BEARS - DT Dusty Dvoracek (foot), FB Bryan Johnson (leg), S Brandon McGowan (knee)
PACKERS - S Marviel Underwood (knee), RB Arliss Beach (ankle), CB Mike Hawkins (hip), LB Kurt Campbell (shoulder), OT Josh Bourke (back), OT Kevin Barry (quadriceps)
BEARS - none
PACKERS - OT Junius Coston (knee)
BEARS - none
PACKERS - CB Will Blackmon (foot)
BEARS - DE Alex Brown (shoulder), DE Israel Idonije (ankle), S Mike Brown (Achilles), RB Cedric Benson (shoulder); WR Mark Bradley (hip), WR Justin Gage (rib), TE Gabe Reid (back), FB J.D. Runnels (ankle)
PACKERS - FB William Henderson (knee)
BEARS - none
PACKERS - none
Bears Offense vs. Packers Defense:
Jason McKie takes over at fullback after Bryan Johnson was placed on injured reserve. McKie isn't the blocker Johnson was but has flashed good ball skills. The receiving corps is sporting varying levels of injury. Wide receiver Bernard Berrian was expected to be in a dogfight with Mark Bradley for the starting job opposite Muhsin Muhammad, but Bradley hasn't been able to stay healthy. He took a crushing downfield hit last week in Cleveland which led to a severely bruised hip. Injuries and uncertainty at wide receiver have led the Bears to try out many castoffs, including former Packer Rod Gardner. Rex Grossman starts the season at quarterback after injuries have limited his reps each of the last two seasons. Grossman has never started more than three games in a single regular season. Running back Thomas Jones (hamstring) is expected to be at full strength, while Cedric Benson is still recovering from a shoulder injury suffered just prior to the preseason games.
Among the front-liners, the Packers defense is healthy to begin the year. Linebacker Brady Poppinga returns to the strong side after a knee injury prematurely ended his 2005. Poppinga joins a cast of newcomers that includes rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk, cornerback Charles Woodson, and tackles Ryan Pickett and Kenderick Allen. Although the Packers allowed only 280 yards per game last season, 126 were on the ground. Green Bay is hoping the new tackles along with Hawk will turn things around from that perspective.
The Bears were able to run the ball on most teams last year but struggled to throw. With Grossman under center, it will be interesting to see what kind of run-to-pass ratio offensive coordinator Ron Turner brings forth. The Bears did all they could in the preseason to establish a passing attack and to promote the emergence of a secondary receiving option to Muhsin Muhammad. As a consequence, some of the rhythm and timing associated with the running game may be lacking, especially since top-of-the-depth-chart players Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson were hurt most of the preseason. Green Bay is expected to load up to stop the run and apply constant heat on Rex Grossman with a healthy diet of blitzes.
Bears Defense vs. Packers Offense:
Defensive end Alex Brown suffered a shoulder injury in the third preseason game against Arizona. Combined with Israel Idonije's bum ankle, it means rookie Mark Anderson and possibly defensive tackle Alfonso Boone could get some looks off the edge. Safety Mike Brown returned to practice this week after missing much of the preseason with a tender Achilles' tendon. Cornerback Nathan Vasher missed time in the preseason with a neck stinger, as well. The Bears loaded up on defensive backfield help in the offseason. Cornerbacks Ricky Manning Jr. and Dante Wesley were added via free agency, and safety Danieal Manning was drafted in the second round.
Fullback William Henderson has not been fully healthy, and Vonta Leach is his backup. The Packers went through running backs at a frightening pace last season. Tailback Ahman Green returns to his starting role after missing most of last year. Green is two years removed from his 1,883-yard season of domination. Many experts feel he is now on the downside of his career. Green is a tremendously well-conditioned athlete, so a return to form is certainly possible.
The Bears intercepted Brett Favre six times last season. The best way to force him into more mistakes is with pressure. Guards Jason Spitz and Tony Moll are rookies. Look for the Bears to challenge the interior of the Packer line with their tackle rotation of Tommie Harris, Ian Scott, Tank Johnson and Alfonso Boone. Between chasing all the quick fresh bodies the Bears run at them and the need to account for speedy middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, the Packers could be looking for oxygen masks by halftime. Watch for the Packers to counter with running plays designed to get Ahman Green to the edge of the field and off tackle, utilizing veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher to work on the undersized defensive ends of the Bears in a classic power-versus-speed matchup. If the Packers go with more zone-stretch blocking, they'll seek to use the speed of the Bears against them with cutbacks.