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Preview: Bears at Green Bay Packers

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Let's start with the 2008 yardage rankings, according NFL.com:

Teams Run Offense Pass Offense Run Defense Pass Defense
Packers 17 8 26 12
Bears 24 21 5 30

Although yardage rankings are not a perfect indicator of a team's offense or defense, it does give a general impression. A couple points to consider when looking at the numbers:

  • The Packers pass defense was only 12th in yardage, but tied for 3rd with 22 INTs and held QBs to the 4th lowest QB rating of 71.9.
  • The Bears pass offense was 21st in yardage, but Denver's pass offense was 3rd best in 2008.
  • The Bears pass defense gave up a lot of yards because they led the league with well over 600 pass attempts against them. Opponents, for whatever reason, preferred to throw the ball. Their opponents QB rating was 77.2; 10th lowest in the league.

The key will be RB Matt Forte. QB Jay Cutler can't carry their offense through the air. Forte didn't have a big game rushing against the Packers either time they played last season, so this will be the first test to see whether the revamped offensive line and the respect afforded to Cutler as a passer will make Forte better. It's a big test for the Packers defensive front seven to see whether their new look 3-4 will be able to stop an elite running back. 

After watching the Packers 1st team offense and defense dominate during the preseason, it's hard to believe they'd fall flat. But the Bears offense should still produce and their special teams will keep it close. Packers 27, Bears 16.

How the games went last season: Packers 37, Chicago 3 and Packers 17, Chicago 20

  • The giant win in Lambeau last season was a fluke game; everything went the Packers way. How can I call it a fluke?The victory happened in the middle of a streak when they lost 7 of 8 games.
  • The loss in Chicago was a complete collapse by the special teams. 
  • One thing both games had in common was that Chicago couldn't get anything going on offense. Forte had 104 yards of offense in the 1st game, and 101 with a TD in the 2nd one, but QB Kyle Orton only managed 133 yards and 142 yards passing.

How the games will go in 2009.

In 2008, Denver's pass offense was 3rd in yardage and their run offense was 12th. The 2009 Bears won't be as good as the 2008 Broncos just because Cutler is in town, but he'll close the gap. I'd compare their new offense to the 2008 Cowboys. Dallas won in Lambeau last season, but that was due mostly to a bad game from the Packers offense. If DT B.J. Raji and LB Clay Matthews don't start, the Packers defensive personnel is the same as it was last season. The only big exception is the return of DE Cullen Jenkins who missed both games against the Bears in 2008. The big test will be whether the new 3-4 defense can do what it was brought in to do: improve the pass rush and improve the run defense. 

On the other side of the field, when the Packers offense squares up against the Bears defense, both teams will be looking at nearly the exact same personnel running the exact same systems from last season. The Packers managed 427 yards and 325 yards of offense in the two games against Chicago last season, so there's no reason the offense won't be able to move the ball again in 2009.

Can Packers new special teams coach Shawn Slocum turn around a unit that was so bad against Chicago last season? That'll be something else to watch during the game.