Week 1, and it also finished last in the league last year in passing yards allowed.
Jay Cutler should be licking his chops for this game.
Having a target like Marshall gives the Bears the potential to destroy the Packers in the air. If Marshall is able to create separation from the double and maybe even triple coverage that he sees, then he could be looking at an extremely productive week.
The defensive leader of the Packers will need to help to get the team back on track
Clay Matthews is certainly a player to watch in Thursday night's game. The entire Bears offensive line will be watching him very closely.
Matthews wasn't a tackling machine last week, but he did record 2.5 sacks against the 49ers.
The Bears are going to need to pay close attention to Matthews because he's the kind of player that can change the game with one play. Whether it's a blindside sack on the quarterback or an interception, Matthews has a unique sense of where the ball is and on how to make a play on it.
Consistently getting to Cutler in this game will be crucial for the Packers defense. It will create opportunities for other players based off the decisions Cutler makes because of the pressure.
Matthews will be the one leading that charge.
A consistent pass rush from Peppers should help to limit the Packers passing game
Apart from recovering a fumble against the Colts, Julius Peppers had a below average game.
Did he provide pressure on the quarterback? Yes, he absolutely did. Unfortunately, providing pressure won't be enough when the Bears play the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers is too elusive and throws the ball too well on the run for pressure to make much of an impact. The only way to take Rodgers out of his game is to hit him and hit him often.
Peppers is dealing with plantar fasciitis, which is definitely a painful injury, but it also can't be used as an excuse.
Come Thursday night, Peppers will show that it won't be.
Benson is going to need to be more consistent with the football
When people think of Green Bay, they think of Rodgers and their ridiculous passing game.
It's about time for the Packers to supplement their passing attack with some kind of rushing game. That is up to Cedric Benson.
Benson will be playing against the team that drafted him so maybe he can use that as motivation for his season to take off.
Last week, Benson rushed for 19 yards on nine carries. His longest carry was for four yards. Of course, San Francisco has a great run defense, but that kind of performance is still unacceptable.
Expect Benson to run with a purpose against the Bears to give the Packers some kind of spark. The good news? His performance certainly can't be any worse than last week's.
Keeping the receivers in front of Conte is probably at the top of the to-do list
What's the best way for the Bears to stop the Packers from taking full advantage of their passing game? For the Bears to keep all of Green Bay's receivers in front of them.
If the Bears don't let Green Bay's receiving threats behind them, then they'll slow the game down and force Rodgers to make shorter throws—rather than the huge game-changing plays he's used to making.
Chicago free safety Chris Conte will be the one with the most responsibility when it comes to implementing this strategy.
Last week, he had an interception and two deflected passes. They weren't playing the best team in the league, but he still had an excellent performance and that will be necessary against the Packers.
Conte has the potential to keep the Packers passing game in check, but he also has the potential to cost the Bears the game by giving up one big play.
The pressure on Conte is high, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to it.
Charles Woodson will have to be the anchor against the Bears passing attack
Earlier this week, ESPN's Michael C. Wright reported that Cutler wished "good luck" to the defensive backs of the Packers.
Mike McCarthy, the Packers head coach, then gave his feelings on the Bears receivers:
"Obviously, with the production Brandon Marshall had the first game and the relationship that Marshall and Cutler have from their past in Denver, you can see they got off the way they wanted to. I like the receiver group. It's definitely improved."
The Packers defensive backs are going to need to be smart about how they play this. There's nothing wrong with taking it personally, but they need to focus that energy in a positive way and not get carried away.
No matter what happens, though, it's going to be a fun battle to watch.