Preview: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Waiting for Monday Night Football is going to be hard this week because I want to see the Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears NOW! OK, I'll be quiet and wait in the corner. 

While I'm doing that, here are the official rankings from NFL.com

Team Run Offense Pass Offense Run Defense Pass Defense
Packers 14 16 28 3
Team Run Defense Pass Defense Run Offense Pass Offense
  Bears   1 27 28 3

I haven't watched the Bears that closely this season, but it looks like they are playing great in some areas, and struggling badly in others.

Meanwhile the Packers offense is good at everything, especially scoring (No. 3 overall at 30 points per game). Their pass defense is getting too much credit for shutting down non-QB Trent Edwards last week, while the run defense is looking worse than it is because they had no answer to QB Michael Vick's legs in week 1.

And what's this game doing on in September? All of the Packers' recent games in Chicago have either been late in the year and very cold, at night, in bad weather, or all of the above. The last time the Packers played at Soldier Field in September, the Bears had Kordell Stewart in at QB (2003).

My complete analysis is after the jump. 

Packers pass offense vs. Bears pass defense. While the pass offense is only 16th overall in the official standings (based on yardage) they're doing something right because they're 3rd in the league and have averaged 30 points per game. Also, QB Aaron Rodgers was nearly perfect in the 2nd half against the Bills, so he is apparently rounding into his MVP form. Meanwhile, the Bears gave up over 370 yards passing last week, and only slowed the Cowboys down thanks to a couple big INTs. Their cover-2 defense needs the front four to pressure the QB so their LBs can drop back in coverage, so it's crucial that LT [Insert Clifton or Bulaga Here] can keep DE Julius Peppers away from Rodgers. Can the Bears force turnovers? Can the Packers offensive line force the Bears to blitz their LBs? Two big questions, and I expect both to favor the Packers.

Packers run offense vs. Bears run defense. Yes, the Packers run offense is actually ranked higher than the pass offense, and even Football Outsiders has them ranked high at No. 3 overall. Yes, the Bears run defense has been nearly perfect, allowing only 28 yards/game. True, the Bears have seen the 2nd fewest rushing attempts this season, but they are still holding opponents to well under 2 yards/carry. As usual, the run offense won't be the focal point of the offense, but they'll run for better then 28 yards.

Bears run offense vs. Packers run defense. Sit down for this, but Mike Martz doesn't like to run the ball and he's a "pass-happy" offensive coordinator. He's ran the ball a little, 50 attempts in their first two games, but they're averaging under a 3 yards/carry. According to Football Outsiders, RB Matt Forte is one of the worst backs at running this season. The Packers have a low ranking, but they've looked decent whenever they've tried to stop someone other than QB Michael Vick from running. The run defense is just as good as last year, except rookie SS Morgan Burnett is clearly step down from SS Atari Bigby in run support (while he's better in coverage).

Bears pass offense vs. Packers pass defense. Did I say Matt Forte was one of the worst? Well Football Outsiders says he's the best running back in the NFL as a receiver. I didn't think highly of the Mike Martz hiring, but he's better than Ron Turner who was finally fired after last season. The combination of Martz, and former Vikings head coach and new Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice, have given QB Jay Cutler a better offensive scheme and better pass protection. Over at Windy City Gridiron, they looked at a potential matchup of CB Charles Woodson on WR Devin Hester, which is likely at the start of the game, but in the end Woodson will cover whoever Cutler is targeting the most. He certainly hasn't found a favorite target this season. WR Devin Aromashudu led the team with 10 targets in week 1, and then wasn't used at all in week 2. The expected top 2 WRs (Hester and Johnny Knox) were the two yardage leaders last week. Cutler is certainly spreading the ball around. And that might be the best strategy, as they look to expose rookie CB Sam Shields.

Wildcard: special teams. I'm not expecting P Tim Masthay will carry the Packers to victory, but thanks in part to his decent punting (his net average is 20th overall), which is a huge improvement over last year's fiasco, the special teams are ranked No. 5 overall according to Football Outsiders. The top two stars are K Mason Crosby (who's perfect on kicks so far) and WR Jordy Nelson, who has delivered a few quality returns. Also the kick and punt coverage, while still not an elite unit, is much better this season thanks in part to some new coverage guys like TE Tom Crabtree. Usually the Bears have a huge advantage in this area, but they've gotten off to a slow start, especially on punt coverage where they've already surrendered one TD return to WR Dez Bryant last week.

The Bears are going to need a big game (i.e. no turnovers) from Cutler, who threw 6 INTs combined against the Packers last season. If the Bears defense can force turnovers, and win the field position battle on special teams, the Bears could find themselves scoring the 27-30 points they need to win. The Packers haven't lost a game to an opponent who's scored under 30 points against them since 2008. But as a Packer homer, I'm expecting the Packers will be able to throw the ball and move down the field without turning the ball over. Packers 28, Bears 14.

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