coleryan Posts:11967 Followers:20
On 10/29/2013 07:00 PM in NFL

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers: Preview and Pick

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers: Preview and Pick

The Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers have one of the oldest and the best rivalries in the National Football League. They meet again on a big stage when they clash on Monday night football in a very big game for the division standings. The Bears are off a bye week but unfortunately they will not have Jay Cutler under center to play quarterback for this game. The Packers will need this win if they want to have a stranglehold on the division race.

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers Odds

The NFL point spread for this game was a bit surprising as the Packers opened up as double digit favorites. Without Jay Cutler this line increased dramatically and over 65 percent of the betting action is now on the home team. Despite this big push by the public bettors, the line has actually dropped and can now be found at (-10.5) at several of the top rated online sportsbooks.

The Packers are dealing with injuries too but it has yet to affect the play of this team. Missing Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley, Aaron Rodgers still finished 24 of 29 for 285 yards, helping the Packers (5-2) stay in first place in the NFC North. In his last eight games against the Vikings, he has 22 touchdown passes and only three interceptions while completing roughly three-quarters of his passes. The Packers have won seven of those.

He wants to continue this success when he takes on the Bears in this prime time affair.

The latest football betting trends for this game reveals that the home team has all of the wagering angles for this Monday night match up. The Bears are 1-9-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last 11 games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game, 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game and 2-12 ATS in their last 14 when playing the NFC. The Packers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 30 points in their previous game, 26-9 ATS in their last 35 when playing the NFC North and 35-16-2 ATS in their last 53 home games. The Packers have dominated the recent meetings as the Bears are 7-18-1 ATS in their last 26 meetings which includes a 1-4 ATS record in the last five meetings at Green Bay.

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

coleryan Posts:11967 Followers:20
10/30/2013 12:18 PM

The 186 games played between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears qualifies it as the oldest rivalry in the NFL. But the recent history suggests this series has devolved into a “rino,” a rivalry in name only.

Over the Favre-Rodgers era (21 seasons), the Packers are 30-13 against the Bears, with 9 division titles, and added two shiny pieces of Super Bowl hardware to the trophy case. In 2011, the Packers beat the Bears four times in a calendar year, becoming only the second team in NFL history to accomplish that feat.

At the core of the green-and-gold standard is a trifecta of scheme, talent acquisition, and player development. There’s a clear synergy between general manager Ted Thompson to procure the the requisite talent for Mike McCarthy to foster.

On their current 53-man roster, 38 players were drafted, and only four players have played for another team. In a copycat league, three teams – the Seahawks, Raiders, and Chiefs – poached the Packers’ personnel department for their general managers, in hopes of learning the secret formula.

Next man up isn’t just a catchphrase in Green Bay, its reality. From their Super Bowl run in 2010 – when they put 16 players on IR – to this season, the Packers have withstood the inevitable injuries that occur over an NFL season and excelled in the process.

Additionally, the Packers have done an excellent job at self-scouting, adapting, and reinventing their scheme ad hoc. Throw in the universe’s best available option at the most important position in professional sports – Aaron Rodgers – and you have a perennial championship contender.

Rodgers has had the luxury of growing up in one offensive system. He’s mastered the Packers up-tempo spread offense, adroitly diagnosing defenses pre-snap to get into an optimal play, then post-snap, he’s the premier combination of mobility, arm strength, and surgical accuracy.

For years, the Packers ran the ball only out of obligation. But without the threat of a running game, opponents safely countered with with split (two-high) safeties, and the Packers were unable to fully take advantage of the numerical advantages they had in the box.

This past April, Thompson doubled up in the draft, selecting the smash-and-dash combination of football bully Eddie Lacy (Alabama), and lightning-quick Jonathan Franklin.

Given the disposable nature of running backs, their value in the draft has diminished, but getting Lacy in the second-round was a steal. Lacy fell because of conditioning concerns and a growing skepticism among scouts that any running back can have success running behind Alabama’s offensive line. The Packers were right about Lacy, who has added a power element to their attack.

With the Packers spreading teams out with three and four-wide looks out of the shotgun, they’ve shifted to more single-back sets. This suits Lacy well, as his forward-lean running style enables him to gain positive yardage without the need for a lead blocker. The Packers challenge will now be monitoring his touches, to ensure he’s running with the same pop in January and February.

