Bears at Packers: What to Watch for Today

The Bears finally kick off the regular season Sunday afternoon, and aside from being back home at Soldier Field, there's no better place to do it than on the soon-to-be-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Here are 10 things to watch for during today's tilt that just might make the difference in the final outcome.

1. Will Thomas Jones continue his success against the Packers?
With Jones apparently 100% after his hamstring injury and Cedric Benson still coming back slowly from his sprained shoulder, the former Cavalier could see 20 to 25 carries on Sunday. He has run all over the Packers while wearing a Bears uniform, and considering how porous the Green Bay run defense was a year ago, Jones will once again be the focal point of the offense.

2. How much will Alex Brown's dislocated shoulder allow him to play?
Brown may not be quite the emotional leader that his namesake, safety Mike Brown, is to the Bears defense, but his presence makes a big difference both against the run and the pass along the defensive front. Only a week-and-a-half or so has passed since he injured that shoulder in Cleveland, and although he has pronounced himself fit to play, he might be subject to some serious pain along the way.

3. Berrian, Bradley, Davis, oh my!
Bears fans are getting awfully tired of hearing this question, but for the love of Ken Margerum, who will finally step up and be the secondary target in the passing game? Bernard Berrian keeps getting track star injuries, Mark Bradley has been equally hampered by injuries plus inconsistent play, and Rashied Davis still has to shake the stigma of only being an experienced Arena Leaguer, but one of them has to make an impact for quarterback Rex Grossman to be all he can be.

4. Is Mike Brown healthy enough to be Mike Brown?
Aside from the obvious answer in Brian Urlacher, if there is one player absolutely essential to the success of this defense, it's Brown and his spirited personality in the secondary. Bears fans have a right to be nervous about his bum Achilles' since similar injuries caused him to miss time each of the previous two seasons, but we will learn Sunday if he was just being cautious this preseason or has a legitimate career-threatening pattern developing down there.

5. Does Brian Griese need to even stretch tomorrow?
If Griese does enter the game at some point Sunday, hopefully for Bears fans, it will be in mop-up duty in the fourth quarter after Grossman already dented the scoreboard to the tune of a 27-3 lead. Head coach Lovie Smith has already proven that he is not afraid to make a switch under center if it's in the best interest of his ballclub, so if Grossman struggles and digs a second-half hole, don't be surprised to see Griese put on a helmet and start getting loose on the sideline.

6. Will depth along the defensive line be a problem?
With Alex Brown's nursing that shoulder and his backup, Israel Idonije, battling a sprained ankle of his own, the Bears could be a little thin at end if Brown can't finish the game. Moving Alfonso Boone to end from tackle is still a possibility, but remember Tank Johnson missed most of training camp with an injury of his own and might not be ready to go 60 or 70 snaps in the trenches.

7. Has Olin Kreutz adjusted to the new NFL rules?
One of the new rules you might see on Sunday has to do with offensive lineman being forced to be 100% still before the snap ... even their fingers. Kreutz had a system of wiggling the fingers on his left hand while waiting to snap the ball with his right hand, and although he made an effort in training camp to start making a fist with his non-snapping hand, that old habit could cost the Bears a false start or two.

8. Is Tommie Harris going to wreak havoc up front like he should?
The main reason the Packers are not as good as they used to be on offense (aside from Brett Favre not being Brett Favre anymore, of course) is that their once-experienced offensive line has been decimated by free agency. Green Bay will be starting two rookies at the guard positions on Sunday, and for an explosive force like Harris, he should have a field day in the backfield exploiting their youth.

9. Will Ron Turner's play-calling revert back to Bears football?
It's no secret that Turner, with Coach Smith's blessing, went out of his way to get the passing attack as many reps as possible and put the running game on the back burner during the preseason games. But Bears football will always be about running the ball and playing tough defense, so it will be interesting to see if Turner goes back to a run-based attack that helps open up the play-action pass.

10. Can the Bears avoid the slow start that has plagued them recently?
The Bears started 1-3 last season before finishing strong with an 11-5 record, and they were even worse the year before, opening with a dreadful 1-5 mark. With three division opponents in the first three games, including two on the road, this team had better get off to a fast start and prove that they are truly the class of the NFC North once again.


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