Will the Packers be able to have a game plan that involves Aaron Rodgers this week?
This will be the second meeting between the two teams, with the Bears taking the first game at Lambeau Field, 27-20, on Nov. 4. That was the game where the Packers lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whom they still may be without this week.
Even if the Packers don't have Rodgers, they have enough experience against Chicago to be able to put together a solid game plan. Let's take a look and break down what Green Bay needs to do this week to beat the Bears.
The Competitive Edge
Until more information is known about Rodgers' availability, the edge has to go to Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears. While Matt Flynn has looked good at times, he's far too inconsistent to be a real threat to Cutler.
Few running backs in the league are as versatile as Chicago's Matt Forte, while Green Bay's Eddie Lacy is dealing with an ankle injury. That's what ultimately gives them the advantage here. This positional matchup could get really lopsided if Lacy is forced to sit out.
This position has the most talent combined between the two teams. Guys like Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson and Alshon Jefferey are legitimate superstars in this league. The reason the Packers have the slight edge is because of the quick development of Jarrett Boykin. He's quickly turning into a real weapon for Green Bay.
Advantage: Green Bay
After a few solid games, Andrew Quarless really struggled last week for the Packers. Martellus Bennett, on the other hand, is having a career year for Chicago. He's graded as the fifth-best receiving tight end in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Both offensive lines have struggled at times this year, especially in pass protection. In fact, the play of the offensive line will be a huge factor in who wins this game. After getting dominated last week by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears offensive line heads in a hair lower than the Packers.
Advantage: Green Bay
The defensive line was once the strength of the defense for Green Bay. Unfortunately, it has become the whipping boys in recent weeks. The Bears not only have more talent, but also get way more production from their group than the Packers defensive line.
Chicago got outside linebacker Lance Briggs back last week. While he struggled in his first action since Week 7, his leadership and presence add a whole new dimension to the Bears linebackers corps. The Packers will definitely be without Clay Matthews, who was ruled out according to Scooby Axson of Sports Illustrated. They could also be without Brad Jones, Mike Neal and Nick Perry (more on that later), which would give the Bears an even bigger advantage.
The secondaries for both teams have disappointed at times this year. However, the Packers' unit has been worse on a more consistent basis, especially the play of the safeties.
Advantage: Green Bay
Packers Offense vs. Bears Defense
Any Green Bay fan who watched the Bears defense get demolished by the Philadelphia Eagles last week is probably feeling quite good about this matchup. Unfortunately, the Packers don't possess a high-octane offense like the Eagles.
The good news for the Packers is that the Bears defense is extremely porous. The bad news is that Green Bay may be without both Rodgers and Lacy in this game. If that is the case, then the Packers desperately need Flynn to have another career game.
Flynn certainly has the receiving weapons around him in Nelson, Boykin and James Jones, but he'll need to play much more consistently than he has in recent weeks. If Flynn can get the ball into his playmakers' hands, the Packers have a good chance at putting points on the board.
Packers Defense vs. Bears Offense
As bad as the Bears have been on defense in recent weeks, the Packers defense hasn't been too far behind. They currently grade out as the eighth-worst overall defense in the league, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). In fact, the Packers defense made the Pittsburgh Steelers offense look like an elite unit last week.
Where the Bears can really take advantage of Green Bay is with the ground game. They need to pound the ball with Forte and let him wear down the Packers defensive line. The good news for Chicago is that the Packers defensive line has absolutely been horrid in the second half of this season.
If the ground game isn't working for Chicago, the Bears can still turn to Cutler and his duo of talented receivers. Both Marshall and Jeffery have the size and talent to give the secondary of Green Bay fits.
The reality is that the Packers defense needs top performances from the likes of Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and the defensive line. If any of those struggle, the Bears offense could end up putting too many points on the board for the Packers to handle.
The Packers' struggles on special teams continued last week when they gave up a number of big returns to the Steelers. However, they also got the most production from their return game, thanks to Micah Hyde finally making some plays.
Green Bay will really have its hands full with return specialist Devin Hester this week. Hester is capable of taking any kick return to the house, as the Packers know all too well.
What the Packers really need to do is have a push with special teams this week. That means that they can give up a big return as long as they make one later in the game. However, if the Packers lose the battle of special teams, it'll be tough for them to win.
|Brad Jones||LB||Ankle||Did Not Practice|
|Eddie Lacy||RB||Ankle||Did Not Practice|
|Mike Neal||LB||Abdomen||Did Not Practice|
|Nick Perry||LB||Foot||Did Not Practice|
|Ryan Pickett||DL||Knee||Did Not Practice|
|Aaron Rodgers||QB||Collarbone||Limited Participation|
The Packers didn't practice on Wednesday due to it being Christmas Day, but they still released their injury report.
We've already touched on Matthews being out for Sunday, but the fact that they could also be without Neal, Jones and Perry in the linebackers corps would be a major loss. While it's unlikely to come to that, it's still a possibility.
Those losses would certainly hurt, but the biggest potential loss this week would be Lacy. He re-injured his ankle against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week and missed a good chunk of the second half.
If neither he nor Rodgers can play on Sunday, the Packers offense will have an extremely difficult time of getting anything going.
The Packers Will Win If...
Green Bay will prevail if its defense can make a handful of stops because of how awful the Bears defense has been this season. Take a look at the table below concerning Chicago and its defense:
|Yards Per Game||386.0||28th|
|Points Per Game||27.7||28th|
Via NFL.com and Pro Football Focus
This is a Bears team giving up over 27 points per game and an average of nearly 400 yards of total offense. The overall defensive grade for Chicago from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) is nearly twice as bad as the second-worst defense.
If the Packers offense can't move the ball on the Bears, then Green Bay doesn't deserve to win this game.