Next to the 49ers, the Packers deploy one of the league’s most creative running games, with zone, man, and gap blocking schemes. Lacy’s emergence has forced teams to play honest against the Packers, and Rodgers is surgical against Cover-1. The potential of this offense at full-strength is frightening.

Incorporating more running plays was not only smart self-scouting, it was also out of preservation and necessity. With Randall Cobb (broken leg), James Jones (knee), and Jermichael Finley (spinal concussion), dealing with injuries, the Packers had to devise other ways to move the ball and score points.

Even with a depleted group of weapons, Rodgers connection with wide receiver Jordy Nelson has never been better. For years, Nelson has quietly produced near-elite wide receiver numbers at a bargain price. His versatility and knowledge of the route concepts allows him to line up at all four receiver spots – most recently out of the slot – to create advantageous single-coverage opportunities.

One problem area for the Packers over the years has been protecting Rodgers. Since 2009, he’s been the most hit quarterback in the league. They’ve gone through several offensive line combinations, and had yet another reshuffle before this season.

They flip-flopped guards TJ Lang and Josh Sitton, and Bryan Bulaga’s torn ACL in the preseason forced rookie David Bakhtiari (Colorado) into action at left tackle. Through seven games, they’ve been one of the league’s best groups.

Defensively, the Packers have had the Bears number through the years. Since defensive coordinator Dom Capers arrived in 2009, the Packers are 8-1, have forced 21 turnovers, and held the Bears offense to 12 points per game.

Capers 3-4 keeps protection schemes guessing, by sending a variety of blitzers from different levels of the defense. Even with Clay Matthews (broken thumb) on the sidelines, the Packers have accumulated 11 sacks over the past three games, and are on pace for their highest total under Capers.

Injuries to Matthews, outside linebacker Nick Perry (broken foot), and inside linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring) have created opportunities for other players like defensive tackle Mike Daniels and outside linebacker Mike Neal. Daniels leads the team with four sacks, and Neal has three.

Seeing role players thrive is further proof of the Packers depth, and shows Capers willingness to adapt. It’s daunting to think about where this team’s pass rush will be later this season when Matthews, Jones, and Perry all return to action.

Capers is able to get creative with his fronts because of talented man-coverage corners on the boundary like Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, and slot ball hawk Casey Hayward.

Last season, Capers stumped the Bears and neutralized wide receiver Brandon Marshall with a lot of 2-Man coverage. With Josh McCown under center, expect more of the same on Monday night, with the corners playing press coverage to disrupt the timing of the Bears quick passing games, while they sit on inside-breaking routes, and undercut out routes.

Teams have had success against the Packers by doing two things: getting to Rodgers with four, and a power run game to control the clock. Two areas the Bears have struggled with this season.

Rivalries requires two teams to be competitive against each other, and the Bears-Packers have been anything but. With each offseason, the Packers get younger and closer to developing a sustained dynasty, while the Bears are still searching for an identity.

coleryan Posts:11967 Followers:20
10/30/2013 12:23 PM

Even though the season hasn’t officially reached the midway point, there is mounting sentiment that the NFC’s representative in Super Bowl XLVIII will be either New Orleans or one of two teams from the NFC West. But the Green Bay Packers, at 5-2 and atop the NFC North after Sunday night’s dominating victory at Minnesota, might actually be countering such conventional wisdom in what for them is a relatively unconventional way.

With a running game.

Yeah, we know. The mere concept of being able to effectively run the ball is about as anathema to the folks in Frozen Tundraland as is a December morning that doesn’t begin with shoveling out the driveway before heading to work. But the Packers, who haven’t featured a 1,000-yard rusher since Ryan Grant in 2009, demonstrated again in the 44-31 victory over the Vikings that an infusion of new blood has provided the long dormant running attack a pulse.

Rookie Eddie Lacy, a second-rounder beginning to look more like a Brink’s heist than just your typical draft steal, lugged the football 29 times. It was a ponderous workload, the former Alabama standout suggested, that was unprecedented in his football career, even including high school and pee-wee ball. Lacy netted 94 yards for the evening, averaging only a pedestrian 3.2-yards per attempt, and his long run was for 17 yards. In fact, nearly half of Lacy’s 29 rushes (26) were good for one yard or less and five of them were negative-yardage runs.

There is little doubt, though, that Lacy leaned on the Vikings and helped to erode the will and gumption of the Minnesota defense.

“When you pound that big body in there that many times,” said Green Bay right tackle Don Barclay, “it’s going to make a difference; it has a (cumulative) effect.”

