Green Bay Packers: Even at 6-3, Mike McCarthy Must Stay Focused On Chicago Bears
Former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka once stated that he never despised the Green Bay Packers. That testament to the truth is now being tested this regular season.
If there were ever a more fitting word than "persistent" to describe the 2010 Chicago Bears, I haven't found it.
Here is a team that was poised for yet another controversial season under head coach Lovie Smith, and with Jay Cutler throwing wobbly bullets to the opposing team, the start of a new NFL decade seemed destined to be christened with a losing record.
I guess there's still time for that though.
But while some of us are still waiting for the encore in regards to the Bears overall standings, right now in November, Chicago are doing what the classic 1990's "Hang in there Kitty" poster suggested by remaining in the hunt for the NFC North division crown.
Sticking with the persistent theme, the Chicago Bears are facing a prime opportunity this Sunday. A visit by the Minnesota Vikings is set to rock 61,000 plus seats at Soldier Field, all the while a win over the Purple People Eaters would place Lovie Smith's crew right back atop the division, tied with Mike McCarthy's men.
So where do the Green Bay Packers fit in with all of the headline grabbing news?
Seemingly nowhere in Week 10. The Packers have a bye week in which they have some serious questioning to attend to, especially when it comes to having crucial games in the second half of the regular season.
For the most part, the feeling around Lambeau Field at this point in the year is one of uneasiness. Yes, the Packers 6-3 record could be taken as a mere luxury after looking at the Packers prolific injury list, however the thought of relaxation certainly isn't being felt throughout the frozen tundra just yet.
And why is that?
Basically due to the least plausible factor entering into the season, the Chicago Bears.
Believe it or not, the Bears are still quite capable of putting the Packers to the sword. A win over the Vikings this Sunday would be far from just favorable for Lovie Smith, but as far as confidence goes, the Bears have been a little low on gas in the past two months.
In Week 9, a perfect example of this occurred: Toronto was the sight, and with a resurgent Buffalo Bills team as the host, the Bears were seen as potential underdogs last week when they took on an upset bound Chan Gailey team who was 0-7 going into the affair.
Luckily for the Bears, they escaped unscathed. Looking back a 22-19 win wasn't all that pretty, but hey, it got the job done, right?
What is scary about the Chicago Bears though, is their defensive presence. The New York Giants may sit atop the defensive rankings in the NFL, but if you take the honor of searching down the list, you may be surprised to see the Bears ranked eighth amongst some of the league's most impressive structures.
What may not act as a surprise to hear is that the Bears are ranked third in defensive rush yards, mainly due to Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher, this year. Both big men have combined for 3.5 sacks on the season, and even though Clay Matthews may be laughing at this statistic with his usual smug grin, sacking the quarterback has been the least of linebacker coach Bob Babich's worries in 2010.
Relating this back to the Packers for one second, it begins to spell out a large area of worries for Green Bay. If there is some kind of "out of the loop" cheesehead out their reading this, offensive tackle Mark Tauscher was placed on injured reserve during the week, after sustaining a shoulder injury in Week 4.
Therefore, now that the Packers are short one of their best right tackle, the Bears (or anyone else for that matter) have an easy shot at the up and coming Aaron Rodgers for the remaining weeks.
Worried now Packer fans?
As if the Bears defensive presence was enough to keep in mind though, the threat of Jay Cutler has taken a sudden positive swing. Last week against Buffalo, Cutler thew for 188 yards and two touchdowns, and is slowly but surely returning to his Week 1 through 3 form.
Topping all of that off is Matt Forte. As far as big name running backs go, Forte is nowhere near elite status just yet, but the fact that he can ground and pound a team's defense throughout four quarters has added to the Bears weaponry immensely as the year has drawn on.
So what are those questions that the Packers must answer during the week off?
(One) Aaron Rodgers. (Two) The running game. And (Three) the direction toward the postseason.
This time last year the Packers had placed their offensive woes firmly behind them, after a convincing win over the Dallas Cowboys. Yet again Green Bay achieved this feat this season, so perhaps this is a small omen for Packer fans to hold close as the season progresses.
Still, there are many issues that need sorting. The defense is stellar right now under Dom Capers, yet at the same time big name players on the offense (ie. Donald Driver) have been going unnoticed for the past three weeks.
Is this really a player that Green Bay want to leave out for the rest of the year?
Sure the progression of James Jones has been nice, but they don't call Donald Driver one of the most underrated players in the NFL for nothing.
Green Bay aren't exactly walking a tightrope right now, but the bye week needs to be taken seriously. Aaron Rodgers is a humorous character by nature, but his inability to get the entire job done has meant the difference between an unbeaten record, and three losses this year.
It could be stated as nitpicks, or it could be taken seriously. We all saw how hard the bye week can bite in Chad Ochocinco's case, who chose to work on his trash talk rather than his skills that needed desperate attention.
Mike McCarthy isn't one to let this happen, and neither should the rest of the team. The Bears are still hot on the Packers trail, and at the same time, so are the Minnesota Vikings to a much smaller degree.
Going to sleep halfway through the year isn't the Packers nature, and maybe that is due to Vince Lombardi, but this season, it definitely shouldn't be a scenario we will see play out in the next six weeks.
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Ryan Cook is an Australian Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also an NFL columnist for Real Sports Net and a Green Bay Packers writer for Fan Huddle and PackerChatters. Ryan is also a contributing writer for Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Generation Y Sports.
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