Division Decision: Green Bay Packers

As we get closer to training camp, it's time to take a look at the Chicago Bears and compare them to each of their three rivals in the NFC North. Can the Packers get back to the playoffs after a bad 2008? Bear Report breaks down both teams position by position to see who has the edge and where.


The AFC West was robbed of its best quarterback duel, Jay Cutler vs. Philip Rivers, when the Bears made the blockbuster trade to bring Cutler to Chicago, but Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers has a nice ring to it, as well. Bears fans can only hope Cutler has as much success at the controls his initial year as a starter in the division as Rodgers did, at least statistically, when the Packers passer completed 63.6 percent of his throws for 4,038 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Both QBs are bright young stars in this league and expected to help lead the NFL into the next decade, but Rodgers deserves the benefit of the doubt for now for the simple fact that he's not playing for a new team and learning a new offense.

Slight Edge: Packers

Running Back

The Bears are just assuming Matt Forte will improve upon the 3.9 yards per carry he recorded in 2008 because the offensive line is better, plus he'll continue to be one of the premier receiving runners in football with Cutler under center. Ryan Grant came on strong for Green Bay last year after a terribly slow start, finishing with 1,203 yards on the ground and steamrolling Chicago with a 145-yard effort at Lambeau Field in Week 11 – the Pack dominated 37-3.

While both Forte and Grant are big and bad and capable of a 25-carry afternoon each and every Sunday, Forte led all backs with 63 catches as a rookie while Grant only has 48 the last two years combined.

Slight Edge: Bears

Jennings had 80 catches for 1,292 yards in '08.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Wide Receiver

The decision makers in Chicago are the only ones who believe Devin Hester has the goods to be a No. 1 receiver in this league, and there will not be very much support from the likes of Earl Bennett and Rashied Davis should No. 23 fail to live up to those unreasonable expectations. The Packers, on the other hand, have an embarrassment of riches at the position, starting a dynamite duo in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver and then going "Big Five" with James Jones, Ruvell Martin, and Jordy Nelson.

This is the spot with the widest margin between these two rivals right now, as even Chicago's starters would have a tough time working into the Green Bay rotation as presently constituted.

Major Edge: Packers

Tight End

If the wideouts find a way to get the job done and aren't the squeaky wheel that keeps the Bears offense stuck in neutral, than chances are they will have had a dash of help from the productive tight end combination of Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen. Former Packers QB Brett Favre proved to be more effective getting the tight end involved in 2007 than Rodgers did in '08, as Donald Lee's receptions dropped from 48 to 39 and his yards per catch tumbled from 12.0 to 7.8.

Green Bay has featured some terrific tight ends in recent memory, from Keith Jackson to Mark Chmura to Bubba Franks, but Lee has not been nearly as consistent as Clark and Olsen could be on his way to the Pro Bowl as soon as this season.

Big Edge: Bears

Offensive Line

Should Orlando Pace be as healthy as he claims to be and Chris Williams adjusts going from left tackle to right tackle, all of a sudden the Bears have a strong bookend duo protecting Cutler in the passing game. Tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher had a quality run in Green Bay for quite some time, but now Allen Barbre takes over at right tackle with Tauscher currently a free agent and nursing a bum knee that may keep him out of action until Halloween.

While the Green Bay offensive line isn't going through nearly as much turnover in '09, Chicago made some aggressive moves in the offseason to improve up front that have been almost universally praised thus far.

Slight Edge: Bears

Defensive Line

Even though the Bears have so many questions to answer – Will Tommie Harris be healthy? Can the D-ends get to the quarterback? Who will step up at nose tackle? – and they're asking a lot of new position coach Rod Marinelli, at least they're not trying to learn a completely new scheme. The Packers are moving from the 4-3 to the 3-4, plus it remains to be seen if first-round pick B.J. Raji is as good as advertised and former first rounder Justin Harrell can stay on the field.

If Harris is finally recovered from the knee and hamstring issues that have plagued him in each of the last two seasons, he is a difference maker and makes everybody else's job in the trenches so much easier.

Slight Edge: Bears


Not only do the Monsters of the Midway feature a pair of linebackers in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs that have been to a combined 10 Pro Bowls, but free-agent addition Pisa Tinoisamoa led the Rams in tackles last season and should be an upgrade on the strong side. Green Bay's Aaron Kampman has a tough task ahead switching from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, and Nick Barnett is coming off an injury-riddled and less-than-productive 2008.

Urlacher may not be a Defensive-Player-of-the-Year candidate anymore, but he's more of a sure thing in the middle than the annually disappointing A.J. Hawk and the rookie Clay Matthews.

Big Edge: Bears

Woodson picked off seven passes last season.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images


If Nathan Vasher can stay off the injury report and look anything like the player once dubbed "The Interceptor" in NFL circles, maybe he and Charles Tillman can once again stake their claim as one of the premier corner combos in the game. Charles Woodson and Al Harris get a lot of credit for being so physical defending the pass, but at 32 and 34 years old, respectively, it's only natural to assume that they're on the back nine of their career – Woodson played some safety in 2008, and Harris didn't pick off one pass all season long.

Both teams have some young talent on the roster to be excited about as early as 2010 – Zack Bowman and D.J. Moore in Chicago, Tramon Williams and Pat Lee in Green Bay – but it's still up to the vets to be all they can be this year.

Slight Edge: Packers


The Midway Monsters are in transition at both safety positions, as Kevin Payne finally takes over full time at strong safety and Craig Steltz getting the first shot at free safety. Nick Collins was sensational last year for the Packers, intercepting seven passes and taking three of them all the way back to the house for touchdowns, while Atari Bigby appears ready for a bounce-back 2009 after missing nine games a season ago.

Steltz may be a strong safety in a free safety's body and faces a training-camp battle with converted corner Corey Graham, but the Packers are comfortable with both of their starters and also have a dependable No. 3 in Aaron Rouse.

Big Edge: Packers

Special Teams

Robbie Gould is yet to connect on a field goal of 50-plus yards and Brad Maynard doesn't boom many 60-yarders anymore, but they're both big reasons why the Bears keep winning the game of field position time and time again. While Mason Crosby has proven to be a highly-effective kicker and scored at least 127 points in each of his first two seasons, the Packers had some problems punting in 2008 – Jeremy Kapinos, the incumbent, averaged only 39.2 yards per attempt in four games last year.

While Green Bay's Will Blackmon looks to be much more dangerous returning punts (11.1-yard average, two TDs) than kickoffs (21.0), the Bears can strike in a hurry with the two-time All-Pro Hester back deep on punts and Danieal Manning leading the NFL last season in kickoff-return average (29.7, one TD).

Major Edge: Bears

Agree? Disagree? Discuss this Bears topic on our message board RIGHT HERE.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

Bear Report Top Stories