Indeed, Lacy, who is listed at 230 pounds but is probably something north of that (he certainly runs even harder that his ascribed weight), produced just 31 yards on 13 first-half carries. On the Packers’ first series, just one of his six rushes netted more than two yards. But as the night wore on, he wore out a Vikings’ defense that was geared more toward stopping quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Lacy amassed 63 yards on 16 second-half rushes. That’s again below, but just slightly, the usual NFL standard of at least 4.0 yards per carry. But his importance to the Green Bay offense can’t be measured only in statistics, players from both the teams acknowledged after the game. And Lacy, who has now carried 97 times in the past four outings, and no fewer than 22 times in that stretch, suggested he relishes the healthy workload. Prior to the Monday night St. Louis-Seattle matchup, the NFL had produced just 33 games with a back getting 22 or more carries, and Lacy had four of them.

Said Lacy, only the fourth running back chosen in the draft: “(Twenty-nine) is a lot of carries, but I like having the ball in my hands. I tend to get stronger.”

Make no mistake, the Packers are still principally about Rodgers, and his ability to throw the ball almost unerringly despite a wide receiver corps that would make a M*A*S*H unit appear robust by comparison. Rodgers was surgically precise again on Sunday night, even though even the most ardent fantasy football players might not have recognized any of his receivers outside of Jordy Nelson. Rodgers’ accuracy, and his remarkable ability on third down in particular, was the story of the game. But Lacy provided an important chapter, too, and is increasingly doing so.

While Rodgers’ stiletto strikes are still the Green Bay calling card, coach Mike McCarthy frequently is dialing up Lacy’s number these days. And while we’ve long contended that you don’t necessarily have to run the ball to win in the league anymore, the second half of the premise is that, if you can run, it allows you to do almost anything you want.

Facing Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, that has to be a scary thought.

coleryan Posts:11967 Followers:20
10/31/2013 02:48 PM

The Chicago Bears haven't been able to beat the Green Bay Packers with quarterback Jay Cutler or linebacker Lance Briggs on the field in recent years.

Considering the way the Packers have played of late, doing so minus both would appear to present an even greater challenge this year.

Prepared to play without two of their leaders, the Bears try to end a six-game losing streak to their archrivals and deny the Packers a fifth consecutive victory Monday night at Lambeau Field.

Including the NFC championship game during the 2010 season, Green Bay (5-2) has won six in a row against Chicago (4-3) and five straight meetings at Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers is 9-2 against the Bears and has completed 69.6 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in the last four matchups.

The Packers have also won 11 straight home games including playoffs. During that streak, they've allowed an average of 14.7 points, and in the last five of those contests have yielded three field goals and no touchdowns in the first half.

None of that would seem to bode well for Chicago, which has lost three of four and comes off its bye set to play without Cutler due to a groin injury suffered during a 45-41 loss at Washington on Oct. 20. Though originally expected to be sidelined at least four weeks, Cutler hopes to return sooner but is unlikely for Monday.

Briggs will miss more than a month with a shoulder injury suffered in the same game.

"We really have to play together more than ever now," coach Marc Trestman said. "And I think that's something that we're capable of doing."

Despite those injuries and Chicago's recent struggles this season and in the series, the Packers won't take anything for granted.

"We need to prepare and stay focused on our opponent and the changes they've made," coach Mike McCarthy told the Packers' official website. "At the end of the week, we want to make sure we're focused on winning and that our quality of play is as high as possible."

Veteran backup Josh McCown is set to make his first start since going 1-1 in Chicago's final two games of 2011. His first start that year came in a 35-21 loss at Green Bay on Christmas Day, during which he threw for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Coming in for Cutler at Washington, McCown was impressive in going 14 of 20 for 204 yards and a touchdown while running for 33 yards.

"Josh is going to do the job," Cutler told the Bears' official website. "We've got a good game plan coming in. Josh fared well against (Washington). He'll play well again this week."

While McCown has running back Matt Forte, receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett to lean on, a banged-up and underachieving defense faces an even tougher task trying to stop Rodgers and Co. with rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene starting at linebacker.

The Bears have lost defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins along with linebacker D.J. Williams to season-ending injuries, and cornerback Charles Tillman is nursing a sore knee. Chicago ranks 27th in the NFL with 391.0 yards allowed per contest going into a matchup with a Green Bay team that's scored 75 points the last two weeks.

