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Chicago Bears: 5 Things to Watch for During Packers Game

Bob BajekAnalyst IIISeptember 21, 2011

Chicago Bears: 5 Things to Watch for During Packers Game

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    Ah, it's time for a good 'ole Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers showdown Sunday at Soldier Field.

    The last time these two powerhouses met, they played in the NFC Championship game, where Green Bay won 21-14.

    The Bears (1-1) are coming off a horrible 30-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints, where Gabe Carimi, Major Wright and Earl Bennett all left the game injured. Safety Chris Harris also is injured, and the running and passing games are not producing.

    Meanwhile, the Packers (2-0) have a quick start after winning Super Bowl XLV. Now healthy, the Pack Attack look to extend their winning streak to three straight over the Bears.

    Here are five things to watch for when the game kicks off.

How Will the Bears' Running Game Fair Aginst Green Bay's 3-4 Defense?

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    The Chicago Bears are historically a run-first football team, as their four Hall of Fame backs would attest to the philosophy's effectiveness.

    So far, the Bears are ranked 27th in the league while averaging 74 yards their first two games, with featured back Matt Forte having just 117 yards.

    The offensive line has not helped with poor blocking. Primary backup and former Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber has a calf injury and might miss Sunday's game. Third stringer Kahlil Bell has not been much of a force, averaging 2.1 yards a carry.

    Green Bay's rush defense is ranked sixth, giving up 76 yards a game and only one touchdown on the ground. The Packers 3-4 defense has elite linebackers Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk, and a tough nose tackle in B.J. Raji who stop the run.

Will Jay Cutler Survive Uninjured?

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    Quarterback Jay Cutler does not know who is the enemy: the opposing defenders or the offensive line.

    No. 6 has been sacked 11 times and has sustained numerous quarterback hits and knockdowns in 2011.

    Some of the hits were especially nasty, including a blind side sack that left tackle J'Marcus Webb and tight end Kellen Davis allowed.

    With right tackle Gabe Carimi out with a dislocated knee for about a month, Frank Omiyale, a horrible blocker, will take his place. See how Packers' defensive coordinator Dom Capers exploits Omiyale's weakness with linebacker blitzes.

    For the Bears to counter, they need Davis and Matt Spaeth to provide the O-line with blocking assistance.

Will Devin Hester and Johnny Knox Step Up?

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    Chicago's receivers have not been stellar this campaign, as running back Matt Forte leads the team both in receptions (15) and yards (207).

    Last week, top receiver Roy Williams did not play against the Saints and Earl Bennett was promptly injured. Their absence demonstrated how weak the Bears' passing game is when they are not on the field.

    For Chicago to be successful, receivers Devin Hester and Johnny Knox need to step up. Both were shut down by the Saints and have failed to reach the end zone this season.

    One area of opportunity for Hester and Knox to exploit is the injury to Green Bay's Nick Collins. The Prowl Bowl safety is out for the year, with Charlie Peprah taking his place. Offensive coordinator needs to call some inside slant plays to Hester and Knox in Peprah's vicinity for them to try to make him miss.

Will Secondary Hold Against Aaron Rodgers and Co.?

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    The Bears' secondary has been a bit down and out, with injuries to stating safeties Chris Harris and Major Wright.

    Not having both starters allowed Drew Brees to slowly pick apart the Bears' defense last Sunday.

    Aaron Rodgers is simply on fire, and he has the offensive line and weapons to succeed. He could be aiming for Brandon Meriweather, Chris Conte and Craig Steltz all day and make Chicago's defense wish it were somewhere else by Soldier Field.

    Chicago is a bit more sound with its cornerback situation. Defensive coordinator Ron Marinelli should have more nickel coverages and dime coverages, maybe with subbing a safety out instead of the usual linebacker to make up for its weakened safety unit to contain Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and company from big plays.

Will Chicago Get Its Fight Back After Losing to Saints?

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    After handily disposing of Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 11, the Bears got a reality check in a shellacking at the Saints' hands.

    Problems with all offensive phases and the secondary were revealed in full view, so the team's a work in progress.

    The good news: The season is two games old with 14 remaining, so there is more football to be played.

    Green Bay is a huge contest gauging if Chicago is truly a playoff contender.

    Winning would move the Bears to 2-1 and closer to the NFC North's top. Losing would provide only more doubts and questions.

    They will be looking to defend their home field and get revenge for January's playoff loss.

    However, Green Bay will be playing its hardest to shut down Chicago to reassert its dominance.

    The Bears need a quick lead to set the tempo. If not, Green Bay will do that, and Chicago does not want to play catch up with the Packers' defense.

    Bob Bajek is a freelance reporter and can be followed at Patch.com and Twitter.

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