MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS OFFENSE VS. PACKERS DEFENSE
Offensive Line vs. Defensive Line: The Packers' defensive line has been a real bear this season, with starters Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly and backup B.J. Raji generally controlling the line of scrimmage and practically eliminating the crippling breakdowns that thwarted this defense last season. But all four are on the injury report, and that's a dangerous proposition against an offense that might have found a running game last week. On the other side of the coin, the Bears have their own questions at left tackle, and whether it's beat-up veteran Orlando Pace or Chris Williams, that's a spot the Packers will want to take advantage of.
TE Greg Olsen vs. CB Charles Woodson: It seems a bit odd to see a tight end matched up with a cornerback, but since the Packers know Olsen is the only elite option in the Chicago passing game, they put their best defender on him back in the opener. Woodson will be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, and he's played everywhere from corner to safety to nickel to dime so far this season. The Bears have had a devil of a time getting the speedy Olsen open down the field, and it won't be any easier should he be matched up with Woodson.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS OFFENSE VS. BEARS DEFENSE
WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings vs. FS Al Afalava: The Bears were playing almost a perfect game defensively against Green Bay in Week 1 before finally making a backbreaking mistake late in the fourth quarter, when Jennings darted open on a double move and hauled in a 50-yard touchdown strike that proved to be the winning margin. With Danieal Manning recently demoted to nickel back, Chicago's secondary does not feature a pure free safety since both Payne and Afalava are strong safety-types. While you can get away with that against the Rams and their pitiful passing game, that's quite a risk facing the likes of Driver and Jennings.
Jermichael Finley bulls in for the TD.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
THE PACKERS WIN IF ...
... they keep doing what they're doing. The Packers are playing the run exceptionally well, which sets up their defense with a steady diet of third-and-longs. On offense, with the exception of Monday's game against Baltimore, the Packers have treated the football like the curator at the Louvre treats the Mona Lisa.
THE BEARS WIN IF ...
... they can put as much pressure on Rodgers as they did back in the season opener at Lambeau Field. Even though Rogers and Co. ultimately won the game, the Packers only had about 150 yards of total offense before Jennings broke through with that long-distance TD in crunch time. The Green Bay offensive line features veteran Mark Tauscher at right tackle now and not overmatched Allen Barbre, so Adewale Ogunleye will have to work a little harder if he wants to harass Rodgers like he did in Week 1.
THE PACKERS LOSE IF ...
... the special teams malfunction again, giving the Bears a cheap touchdown to build momentum or swing it in their direction. All the numbers show the Packers are a better team, but special teams are the Bears' big advantage. Rookie Johnny Knox is averaging a whopping 29.4 yards on kickoff returns with a touchdown, Manning is averaging 23.7 yards and Devin Hester averages 8.1 yards on punt returns and has big-play potential.
THE BEARS LOSE IF ...
... they get behind early and are forced to put the weight of the world on Jay Cutler's shoulders yet again. The Packers have the No. 1 defense in the NFL in terms of yards allowed, proving to be equally effective at stopping the run and shutting down the pass. Matt Forte hasn't been able to get anything going against the better run defenses he has faced this season, and if he runs into yet another brick wall up front early, the stage will be set for Cutler to make a critical error or two against an aggressive Green Bay secondary.
Bill Huber: What worries me is recent history. The Packers were one of the elite teams in the NFL in 2007 but got hammered in Chicago. The Packers mostly outplayed the Bears last year in Chicago but lost in overtime. The weather forecast looks good, so that goes in the Packers' favor. The self-inflicted wounds of last week notwithstanding, the Packers look like a team that will be surging into the playoffs next month. – PACKERS 24, BEARS 13.
John Crist: The Bears are out of the playoff hunt and have very little to play for the rest of the way, but the players in the locker room did everything in their power this week to convince the media that upsetting the hated Packers would help salvage a disappointing 2009. Nobody was necessarily talking up the idea of playing spoiler Sunday, although a Chicago win at Soldier Field would definitely damage Green Bay's postseason chances. Nevertheless, the Packers are simply a better football team on both sides of the ball. – PACKERS 27, BEARS 16.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.