Despite missing receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones along with tight end Jermichael Finley due to injuries, Rodgers went 24 of 29 for 285 yards and two TDs in a 44-31 win over Minnesota on Sunday. He's thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions the last two games.

Jordy Nelson posted his second 100-yard receiving effort in three games with 123 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches against the Vikings.

Second-year receiver Jarrett Boykin has stepped in nicely with 13 receptions for 192 yards and a TD in the past two contests.

''We've got a great team, very well-coached," Rodgers said. "Guys are ready to play."

It's been a powerful ground attack, however, that's allowed Green Bay to overcome the rash of injuries to the passing attack.

After ranking 20th with 106.4 rushing yards per game in 2012, the Packers are near the top of the league with 141.4 a contest this season. They're averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

Rookie Eddie Lacy rushed for 94 yards last week and has averaged 98.8 in the past four games. James Starks returned from missing three games with a knee injury to run seven times for 57 yards and a TD at Minnesota.

"They're statistics," McCarthy said. "There's one statistic that counts (winning the Super Bowl) and we're working our way toward it, and we're a long way from that.

"Running the ball's part of it."

Despite Green Bay's recent dominance over the Bears, it's averaged 80.8 rushing yards in the last four meetings at Lambeau. However, Chicago ranks 25th with 117.3 yards allowed on the ground and gave up a season-high 209 to the Redskins.

Marshall leads the Bears with 46 receptions for 540 yards and has five TDs, but he was held to eight catches for 80 yards and a score against the Packers in 2012.

Green Bay has won 11 straight and 20 of its last 22 regular-season and playoff home games against NFC North opponents.

coleryan Posts:11967 Followers:20
11/01/2013 03:17 PM

Here are my keys to the game:

Hey Rodgers, we know who you are!

Yes, the Bears’ defense hasn’t shown it can stop a rhino from charging even if they took away its credit card. So Rodgers is going to get his yards and throw a couple of touchdowns.

Perhaps the best way to slow down (not stop) the Packers’ offense is to keep them off the field. The Bears can do that by running the ball efficiently. That won’t be easy against a Packers’ defense ranked eighth in the league vs. the run.

- Control the clock and the Bears can control the tempo of the game.

Speaking of running …

These Packers seem to have finally found a run game, so for the Bears to have a chance of winning, they also must be stouter versus the run than they have been all season. Otherwise, that will open up the pass and Rodgers will have a field day.

Green Bay ranks seventh in rushing offense, which is pretty remarkable for a team that ranked 28th in that department last season. Eddie Lacy only averaged a little better than three yards a carry last week, but he was a workhorse, rushing for 94 yards on 29 carries. Two weeks prior, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry vs. the Ravens.

James Starks returned from a knee injury last week and ran for 57 yards on seven carries and a TD at Minnesota.

Among backs with at least eight chances this season, Lacy has the NFL’s highest success rate on third down. Meanwhile, only the Jags have been worse than the Bears against the run this season. That has to tighten up for the Bears to have a chance on Monday night.

- Don’t aid the enemy and spread the wealth

In other words, no turnovers on offense. Josh McCown looked surprisingly effective in a relief role replacing Cutler, but now he’s facing a team that’s game planning for him. He needs to make smart decisions and not try to do too much.

And no, I’m not buying into Marshall’s thoughts that Cutler could play on Monday.

Yet the irony of the situation is that simply being a game manager won’t be enough to beat a potent Packers’ offense. So, McCown, in addition to not turning the ball over, needs to have a quick release, spread the ball around and put points on the board.

In fact, if recent history is a guide, spreading the ball around will be crucial for McCown, as keying on Brandon Marshall is not a good plan. The Packers held Marshall to just eight catches in their two contests last season.

- Speaking of turnovers …

The Bears defense could really help the offense by taking the ball away. The expected return of Charles Tillman should help this cause.

Look, it’s no coincidence that in the Packers’ five wins this season Rodgers has tossed 11 TDs vs. just one interception. In their two losses, he has thrown four TDs and has been picked three times.

Rodgers hasn’t been intercepted since the Ravens game, so the Bears will have their hands full trying to take the ball away. But if they do, they have a chance. And it’s the one thing the defense continues to do well in the post-Lovie/Marinelli era.

It would help if the Bears can muster a pass rush. The Packers’ offensive line has been surprisingly solid this season.

