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Bears-Packers Week 12 Ultimate Game Preview

Our preview of the oldest rivalry in football, Chicago Bears (4-6) vs. Green Bay Packers (7-3) on Thanksgiving, features notes, quotes, stats of note, matchups, keys and much more.

Game Information

Who: Chicago Bears (4-6) vs. Green Bay Packers (7-3)
When: Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: Lambeau Field
Radio: 780 AM & 105.9 FM

Series History

The Bears and Packers continue the NFL's longest rivalry as they battle for the 192nd time, with the Bears holding a 93-92-6 edge in the series. The Packers have won 10 of the last 11 meetings, including the 2010 NFC Championship game. Green Bay was victorious 31-23 in Week 1 this year. The Bears last beat the Packers in Week 4 of 2013, a 27-20 victory in which Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of the game in the first quarter.

The Bears hit the road for the sixth time in the last nine games. They are 3-2 in away games this season and have won their last two on the road.

Chicago is 16-15-2 all-time on Thanksgiving, dating back to the franchise's inaugural season of 1920 when the Decatur Staleys defeated the Chicago Tigers 6-0 on Nov. 25 at Cubs Park.

Following Thursday night's contest, the Bears return home for back-to-back contests at Soldier Field against the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins.

Bears-Packers Connections

Bears general manager Ryan Pace was a scouting assistant (2002-03) and pro scout (2004-5) with the Saints while Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was New Orleans' offensvie coordinator (2002-04).

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was a defensive assistant with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the USFL from 1984-85 when Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was a defensive backs coach with the Stars. The two would move on to the Saints where Fangio coached the linebackers and Capers oversaw the defensive backs from 1986-91. The coaches would reunite in Carolina (1995-98) and Houston (2002-05) as Capers was the first head coach in each team's history with Fangio as his defensive coordinator.

Packers OLB Julius Peppers spent four seasons (2010-13) as a defensive end with the Bears, starting 64 games and recording 37.5 sacks, three interceptions, nine forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. 

Bears DL Bruce Gaston appeared in two games for Green Bay this season before being waived and signed to the Packers' practice squad. The Bears signed him off Green Bay's practice squad on Oct. 17. 

Head-Coach Comparison

123-95 (.564) Regular Season Record (pct.) 101-52-1 (.659)
8-7 Playoff Record 7-6
14th Years as NFL head coach 10th
1st Years as team's head coach 10th
1-3 Career Head-to-Head 3-1
2-5 Career vs. Team 14-6

Injury Report

**I'll update this section once the official injury report is released later today.**

Head-to-Head Comparison

21.4 (21st) Points Scored 24.9 (10th)
352.1 (16th) Total Offense 341.9 (22nd)
111.7 (15th) Rushing Offense 109.6 (16th)
240.4 (18th) Passing Offense 232.3 (22nd)
24.1 (22nd) Points Allowed 19.8 (T-8th)
340.9 (14th) Total Defense 368.6 (21st)
123.7 (25th) Rushing Defense 114.0 (22nd)
217.2 (4th) Passing Defense 254.6 (22nd)
-3 (22nd) Turnover Ratio +8 (4th)

The Cutler Files

Jay Cutler is coming off his worst game of the season. During Sunday's 15-17 loss to the Broncos, Cutler failed to throw a touchdown for the first time this season, while his two turnovers tied a season high. The Bears were 1-4 in the red zone, extending a year-long trend of struggling near the opponent's goal line.

Coming off a tough outing at Soldier Field, Cutler now goes on the road to Lambeau Field, where he's had very little success throughout his career. In 12 starts against Green Bay, Cutler is just 1-11, with his only victory coming in 2010.

GP/GS Att. Comp. Yards TD INT Rating
Cutler Career vs. GB 12/12 388 219 2,681 15 22 67.2

In the Week 1 meeting, Cutler went 18-for-36 for 225 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

On the season, he has a 63.4 completion percentage (2nd best of his career) and a 92.7 QB rating (best of his career).

Bears on Offense

Matchups to Watch

LG Matt Slauson vs. DE Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels has been a force for Green Bay's defensive line this season. He leads the team in QB hurries (28) and has 4.0 sacks on the year. He's also been nearly impossible to block when playing against the run. Daniels will play both sides of the line of scrimmage, although most of his snaps will come against Matt Slauson, Chicago's best interior blocker. Slauson has given up just 1 sack and 4 QB hurries this season, which is outstanding. If he can keep Daniels from collapsing the pocket in the quarterback's face, that will help keep Cutler upright and comfortable. When running the ball, Slauson is going to need some help. The Bears will need to double team Daniels at the point of attack, otherwise he'll make game-changing plays in the backfield. 

WR Alshon Jeffery vs. Sam Shields

Jeffery (groin) is listed as questionable on the injury report but he's expected to play. While he may not be 100 percent, Jeffery will surely be Cutler go-to target on Thursday night. Last week, with both Jeffery and Eddie Royal sidelined, Cutler failed to throw a touchdown for the first time this season. Jeffery gives Chicago's passing attack its best chance of success on nearly every down, so expect Cutler to look his way 10-plus times. The Packers will use a combination of Sam Shields and Damarious Randall on Jeffery, yet both players are giving up five inches in height. That's an advantage for the Bears, particularly on deep balls, where Jeffery does a lot of his damage. Before sitting out against the Broncos, Jeffery had 100 receiving yards or more in three of his previous four contests, so he'll need to have a major impact if Chicago has any shot of pulling off the upset victory. 

