Green Bay Packers (2-0) at Chicago Bears (1-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 3:15 p.m.
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
KEYS TO THE GAME: This rivalry regained some steam as three meetings, including the NFC Championship Game, were decided by seven points or less last season. QB Jay Cutler has been sacked once every eight dropbacks, and the Bears have a nightmare scenario this week with RT Frank Omiyale against OLB Clay Matthews. That begs for more of a run focus, but it hasn't been the Bears' prerogative to hand to Matt Forte 20 times. The Packers aren't running much, but when they do RB James Starks has averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Given time, QB Aaron Rodgers can shred zone looks and his mobility causes a conundrum for linebackers dropping into coverage.
SERIES HISTORY: 181st regular-season meeting. Bears lead series, 91-83-6. The league's oldest rivals meet eight months after Green Bay went into Chicago and prevailed 21-14 in the NFC Championship, just the teams' second postseason encounter. The Bears won the 2010 regular-season matchup at Soldier Field, 20-17. Yet, the Packers are 14-4 on the road in the series since 1994, including a 13-4 record in Chicago.
FAST FACTS: The Packers sacked Cutler 11 times in three meetings in 2010. ... Rodgers had 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns in three meetings last season.
COACH'S QUOTE: Coach Mike McCarthy on Bears running back Matt Forte: "Matt Forte is the focus of their offense, and he'll be the focus for our defense, whether they hand it to him, check it down to him or release him out of the backfield. They're going to plan on getting Matt the ball and rightfully so. They should do that, and that's the way we'll play ‘em. When you're playing pass coverage, you definitely want to stop the progression from the point of the triangle moving back to forward, but you have to have coverage emphasis on a player like Matt Forte."
GAME PLAN: The Packers are hurting in the secondary with FS Nick Collins done for the rest of the season because of a neck injury and top CBs Charles Woodson (foot) and Tramon Williams (shoulder) spending time in the training room this week as they try to get well by Sunday.
The Bears' passing dimension is far from a picture of good health as well with WRs Earl Bennett and Roy Williams nicked up and QB Jay Cutler on the mend after getting kicked in the throat in their loss at New Orleans last weekend.
With a lot of talk out of Chicago in recent days focused on running the football after only 11 run plays were called against the Saints, Green Bay's aching defense stands to benefit if the Bears indeed follow through on that plan.
The Packers have been immovable against the run after two games, and they have Matt Forte on their radar as the top target to contain given his blazing start in catching the football. As long as Williams can play after missing the last game, Woodson can move back inside and potentially mark Forte coming out of the backfield.
And, when Cutler does drop back to pass, which still could be often, expect the Packers to follow the blueprint of the Saints, who sacked him six times in the second half, and attack a disjointed offensive line.
Chicago has allowed a league-high 11 sacks. The Bears' Cover-2 defense has been effective on Aaron Rodgers, who has only one 300-yard passing game in seven starts against Chicago and has thrown for a total of just three touchdowns in the last five meetings. The key for Rodgers is to maintain his early-season trend of playing mistake-free football and keep the offense in manageable down-and-distance situations while incorporating his bevy of pass targets.
Short of that, head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy can fall back on the effective two-headed halfback of Ryan Grant and James Starks, who have given the Packers 100-yard juice on the ground each of the first two games in limited opportunities.
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