Green Bay Packers Prove They Are the Team to Beat in the NFC North

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IISeptember 14, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 13: Tom Crabtree #83 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with fans after a 27-yard touchdown reception on a fake field goal during first half play against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on September 13, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images


FINAL—Green Bay Packers 23, Chicago Bears 10.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had some fighting words for the Green Bay Packers secondary prior to their encounter on Thursday Night Football.

"Good luck" stopping the Bears, were the words he used, and whilst he was obviously just trying to gear his team up for a game against their fiercest rival in the league, his comments did seem to be semi-valid given what had unfolded the week before.

Cutler had thrown for 333 yards and two touchdowns as the Bears chalked up a 20-point victory against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Packers, on the other hand, had been beaten at home by the San Francisco 49ers, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing a late interception that all but ended their chase at a remarkable comeback. 

The Detroit Lions also won a close one against the St. Louis Rams, as did the Minnesota Vikings as the Jacksonville Jaguars, and despite the fact that the season was only one week old, the Green Bay Packers were sitting dead last in the NFC North.

Many were beginning to talk about whether or not Mike McCarthy's team were even the team to beat in the North anymore—stating that both the Bears and Lions could topple the Packers this season and could even be touted as divisional favorites.

ESPN, as it were, would be discussing whether the Lions were the "team to beat" after the conclusion of the Packers vs. Bears match in their post-game show.

I wonder if that conversation ended up happening.

What had just transpired out on Lambeau Field Thursday night more than likely ended any discussion about divisional favorites, potential upsets and the Packers slipping from their mantle atop of the NFC North.

The beatdown that Jay Cutler and the Bears' offense took from Clay Matthews and the Packers defense proved that Green Bay is still the team to catch in the North this year—period.

The 23-10 victory might be viewed as ugly by some—I'd happily argue against that point for the rest of this weekend. Just because Rodgers didn't complete at 90 percent, throw six touchdowns to six different receivers and take himself out of the game just after halftime, it doesn't mean that this win was not at all a strong showing from Green Bay.

We know that the Packers' passing game is good; what we were waiting for was the consistency on the ground and the the aggressive pressure back in their defense. And that's exactly what we got on Thursday night.

Dom Capers' defense—led by Clay Matthews up front and Tramon Williams in the secondary—was simply superb from top to bottom. The Bears wide receivers did drop some passes—most notably Brandon Marshall in the end-zone—but ultimately, this was a dominant and complete performance from the Packers defense, something that was missing nearly all of last season.

Chicago finished the night with just 74 passing yards, courtesy of seven sacks—four of which came from Clay Matthews, who terrorized the Bears' offensive line all night. 

The secondary picked off Cutler four times; the ground game picked up over 100 yards rushing and they threw in a special teams touchdown on a fake field goal.

It was, in every sense of the word, a complete performance from the Green Bay Packers and one that will give them great confidence for the season. It wasn't perfect—those games never happen—but it was everything that the Packers desired the outcome to be.

A win, a beating and a statement—that's what Thursday night was.

And it didn't stop on the field, with veteran safety Charles Woodson dropping a little bit of his own trash-talk—this time back on the man who opened fire earlier, Jay Cutler.

"It's the same old Jay [Cutler]. We just need to be in position", Woodson told ESPN. "Jay will throw us the ball..."

Green Bay will have what seems like a mini-weekend before taking on the Seattle Seahawks at home next week on Monday Night Football—a match that they will enter as clear favorites.

They are the favorites for that match, and they are the favorites for the NFC North—not the Lions and not the Chicago Bears.

Anyone who doesn't believe that just needs to watch the tape again.

Are the Green Bay Packers favorites for the NFC North?

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