Game Preview Notes: 21 Things You Don't Know

Overwhelming strengths will collide when the Packers' offense faces the Bears' defense on Sunday night. That and 20 more insights you'll only find in the best game preview anywhere. Not a subscriber? Treat yourself to a one-week free trial.

Turnovers are the NFL's ultimate X-factor, and they'll be the story on Sunday night when the Green Bay Packers offense lines up against the Chicago Bears defense.

With 12 giveaways, the Packers rank second in the NFL behind San Francisco's 10, and since the start of the 2009 season, the Packers' 50 giveaways are second behind New England's 48. Aaron Rodgers, the NFL's career leader in interception percentage, has thrown just six picks this season, that rate of 1.27 percent just a shade ahead of the 49ers' Alex Smith's 1.29 percent for tops in the league.

On the other side of the coin is Chicago's defense. This season, the Bears rank fifth in the league with 28 takeaways. In the last eight games, Chicago has forced 20 turnovers.

Like with the Packers, this isn't a one-year blip on the radar. Since Lovie Smith took over as their coach in 2004, the Bears have forced a league-high 263 turnovers – 21 over second-place Carolina. Chicago ranks third with 154 interceptions and second with 109 fumble recoveries.

With Chicago's punchless offense, turnovers might be the Bears' only chance. And if Chicago can turn those directly into touchdowns, all the better. Including one last week, Chicago has scored five defensive touchdowns this season, and it's 14-2 when the defense scores since 2005.

The Bears' penchant for forcing turnovers is "definitely part of the introduction and part of the objectives throughout all three phases," said coach Mike McCarthy, whose 23-4 record when the Packers don't turn over the ball was marred by a loss last week. "They do an excellent job taking the football away, you can see it in their training and every member of their team throughout their special teams and on their defense. We feel we train the exact same way. Yeah, it's something you definitely emphasize when you play the Bears."

Bumps and bruises

The Packers' offensive line, of course, is a beat-up mess, with only center Scott Wells and right guard Josh Sitton expected to be in their regular positions on Sunday.

But in comparison to Chicago, the Packers are a picture of health.

Quarterback Jay Cutler has missed the last four games with a broken right thumb, and the Bears have lost them all. Matt Forte, one of the best all-around backs in the game, sustained a Grade 2 sprain of his MCL against Kansas City on Dec. 4, an injury with a four- to six-week recovery time. Speedy receiver Johnny Knox, whose 19.6-yard average per catch ranked second in the NFL, suffered a back injury last week against Seattle that required surgery.

And that's just the skilled players on offense. First-round pick Gabe Carimi, the starting right tackle, played just two games before needing season-ending knee surgery. Starting left guard Chris Williams was lost for the season six weeks ago with a dislocated wrist. Impressive rookie safety Chris Conte joined Knox in being put on IR this week.

"Injuries happen," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said in a conference call. "They happen to everybody and we know that. We've lost four in a row, but we've been in every game. Even last week, we were in that game. We were up 14-7 at halftime and got embarrassed in the second half. As bad as we played, we still had a chance to win most of those games."

Change in philosophies

Since Smith's arrival, the Bears have been known for their Cover-2 defensive scheme. That, however, has changed, due in part to a punchless offense that has forced the Bears to get more aggressive on defense. So, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense will be confronted with many of the same man-to-man looks the Chiefs successfully employed last week, especially on third down.

"We've played a lot of man this year," Urlacher said. "I think the situation has kind of dictated that with us having to be aggressive on defense and trying to make more plays, we've played a lot more man than we have in the past and not just to stop the run. We just played man because we wanted to be more aggressive, I think. We've tried to get more takeaways."

It's worked well. Over the last nine games, Chicago ranks second in yards allowed per rush (3.2) and rushing yards per game (78.2), and third in opponent passer rating  (68.4).

"They've got a veteran staff that's very good," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "They mix things up. They're not all just Tampa-2. Everybody thinks, OK, you're playing the Bears, they're going to play Tampa-2. Well, sure, they're going to play some of that. But they're going to do other things, they're going to mix in a pressure package, they have a nice pressure package, and they're a good defensive team."

Back home

— The Packers close the regular season with two home games and at least another in the playoffs. Green Bay owns a league-best 11-game home winning streak. Since Week 10 of 2009, the Packers are an NFL-best 17-1 at Lambeau Field, with New England No. 2 on the list at 16-1.

"There's nothing like playing at Lambeau, and we feel very fortunate to have these last two at home," McCarthy said.

— Those two home games are against division foes Chicago and Detroit. The Packers are 13-3 in home division games since McCarthy took over as coach in 2006, tied with New England for second in the league behind Indianapolis' 15-3.

— The Packers, who are one of only three teams that are undefeated at home (Baltimore is 7-0, New Orleans is 6-0), boast a league-high scoring average of 40.2 points at Lambeau. The franchise record is 38.0 points per game in 1942.

— Since McCarthy took over, the Packers are 11-2 in December/January home games. Only New England (12-0) and San Diego (12-1) boast better marks.

History lessons

— The Packers have played on Christmas just one other time in franchise history, a 24-17 home loss to Chicago in 2005. In the second-to-last game coached by Mike Sherman, Brett Favre threw four interceptions. One of those was by Lance Briggs, which he returned 10 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a 24-7 lead in the third quarter.

