Packers’ Week 12: vs. Chicago

We take our second look at the Bears in this preview, this time with the focus on a defense that has posted the worst seasons in franchise history.

The Green Bay Packers’ Week 12 game is against the Chicago Bears. Here’s an early look at that much-anticipated Thanksgiving night game at Lambeau Field.

History

Series: The Bears lead 92-90-6 in a series dating to 1921, so if Green Bay can win the Week 1 matchup as well as this game, it will be tied. The series hasn’t been this close since 1939, when Chicago won the second matchup of the season to lead 19-17-4. Chicago has outscored the Packers 3,207-3,200.

Last time (at Green Bay): Coming off of their midseason bye, the Packers blasted the Bears 55-14. Aaron Rodgers tied an NFL record with six touchdown passes in the first half. That included scoring strikes of 73 and 40 yards to Jordy Nelson and 56 yards to Eddie Lacy in the second quarter. Casey Hayward capped the assault with an 82-yard pick-six.

Noteworthy: This will be one of the hottest tickets in franchise history, with the Packers to honor Brett Favre and unveil his number on the Lambeau Field façade. It’s a fitting game to pay tribute to Favre. He went 22-10 vs. Chicago as a member of the Packers, with winning streaks of 10 and seven games.

New coach John Fox owns a career record of 119-89, including 46-18 in Denver the past four seasons. Fox is bringing a 3-4 scheme to a Chicago defense that was throttled to the tune of 442 points last season and 478 in 2013. Those are the two worst marks in franchise history. To that end, the Bears signed inside linebacker Mason Foster, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and safety Antrel Rolle, with big nose tackle Eddie Goldman drafted in the second round to anchor the middle. Jared Allen will join McPhee and Lamarr Houston to provide a super-sized trio at outside linebacker. McPhee was tremendous with the Ravens, finishing second in ProFootballFocus.com’s 3-4 outside linebacker rankings. But the 32-year-old Rolle started showing signs of age and Foster, a third-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2011, has been an underachiever as a four-year starter.

If Goldman and Foster can help the Bears can sure up a run defense that ranked 22nd with 4.3 yards per carry against, then their defense has a chance for a drastic turnaround with Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Jared Allen providing the pass rush. Corners Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller are ballhawks who should take advantage of the pressure.

2014 Record

Offensive rankings: 23rd in points (19.9 per game). 21st in yards (327.1 per game). 15th in passing (237.0 per game). 27th in rushing (90.1 per game).

Defensive rankings: 31st in points (27.6 per game). 30th in yards (377.1 per game). 30th in passing (264.4 per game). 17th in rushing (112.7 per game).

2015 Comings and Goings

Hello: WR Eddie Royal, C Will Montgomery, DE Jarvis Jenkins, ILB Mason Foster, OLB Pernell McPhee, S Antrel Rolle, CB Alan Ball.

Goodbye: LB Lance Briggs, WR Brandon Marshall (trade), DT Stephen Paea, CB Charles Tillman, C Roberto Garza, C Brian De La Puente.

Draft: The Bears immediately replaced one big receiver (Marshall) by drafting another (Kevin White, seventh overall). With Alshon Jeffery and White, the Bears have two big receivers to test the Packers’ smallish cornerbacks. In the second round, they got the starting point of their 3-4 defense by drafting nose tackle Eddie Goldman. Center Hroniss Grasu, running back Jeremy Langford and safety Adrian Amos, taken in the third, fourth and fifth rounds, respectively, look more like building blocks than immediate contributors.

2015 Personnel in Focus

Pro Football Focus, that is. PFF has a color-coded rankings system for each team’s 24 “starters,” with the extra player to account for a key substitution package such as a third cornerback or third wide receiver. Green Bay has four blue/elite starters (Rodgers, Cobb, Nelson and Sitton), six dark green/high-quality starters (Lang, Lacy, Hayward, Peppers, Daniels and Matthews), four green/good starters (Linsley, Bulaga, Shields and Burnett), six yellow/average starters (Bakhtiari, Quarless, Kuhn, Hyde, Perry and Clinton-Dix) and four orange/below-average starters (Adams, Guion, Raji and Barrington). The Packers don’t have any starters rated poor and they don’t have any rookies projected to be starters.

The Bears have ...

Blue/elite (0): None.

Dark green/high quality (3): WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Martellus Bennett, OB Pernell McPhee.

Green/good (10): LG Matt Slauson, C Will Montgomery, RG Kyle Long, RB Matt Forte, WR Eddie Royal, DE Jay Ratliff, OLB Lamarr Houston, CB Alan Ball, CB Tim Jennings, S Ryan Mundy.

Yellow/average (3): LT Jermon Bushrod, QB Jay Cutler, Antrel Rolle.

Orange/below average (4): TE Dante Rosario, DE Jarvis Jenkins, CB Kyle Fuller, ILB Mason Foster.

Red/Poor (1): RT Jordan Mills.

Silver/Not enough information (1): ILB Christian Jones.

Purple/Rookie: WR Kevin White (first round), NT Eddie Goldman (second round).

Quoteworthy

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on the outside linebackers: “We expect a good pass rush from them, so that’s no different than being an end. And they’ve got to be able to function in coverage a little bit. We’re not going to have them doing tough jobs in coverage. They’ll be doing things they’re used to doing as an end, except they’re going to be doing it standing up and at the end of the line. It’s called a 3-4 defense, but in some ways you can call it a 5-2. We like bigger guys out there. I don’t foresee it being a major problem, although there’s a lot of learning and growing that has to take place.”

Jared Allen, on moving to outside linebacker: “The rush aspect is going to be the same. It's just repetitions of getting off the ball in a two-point stance rather than a three-point stance. The matchups it creates is going to be cool. I think there will be a lot more one-on-one opportunities, a lot more mismatches. That part's fun. But, again, it's just kind of building up muscle memory and then on the plays you have to cover, you're not just kind of eating up space, you literally have to cover somebody.”

S Antrel Rolle: “You always want to be a playmaker. That’s always my primary goal. It’s what you do between the white lines that really matters. So just being a veteran leader and being a guy that the younger guys can look up to. And I just want to be an all-around force. That’s how I like to play the game.”

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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