Packers-Bears Preview: It All Comes Down to the Packers D

Matt Wells@@matt_wells16Correspondent ISeptember 13, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 16:  Running back Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears is stopped by linebackers A.J. Hawk #50 and Brandon Chillar #53 of the Green Bay Packers during the NFL game at Lambeau Field on November 16, 2008 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

For only the third time in NFL history, perhaps the most storied rivalry in the NFL will be on display in Week 1.

Both the Bears and the Packers made a major change in philosophy during the off-season, and our first look at these changes will come in a game that comes with enough standard hype.

The Bears made one of the biggest trades in franchise history in acquiring what fans hope to be their first franchise QB in too long.

The Packers, after an anemic defense was the biggest reason for the lack of a playoff birth, hired 3-4 guru Dom Capers to provide a new look.

The two teams figure to be two-thirds of a three-team race for the NFC North, and this game is huge for both teams, as both teams have tough Week 2 matchups: Chicago plays the reigning champion Pittsburgh Steelers, and Green Bay faces a resurgent Bengals team, whose offense will test the new Green Bay defense.

So in order to see who starts the season in style, lets take a look at the key matchups.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Chicago secondary

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Packers QB Aaron Rodgers put together a phenomenal season in his first as a full-time starter, throwing for 4,000 yards, racking up 32 total touchdowns, and perhaps most importantly, outperforming Brett Favre's disappointing season in New York.

Last time the Bears visited Lambeau, Rodgers led an attack that handed Chicago their worst loss since Lovie Smith took over the head-coaching duties four seasons ago (37-3).

His top two receivers, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, are one of the better tandems in the game, and proved it last season by totaling a combined 3,000 yards and 14 touchdowns.

They face a battered Chicago secondary, who may have to start a disappointing Nathan Vasher and inexperienced Trumaine Mcbride, with top CB Charles Tillman questionable.

Safeties Daniel Manning and Kevin Payne are solid but not spectacular. Payne is more of a hard-hitting run-stopper, while Manning is better in coverage. This potentially leaves one half of the field vulnerable to the Packers aerial attack, and Rodgers was very good with the deep ball last year.

Packers O-line vs. Bears D-line

Historically, the defensive line has been a strong point for the Bears defense, but an absent pass rush led to problems against the passing game last year.

Fortunately for the Bears, management brought in Rod Marinelli as D-line coach, and he should bring improvement in that area.

The Packers line this year will be characterized by its youth and inexperience, starting Daryn Colledge at LG, Jason Spitz at C, Josh Sitton at RG, and Allen Barbre at RT; none of the four are past their fifth year in the league.

LT Chad Clifton brings a familiar veteran presence to the line, as he's been a solid staple at the position for years.

Marinelli should have the big names on the Bears line playing better this year, as Mark Anderson, Tommie Harris, and Alex Brown haven't lived up to the hype they earned in earlier seasons.

The Packers zone blocking scheme will need to be at its best to give Rodgers time to throw and RB Ryan Grant holes to run through.

Overall Packers on Offense: Expect Aaron Rodgers to carry the load for the Packers, and expect a heavy dose of the vertical passing game with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver up the sideline and new weapon Jermichael Finley testing the middle of the field.

Ryan Grant could provide a good complement and keep the defense honest providing the line plays well. There will be points scored.

Matt Forte vs Packers Front 7

Rookie RB Matt Forte was the key cog in the Bears offense last season, accounting for a higher percentage of his team's total yards than any other player in the NFL. The addition of Cutler should only help, keeping defenses from stacking the box against him.

The Packers move to the 3-4, which provides for more creativity with the play-calling and blitz packages.

Because of the Packers secondary, where three out of the four starters have represented Green Bay at the Pro Bowl, including FS Nick Collins and former Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson last year, the Bears vertical passing game will be all but nonexistent.

Despite the speed of Devin Hester, the Bears don't have a receiver capable of keeping the Pack from double teaming Hester, as all the Packer's corners, including nickelback Tramon Williams, excel in man-to-man coverage.

This puts all the more pressure on Forte to be able to move the ball with the short receiving game and running attack, against which the Packers struggled last year.

Forte will need to be able to find holes to run through and keep the chains moving in order for the offense to keep up with the Packers' attack.

Bears' TEs against Packers' LBs

The Bears feature perhaps the best TE duo in the league, with both Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark acting as both receiving threats and capable blockers.

Olsen's size and speed made him a talking point throughout the preseason, as he looks poised for a breakout year.

On paper, the Packers LB's are deep, with many players who will be able to rotate in and out. However, for this game they may be at a disadvantage.

Aaron Kampman is inexperienced at pass coverage, as he will be a Demarcus Ware or Shawne Merriman LB, used primarily as a pash rusher.

Nick Barnett, a solid starter for a couple years at MLB, may or may not be fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered last season, and ILB Desmond Bishop has shown well as a pass rushing LB, but he hasn't stood out in coverage.

Clay Matthews is also recovering from injury, and his rotation partner Jeremy Thompson is a converted DE, so he's in a similar situation as Kampman.

The best the Packers have to combat the Bears' TE threats is so far disappointing AJ Hawk and Brandon Chillar. Hawk looks to live up to the hype that came with being the fifth overall pick in 2006.

His transition into the inside, along with help from new LB coach Kevin Greene, should better utilize the speed and skills that made him a standout LB at Ohio State. Chillar is historically a cover LB, who played well in pre-season.

The Packers will need to be able to cover the Bears' TE if they want to win this game. if the Packers can limit their effectiveness, they will be allowed to bring SS Atari Bigby into the box to contain Matt Forte.

Overall, it will come down to the Packers' LBs covering the Bears' TEs (and Forte coming out of the backfield). The Packers offense, one of the best in the league last year, will be good again and will put up points.

If the defense can show improvements from last year, the game will be the Packers' to lose. If they struggle to transition quickly to the 3-4, the Bears' weapons will take advantage.

Prediction: Packers 31, Bears 20

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