Running back Eddie Lacy is going to be a big part of the Green Bay Packers game plan against the Chicago Bears.
While games between these two teams usually are marquee matchups, this particular game won't quite feel the same. For starters, both the Packers and the Bears are facing a numerous amount of injuries, including quarterback Jay Cutler and outside linebacker Lance Briggs for Chicago.
Now this doesn't mean this game won't be enjoyable because both teams are still guaranteed to bring their absolute best to the field. However, we shouldn't be surprised if this contest doesn't have the same competitiveness as it usually would.
Let's break down what Green Bay's game plan is going to need to be in order for the Packers to come away with the win in Week 9.
The Competitive Edge
The Bears are without Cutler and will be starting backup quarterback Josh McCown. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, is making impossible throws look ridiculously easy. This one wouldn't even be close if Cutler were healthy.
Advantage: Green Bay
The combination of James Starks and Eddie Lacy was quite explosive last week against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears also have a great one-two punch in Matt Forte and Michael Bush. This one is close, but Forte's versatility ultimately gives Chicago the edge.
At the start of the season, the advantage would have gone to the Packers. However, with Randall Cobb out and James Jones' status unknown, the combination of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery gets the edge here.
Martellus Bennett has been a rather pleasant surprise for the Bears so far this season. Even if Jermichael Finley were healthy, Chicago would still have a slight advantage. However, with Finley out with a neck injury, the Bears have a huge advantage here.
The Bears have a better offensive line in terms of run blocking. However, the fact that they have the second-worst pass-blocking offensive line in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) negates any advantage they had. The Packers offensive line, on the other hand, has been solid in both the ground and passing game.
Advantage: Green Bay
On paper, the Bears should have a much better defensive line. However, defensive end Julius Peppers has been rather disappointing this season. As for the Packers, their defensive line has been fantastic against the run and is starting to get things going in terms of getting pressure on the quarterback.
Advantage: Green Bay
If Lance Briggs were healthy, the Bears would easily have the advantage here. However, with Briggs out, the Packers have the slight edge. This is mostly due to the outstanding play of A.J. Hawk in recent weeks.
Advantage: Green Bay
If Charles Tillman is at 100 percent, and all signs point to him being completely healthy, the Bears boast one of the best cornerback duos in the league. Both Tillman and Tim Jennings are fantastic playmakers who can slow down any opposing receiver. As for the Packers, the return of Casey Hayward should be felt even more this week, but it still isn't enough to give them the edge here.
The only name that matters here is Devin Hester. We all know how dangerous he is, and he gives the Bears a major advantage.
Packers Offense vs. Bears Defense
The Packers offense has been on a tear in recent weeks. It scored 31 points against the Cleveland Browns in Week 7 and dropped 44 points on Minnesota last week. Considering the Bears have the second-worst defense in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (paid link), the Packers could enjoy another offensive explosion this week.
Where the Bears have really struggled on defense is in slowing down the run. They're allowing 117.3 rushing yards per game and have given up eight touchdowns on the ground. As for the Packers ground game, the team's 141.4 rushing yards per game is currently good enough for third-best in the league.
What this means is that the Packers will likely be relying on Lacy and Starks to provide a good chunk of the offense. The two combined for 36 carries, 151 yards and two touchdowns last week. Don't be surprised if they once again get 30-plus carries and have a big game on the ground.
The other key for the Packers offense will be to limit turnovers. This should be easy with Rodgers at quarterback, but few defenses are as good at forcing teams to make mistakes as the Bears.
As long as the Packers can play a clean game offensively and successfully pound the ball on the ground, they should have no difficulties enjoying positive results on the offensive side of the ball.
Packers Defense vs. Bears Offense
The good news for the Packers defense in this game is that it won't really have to be concerned with any type of passing offense from Chicago. Without Jay Cutler, the Bears will be relying on the unimpressive Josh McCown to lead them offensively.
While wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are definitely dangerous, it'll be hard for them to be impact players without their starting quarterback getting them the ball. The Packers have also had good success at slowing down a team's No. 1 receiver with cornerback Sam Shields.
He was extremely effective against A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals and Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns. Shields will likely be matched up with Marshall this week and should have success against him.
Since the Packers don't have to be concerned about the Bears aerial attack, they can focus on Matt Forte and the ground game. Considering the Packers are only giving up an average of 83.6 rushing yards per game, good for the fourth-lowest in the league, the Bears will likely struggle to get things going on the ground.
There aren't many times when the Packers defense has such a huge advantage over an opposing offense, but due to injuries for Chicago, this is one of those weeks. Look for the defense to have one of its best games of the season this week.
The Packers have been struggling on special teams for the past two weeks. They gave up a handful of huge returns against the Browns and followed that up with a 109-yard kickoff return touchdown against Minnesota.
With Devin Hester coming to town this week, the Packers simply can't afford to struggle with their special teams coverage again. With that said, it hasn't all been bad for the Packers special teams.
Last week, the unit saw cornerback Micah Hyde return a punt for a touchdown, which was its first special teams touchdown on the season. Of course, Hyde is nowhere near as dangerous as Hester, but he has seemed to find a niche as a return man.
Green Bay needs to break even in this area of the game to ensure a victory. If it gives up a touchdown, it'll need to get one back. As long as the Packers can do that, they should be just fine.
The Packers Will Win If...
They slow down Matt Forte.
With Cutler out, the entire offense for the Bears is going to revolve around Forte. Even with Cutler on the field, you could easily argue that Forte is still the Bears' best offensive player.
Much like they did last week against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, the Packers need to force the Bears to beat them through the air. This means they'll need to put eight men in the box on a consistent basis.
Slowing down Forte also means limiting him as a receiver out of the backfield. The Packers defense will need to keep an eye on Forte on passing plays.
The key number for the Packers is going to be 100. If they can keep Forte under 100 total yards of offense, they should have absolutely no problem slowing down the Bears offense.