Keys on Offense

-The Bears may struggle to move the ball through the air against Green Bay's trio of quality cornerbacks. Sam Shields and Damarious Randall are difficult cover corners. Randall has a 79.7 QB rating against and nine pass breakups this year, while Shields has a 70.5 rating against and has yet to allow a touchdown. Nickelback Micah Hyde (hip) may not play but Casey Hayward has been good out of the slot this year. That makes running the ball even more important for Chicago's offense. Matt Forte (knee) is expected to return this week. Coordinator Adam Gase will likely use a timeshare with Forte and rookie Jeremy Langford, who has been dangerously explosive during Forte's absence the past three weeks. Green Bay ranks just 22nd in the league against the run, allowing 114 yards per game. If the Bears can establish the rushing attack and pick up chunks on the ground, that will keep Aaron Rodgers off the field and it will take pressure off Cutler, who has historically struggled at Lambeau. The Bears' ability to run the ball will be the biggest factor in the Thanksgiving contest. 

-In 12 career games against the Packers, Cutler has thrown 22 interceptions (1.83 picks per contest). Yet this year, he's cut down on the turnovers and is averaging just 0.67 interceptions per game. In the past, his turnovers against the Packers have absolutely killed the Bears, so his ability to keep the ball out of harm's way will play a large role in the outcome of tomorrow's game. If he starts slinging passes to Packers defenders, this one will get out of control quickly. 

-NT B.J. Raji is quietly having a very good season. He's been difficult to block in the run game, which is going to put pressure on C Hroniss Grasu, who has been inconsistent this season. Grasu has the athleticism to handle Raji but not the strength, so leverage and accurate body positioning will be needed to keep Green Bay's big nose tackle under wraps. 

-OLB Julius Pepper leads the Packers with 6.5 sacks this season and once again presents a tought test for Chicago's offensive tackle, Kyle Long and Charles Leno. Against the Broncos, Long was impressive in keeping Von Miller out of the backfield, so another strong outing against Peppers will be a big boost to the passing attack. Yet on Sunday, Leno gave up a sack to Miller that resulted in a turnover. Leno has been up and down this year and has now climbed into the team lead in sacks allowed (3). He'll get a healthy dose of Peppers, as well as Clay Matthews, whom the Packers like to rush off the edge on passing downs. Green Bay has always had success getting after Cutler, so Leno and Long will be critical to the success of the offense. 

Bears on Defense

Matchups to Watch

CB Bryce Callahan vs WR Randall Cobb

The Packers' passing attack has not been its usual dominant self this season, ranking just 22nd in the NFL. Much of that has to do with the struggles of Randall Cobb, who has been very inconsistent as the team's primary target. He's topped 100 receiving yards just once this year and has seven games with fewer than 54 receiving yards. The extra attention from opposing defenses has hurt Cobb this year but he's still one of the most dangerous slot receivers in the league. Bryce Callahan will get a heavy dose of Cobb and must be stout in man coverage. If Cobb gets rolling, Rodgers will get rolling, and then it could be lights out for the Bears. 

NT Eddie Goldman vs. C J.C. Tretter

Green Bay's entire offensive line is on the injury report this week, yet C Corey Linsley is least likely to play. That means J.C. Tretter will make his first career start on Thanksgiving. That's a matchup of which NT Eddie Goldman must take advantage. Goldman has been decent, albeit inconsistent, against the run, and has added some interior pass rush, accumulating 2.5 sacks on the year. If Goldman can eat up Tretter, he can help contain RB Eddie Lacy, while also making life miserable for QB Aaron Rodgers in the pocket. This is a game in which the Bears really need Goldman to step up and dominate the line of scrimmage. 

Keys on Defense

-Aaron Rodgers is having a "down year." His 61.7 completion percentage is a career low since becoming a starter in 2008, while his 101.8 QB rating is his lowest since 2010. Green Bay's offense is ranked 22nd overall, as is the passing attack. Yet, despite all these "issues", Rodgers has thrown 23 TDs and just 3 INTs, and the Packers are still Top 10 in points scored per game (24.9). Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the game, one who has sliced and diced Chicago's defense for years. The only way to rattle Rodgers is to force him off his spot by pressuring the pocket. Pernell McPhee is still recovering from a knee injury and could not finish last week's game. Coming off a short week, don't expect McPhee to be anywhere near 100 percent. Willie Young will be asked to fill the pass-rush void, while Lamarr Houston needs to see more snaps. Sam Acho has offered very little pressure off the edge, while Houston has the most of his limited reps. If Houston and Young can have big games, as well interior guys like Goldman and Jarvis Jenkins, the Bears stand a chance of limiting Rodgers and Green Bay's potentially dangerous passing attack. 

-Eddie Lacy has looked out of shape and slow this year but he broke out last week, picking up 100 rushing yards on 22 carries against a stout Minnesota front seven. Lacy ran with power and showed the acceleration that's been missing from his game all season. Lacy only has one 100-yard rushing game against the Bears (Week 9 in 2013), who have kept him from building momentum the last four meetings. The Packers will want to get Lacy, as well James Starks, plenty of touches, as Green Bay's offense is at its best when their ground game is rolling. If Lacy starts picking up chunks, then Rodgers becomes nearly impossible to stop on play-action passes. Shutting down the Packers' ground game early will be paramount on Thursday night. 

-WR James Jones has been a thorn in Chicago's side for many years, which includes his two-touchdown outing in the season opener. Jones has exceptional chemistry with Rodgers, particularly on back-shoulder throws and in the end zone. The Bears will rotate Tracy Porter, who was injured in the Week 1 outing, and Kyle Fuller on Jones. Porter has played very well this year, while Fuller has been up and down. If Fuller gives up a couple of big plays to Jones - like he did last week, allowing the game-winning score in the fourth quarter to Broncos WR Cody Latimer - it could be the deciding factor in the game. 

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