Bears vs. Packers: 5 Big Questions for Sunday Night's Matchup

Michael KimbleContributor IIIDecember 24, 2011

Bears vs. Packers: 5 Big Questions for Sunday Night's Matchup

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    On Christmas Night, two fierce division rivals, the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, will face off in Lambeau Field. Both teams are going in having lost last week, but they will still be playing for two very different things.

    After starting 7-3, the Bears have fallen to 7-7 after four straight losses with quarterback Caleb Hanie. On Sunday, they will be fighting for a spot in the playoffs as a Wild Card since Green Bay has already clinched the division.

    The Packers have already easily clinched a playoff berth and are playing for one more win to get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But despite the Bears' struggles, this will not be easy, as they Bears have always played the Packers tough. Even though they are hurting with injuries, the Bears could still keep this game close and come away with a win.

    Here are five big questions that will likely determine the outcome of Sunday Night's game between the Bears and Packers.

5. Will Weather Be a Factor?

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    Lambeau Field has been known for being a frozen tundra around this time of year, so a white Christmas wouldn't be out of the question for the Packers and the Bears.

    Many have wondered how weather could impact the Packers, as their offense seems to perform better under the controlled conditions of a dome. However, because they live in Green Bay, they are likely used to the cold weather.

    So, while I don't think it will cause them to perform badly, it could certainly slow them down a bit, especially against a tough defense like Chicago has.

    Because of the division rivalry that always keeps this game close and the beat-up offenses for each team, I expect this game to be fairly close and low-scoring. But if it is cold and snowing, that will only increase the likelihood of a defensive game.

4. Will the Packers Defense Take Advantage of a Beat-Up Bears Offense?

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    This should be an easy question. The Packers defense will likely not have their hands full offensively, as they will be playing against Josh McCown at quarterback, a shoddy offensive line, a running game that has lost Matt Forte and a passing game that has lost Johnny Knox.

    I really don't see the Bears offense putting up many points at all, even against a Packers team that has given up big plays this year. They certainly have enough talent to stop an offense that has been killed by injuries in the past few weeks, especially when they have been successfully forcing turnovers against struggling quarterbacks, including Christian Ponder, Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers.

    If the Bears have a shot of winning this game, it won't be with their offense, it will be with their defense and special teams.

3. Will Devin Hester and the Return Game Give the Bears a Spark?

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    While the Bears offense will not be a significant threat, Devin Hester on special teams just might. Hester is said to be one of the best special teams return men in the league, and he has taken a few of the Packers' kickoffs back for touchdowns. Many times, that has given the Bears a much-needed spark.

    If the Bears offense struggles, Devin Hester may be called upon to give this Bears team some points. And if this turns out to be a low-scoring, defensive matchup, a kick return or two could be all the points the Bears need to pull off an upset.

2. Will the Bears Defense Take Advantage of a Beat-Up Packers Offensive Line?

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    This might be the biggest concern for the Packers. They are dealing with a number of injuries on their offensive line, with three backups starting on the line, and several starters have had to shuffle their positions.

    The Bears defense is one of the best in the league, and they pride themselves on getting to the quarterback. Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers will likely be flying all over the field in pursuit of a playoff spot. This Packers offensive line is going to have to be ready to match their intensity and stop this talented defense from putting Aaron Rodgers on the ground.

1. Will the Packers Rest Starters?

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    The Packers still have a chance of locking up home-field advantage before kickoff on Sunday as long as the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers on Christmas Eve. So, if the Seahawks upset the 49ers, which is very possible considering the way they have played in the last few weeks, the Packers may have nothing to play for.

    If the Packers have wrapped up everything, they may put Matt Flynn in at quarterback—a move that may be very wise considering the questionable protection that Aaron Rodgers has on the offensive line this week.

    Even if home-field advantage isn't wrapped up by the game on Sunday night, it still might be a good idea to rest starters against the Bears and then start Rodgers in Week 17 when his offensive line is more healthy.

    Of course, last year, when the Bears had clinched a playoff berth and had nothing to play for, they played all their starters in an effort to keep the Packers out of the playoffs, so why not return the favor?