Despite the Bears 5-7 record, it might be easy to overlook this game since they just ended a 4 game losing streak with a close win over the 1-11 Rams, and they haven't beaten a team with a winning record this season. They did beat the Steelers in week 2, but both the Steelers and Bears have fallen on recent hard times (Steelers have lost their last 5 games, and Bears have lost 4 of their last 5). Here's the Sports Network's Packers vs Bears preview.
Here are the official NFL rankings, based on yardage, from NFL.com:
|Team||Run Offense||Pass Offense||Run Defense||Pass Defense|
Taking a closer look, the official stats by yardage are making the Bears pass offense and pass defense look better than they really are. While the pass offense is moving the ball, QB Jay Cutler is also turning it over, and he has a league leading 20 INTs. Their pass defense has only given up 4 pass plays over 40 yards (tied for 6th best), but they've given up 21 TD passes (tied for 6th worst) and only grabbed 11 INTs. That doesn't make them bad, just average, and they're currently ranked No. 16 overall by Football Outsiders.
RB Ryan Grant vs. the Bears' run defense. His last two games have been forgettable, but that doesn't mean the Bears can stop him. In recent games, the Eagles RB LeSean McCoy had his best game as a pro (99 yards and 1 TD), and RB Steven Jackson ran for 112 yards despite QB Kyle Boller offering nothing to fear from the Rams passing game. They did hold RB Adrian Peterson to 85 yards (3.4 yards/carry) two weeks ago, but only because they put everything into stopping the running game, and the Vikings rolled for 378 yards and 3 TDs through the air. In the cold weather, the Bears might do what the Ravens did last Monday night: keep the safeties in tight and make QB Aaron Rodgers throw down the field, so I'm not expecting a huge game from Grant.
Rodgers vs. the Bears' pass defense. They shut down Boller last week at home, but that was just Kyle Boller. The last time they faced a good QB at home was three weeks ago, when QB Donovan McNabb went for 244 yards, 1 TD, and a QB rating of 101.6 against them. Rodgers just had 263 yards and 3 TDs against the better Ravens pass defense in the cold, so he should be productive again this week.
RB Matt Forte vs. the Packers' run defense. They were great against RB Ray Rice last week, so Forte isn't a bigger challenge. While Rice is ranked by Football Outsiders as one of the best RB this season, Forte is ranked as one of the worst. RB Kahlil Bell had 11 carries last week, but still over 60% of his career yardage has come from one 72 yard run he had against the Eagles. Forte has averaged only 3.4 yards/carry this season, and only had 1 game when he had over 10 carries and averaged over 4 yards/carry. He remains a greater threat as a receiver than as a runner. Despite the numerous injuries on the Packers' defensive line, they should have no trouble limiting the Bears' running attack.
QB Jay Cutler vs. the Packers' pass defense. Cutler had 4 INTs in their first meeting and he hasn't been much better since. LT Orlando Pace is not likely to play, but the 7 time Pro Bowl LT appears to be at the end of the road anyway. The Packers did a great job shutting down Ravens' QB Joe Flacco last week, and the Ravens' best passing play was to try and draw a flag on CB Tramon Williams. That could work again this week, but penalties alone aren't going to win it for the Bears.
Special teams and penalties. While the Packers have an advantage in nearly every other area, here's where the Bears can make it a close game. According to TeamRankings.com, the Bears are 5th worst with 54.3 penalty yards per game, but the Packers are in a league of their own (though the Ravens aren't far behind) with 75.4 penalty yards per game. The Packers special teams continue to be the worst in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders, while the Bears are one of the best. WR Devin Hester isn't the most dangerous punt returner this season, but rookie WR Johnny Knox might be the best kick returner.
If the Bears have a strong return game, and can force a couple turnovers, then this one could be close. But the Packers have taken good care of the ball this season, and should be able to win in Chicago for the first time since 2006. Packers 27, Bears 17.