Green Bay Packers: 5 Keys to Success Against the Chicago Bears
The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears have on of the biggest, if not the biggest, rivalries in the NFL. With the NFC North title in sight, the rivalry will be as heated as ever as both teams fight for a spot in the playoffs.
The Packers are hot right now. Despite suffering injuries to key players in key positions, they keep finding way to win. The Packers are 7-1 in their last eight games after starting the season 2-3.
After such a promising start for the Bears, they are now struggling mightily. After starting 7-1, the Bears have lost four of their last five games, including two straight coming in to this week.
The Packers can't sleep on this struggling Bears team. Even though they are struggling, they are a dangerous team, especially defensively. The Packers will need to focus on five different things in order to be successful on Sunday.
5. Establish the Run
In order to protect Rodgers, the Packers will need to focus on running the ball effectively.
The Packers have had some surprising success in the last few weeks running the ball. They have ran for over 100 yards in three straight games, with some help from multiple players.
Alex Green has been able to step up with the injury to Cedric Benson. He has ran for 429 yards this year, averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
Green will need to be ready to get the majority of the carriers on Sunday, and be able to run the ball well.
Other than Green, the Packers have a few other options running the ball on Sunday. Ryan Grant returned to the Packers last week after the injury to James Starks. While Grant only ran the ball once against the Detroit Lions, he still gained 13 yards on that one run.
DuJuan Harris appeared as well against the Lions, after receiving praise from Mike McCarthy during the week. He has able to run for 31 yards on seven carries, including a 14-yard touchdown run.
With an established running game, a lot of the pressure will be taken off Rodgers. The play-action fake will be more effective, giving him opportunities down the field.
4. Exploit Injured Chicago Defense
While the Packers are finally beginning to get healthy, the Bears are beginning to get a long list of injuries.
The Packers will need to exploit the Bears' defense that will be without some key players. According to their player profiles on ESPN, Brian Urlacher will be out and Tim Jennings is questionable for Sunday.
Without one or both of these players, the Bears will be in trouble.
Rodgers will need to exploit these injuries, looking for favorable match ups on the less experienced backups. If Rodgers can find holes in the defense, it should be a big day for him and the offense.
3. Protect Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is the most sacked quarterback in the NFL this season. In just 13 games, he has been sacked 42 times.
The Bears defense will look to dominate the Packers' offensive line and get to Rodgers often.
The Bears rank ninth in the league in sacks, getting to the opposing quarterback 33 times. Players like Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije will look to hit Rodgers as much as possible.
The Packers will need a good day from their offensive line if they hope to win this game. With injuries to Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga, the Packers have struggled to protect Rodgers.
However, undrafted rookie Don Barclay has been a pleasant surprise for the Packers, playing well in his first two career games. The Packers will need him to continue playing well in order to keep Rodgers on his feet.
2. Contain Brandon Marshall
The Bears have one real threat at wide receiver, and that is Brandon Marshall.
Marshall has been a nightmare for most defenses, and has found ways to burn them. His athleticism and strength make him a player to keep an eye on in every game.
Marshall is having an incredible year. He is first in the league with 101 receptions already. He also has 1,342 yards and nine touchdowns, ranking second and third respectively in the league.
Marshall is by far the Bears best option to throw to. The second best receiver on the team is Alshon Jeffery, who has just 19 catches for 256 yards.
The Packers will likely need to put as much of their attention on Marshall as possible. With a secondary that is getting healthier, several players will be available to cover Marshall.
Tramon Williams did a decent job against Calvin Johnson last week, and will need to play just as well if not better this week. Sam Shields returned from an ankle injury last week and played great against the Lions, allowing only two catches thrown at him.
Casey Hayward is having a phenomenal rookie year with five interceptions, and the team is trusting him to cover superstar receivers.
If Marshall can be contained, there won't be much that the passing game can do.
1. Pressure Jay Cutler
Packers fans may hate him, but they do love how he tends to play against their team.
Jay Cutler has always struggled against the Packers in his career. In seven meetings (as a Bear), Cutler has thrown eight touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a passer rating of just 60.5.
He had trouble in their first meeting this season, throwing four interceptions for a passer rating of 28.2.
If the Packers want to keep Cutler's bad streak against them going, they are going to need to have constant pressure on him. While the Packers have struggled to get to the quarterback the past few games, they may have their best weapon coming back.
Clay Matthews is expected to play against the Bears after missing several games due to a hamstring injury (via ESPN).
If the Packers can get to Cutler often, he will become flustered and make some bad throws. If this can happen, expect an easy victory for Green Bay, and a divisional title.