With the Bears likely missing several players for this week's game against the Green Bay Packers, there will be a few backups who will need to step up and play well for Chicago to win on Sunday. This week's 5 Bears to Watch focuses on some of those backups and a couple of key starters who will be important factors in the game.
WR Alshon Jeffery
Brandon Marshall was right about one thing in his ridiculous rant on Wednesday - the Packers are likely going to have to give Jeffery one-on-one coverage on the side of the field opposite Marshall. Jeffery has been banged up and he will be playing in only his third game since week 5 this week, but he's a big, physical receiver and is at least a threat to be an effective weapon in the passing game if the Packers do in fact roll multiple players over to Marshall's side.
I'll be keeping an eye on the battle up front between Garza and Packers' nose tackle B.J. Raji. If Raji can consistently get a good push up front, that will make things easier for Clay Matthews and the other Packers edge rushers to get home and put pressure on Jay Cutler. It also will be imperative for the Bears that Garza get a good push in the run game, as Matt Forte will be a key part in the offensive game plan as always.
Tim Jennings is out, taking his league-leading 8 interceptions away from the Bears' defense. Hayden will start in his place, and while he is a decent cover corner, he doesn't have the turnover capability that Jennings has shown this season. With Charles Tillman opposite him, expect Aaron Rodgers to target Hayden's side of the field early and often.
OLB Geno Hayes
With Nick Roach moving to middle linebacker in Brian Urlacher's place, Hayes has stepped in as the starter at Roach's strong-side linebacker spot. He was a three-year starter for Tampa Bay before this season, but he's been spending most of this year backing up Lance Briggs. Plus, Hayes is listed as questionable on the injury report for this week with a knee injury. I expect him to start, but he'll likely be a target as well for the Packers to try to exploit.
DT Stephen Paea
With disruptive tackle Henry Melton doubtful this week, Paea will be highlighted more as a key player in the middle of the Bears defense. He's been a starter full-time this season, but didn't play last week with a foot injury. He's probable for Sunday, and he'll in all likelihood be one starter, but will need to be an impact player in the middle of the line. I would expect the Packers to try to run up the middle a lot this week to limit the effect that Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije will have rushing the passer on the outside; Paea's play will be a big factor in whether that plan is successful.