— As we told you in our early-week game preview, this marks the sixth time in NFL history that two teams have played each other four times in the same calendar year. The Packers won the first three meetings against the Bears in 2011. The only team to beat another team four times in one year was the Los Angeles Raiders against Denver in 1984. That was the year when the Packers played the Lions five times in one year, including two playoff wins.

— The Bears lead the series 92-85-6, a record that includes a split of two playoffs games. The Packers have won five of the last six and are 28-16 since 1990, tightening a series that the Packers haven't led since 11-10-5 way back in 1932. Before McCarthy arrived, Smith was 3-1 against the Packers, and he opened 3-1 against McCarthy. Now, he's 8-8.

— Talk about hotly contested: The Bears have outscored the Packers by 64 points (3,032 to 2,968, or an average score of 16.8 to 16.4). The Packers won 10 straight from 1994 through 1998; the Bears won eight straight from 1985 through 1988. The biggest blowouts have come with each team's highest point total: Green Bay won 49-0 in 1962; the Bears won 61-7 in 1980.

— Maybe the most memorable game came in 1989, the Instant Replay Game in which Don Majkowski connected with Sterling Sharpe for a controversial, game-winning touchdown. Famously, the Bears put an asterisk by that game in their media guide. However, did you know the Bears removed the asterisk in 2000?

Bears blitz

— Not only does Devin Hester own the league regular-season record with 12 touchdowns on punt returns and 17 combined touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns, but his 19 total return touchdowns (including playoffs) matches Deion Sanders' NFL record. Hester has 12 touchdowns on punt returns, six on kickoffs and one on a missed field goal. With career numbers of 2,551 receiving yards, 2,643 punt return yards and 3,308 kickoff return yards, Hester is one of only four players in NFL history with at least 2,500 yards in all three categories, joining Billy Johnson, David Meggett and Eric Metcalf.

Hester, however, is listed as questionable with an ankle injury that prevented him from practicing all week, and he wasn't used on punt returns last week. In what could be a field-position game, Hester's availability or absence could be crucial.

"Very important for us to get Devin back," Smith said in a conference call. "With Devin there, our special teams will be intact. And he's of course the greatest returner of all time. That would give us a boost. His health should be pretty good. He's been dealing with a few minor bumps and bruises, but nothing that should keep him out of the game."

— How badly do the Bears miss Cutler? After a 7-3 start to the season, they've lost their last four games. And then there's this: When Cutler posts a passer rating of 100-plus, he's 23-0 for his career. Only Atlanta's Matt Ryan (22-0) and San Francisco's Alex Smith (10-0) are undefeated among current quarterbacks with at least 10 games with 100 ratings. For what it's worth, Aaron Rodgers ranks ninth with a 31-6 record (.838).

— How badly do the Bears miss Forte? The Bears have some of the best running backs in NFL history, a list topped by Walter Payton and Gale Sayers. This season, Forte was averaging 123.5 yards from scrimmage per game. That ranks fifth in franchise history, with Payton holding spots one through four, as well as six, eight and nine. Forte is the only player in NFL history to start a career with four consecutive seasons with at least 900 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards. Plus, with 6,218 career yards from scrimmage in his four seasons in the NFL, he already ranks fifth in Bears history, with Payton (21,264 in 190 games), Neal Anderson (8,929 in 116), Rick Casares (7,195 in 121) and Sayers (6,263 in 68) ahead of him.

— With three interceptions this season – including a remarkable diving one against Rodgers in Week 3 — Urlacher has 21 interceptions and 41.5 sacks for his career. He's one of just four players in NFL history in the 20-40 club, joining Seth Joyner, Ray Lewis and Wilber Marshall. Since 2000, only Lewis (24) has more interceptions among linebackers, and only Lewis (18) has more fumble recoveries than Urlacher's 14.

— There's more to Hester on the Bears' special teams. The Bears have blocked 22 kicks since Smith became coach and Dave Toub became special teams coordinator in 2004. Arizona, Detroit and Tennessee are a distant second with 16.

Four-point stance

— Even without one last week, the Packers lead the NFL by a mile with 27 interceptions, with San Francisco next with 21. However, the Packers are only second with 32 takeaways. The difference is fumbles. Green Bay is tied for 26th with 15 forced fumbles and tied for 27th with five fumble recoveries.

Last week's game was the first time the Packers didn't force a turnover.

"That's what we've been this year," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I'd much rather play like we did last year — take the ball away and not give up yards. The fact of the matter is we're 14 games into the season. With where we are, we've got to take the ball away."

— With Donald Driver's touchdown last week, the Packers have five players with at least five touchdown receptions (Driver, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jermichael Finley) for the first time in franchise history. Green Bay's wide receiver corps leads the NFL with 3,148 yards and 30 touchdowns.

— It will be strength vs. strength and weakness vs. weakness on third down. Green Bay's offense ranks third in the league in third-down conversions with 47.6 percent, but Chicago's defense ranks 10th by allowing opponents to convert only 35.1 percent. On the other side, Green Bay's third-down defense is 28th at 42.4 percent but Chicago's third-down offense is a putrid 30th at 30.9 percent.

— The last word goes to Smith, the Bears' coach: "Our rivalry's, of course, the longest in sports, in football, and all of that, but it's a clean rivalry that you look forward to. To have a chance to play against a team that's been able to play at that level for that long – and we've been a big part of that. We've been beaten three times in this calendar year or something like that – I know a lot of times. We talk about the rivalry, we have to do our share with the rivalry. We've let the rivalry down a little bit lately and it's time for the Bears to come back."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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