- Utilize their edge on special teams

Although I have been critical of the Bears’ special teams under Joe DeCamillis, the Packers’ unit has been really struggling the past two weeks. The Vikings torched Green Bay for a 109-yard kickoff return for a TD, and the Browns had some big returns as well.

Meanwhile, Devin Hester looked ridiculous again, so if he can break one it can alter the outcome of the game and provide momentum for the Bears.

That said, the Bears need to watch out for Micah Hyde, who returned a punt for a TD for the Packers last week.

coleryan Posts:11967 Followers:20
11/01/2013 03:18 PM

This is a matchup between two of the top three scoring teams in the NFL, with Chicago checking in at No. 2 (30.4) and Green Bay just a tick behind at No. 3 (30.3).

The Bears, though, are behind the 8-ball without the underrated Cutler. Chicago has generally struggled against the Packers with its signal caller in the lineup while Rodgers is 9-2 as a starter against the Bears, upping his success in recent contests by completing 69.6 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns against two interceptions in his last four against Chicago.

Trying to stop perhaps the game's best player without injured defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins, along with the more recent nicks to Williams and Briggs at linebacker seems like a long shot even with Green Bay's issues at the receiving positions.

The Bears will certainly make things tougher for Rodgers than the Vikings and the fact that big-play cornerback Charles Tillman plans to play despite a balky knee helps but at the end of the day this is a defense that, while still opportunistic, is 27th in the NFL, allowing 391 yards per game.

"We need to prepare and stay focused on our opponent and the changes they've made," McCarthy said. "At the end of the week, we want to make sure we're focused on winning and that our quality of play is as high as possible."

McCown will be starting for the first time since going 1-1 in Chicago's final two games of the 2011 season. His first start back then came in a 35-21 setback at Green Bay on Christmas Day, in which he threw for 242 yards with a touchdown but had two interceptions.

"Josh is going to do the job," Cutler said. "We've got a good game plan coming in. Josh fared well against (the Redskins). He'll play well again this week."

McCown will lean on a solid group of playmakers around him, including big- bodied receivers Brandon Marshall, who leads the Bears with 46 receptions for 540 yards and five TDs, and Alshon Jeffery, along with tight end Martellus Bennett and dual-threat running back Matt Forte.

"We really have to play together more than ever now and I think that's something that we're capable of doing," Trestman said.

coleryan Posts:11967 Followers:20
11/02/2013 11:43 AM

Five things to watch ahead of the 187th meeting in the NFL's oldest rivalry:

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY:
Not that the Packers would necessarily sympathize with their NFC North nemesis, but they know what it's like to play shorthanded and still succeed.

Coach Mike McCarthy's club has been without receivers Randall Cobb (leg) and James Jones (knee), and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck), and outstanding linebacker Clay Matthews. Green Bay has also been without two other starting linebackers in Nick Perry (foot) and Brad Jones (hamstring).

"I look forward to the time when we get all of our troops together at the same time. I think what we're going through now is these guys are gaining experience," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "We'll be able to use that experience over the second half of the season."

BALANCED ATTACK:
The Packers have vaulted into the NFC North lead with a four-game winning streak.

Minus three key receiving targets, Rodgers still put on a patient passing clinic in last week's 44-31 win over the Vikings, going 24 for 29 and 285 yards with a couple of touchdowns to Jordy Nelson.

Making just as big a difference is the Packers' revived running game, which has compiled at least 139 yards five of the last six weeks.

"We've put more on the plate of our quarterback and he's handled it very well. I always worry about putting too much on the quarterback's plate because at the end of the day he's not paid to make run adjustments," McCarthy said. "He's paid to throw touchdowns."

Fifteen touchdowns to four interceptions, and 2,191 yards passing on a 67 percent completion rate this season for Rodgers. Not bad at all.

NEXT QB UP:
On the other side is McCown, drafted in 2002. Trestman likes his experience, and says that consistency is the focus against Green Bay.

"We think we can do that with Josh. We think we've got the players to do it," Trestman said. "And we've got to do a better job on third down, so we can keep the clock working in our favor."

Chicago is 21st in third-down offense, converting at a 36 percent clip. It's even worse on defense, where the Bears are 28th with a 44 percent conversion rate.

FORTE BEARS:
All isn't lost with the Bears, who still have Brandon Marshall and the emerging Alshon Jeffery at receiver, and Martellus Bennett as a target at tight end.

Or maybe they turn to running back Matt Forte more to help control the clock, though Forte says he doesn't expect an increased workload.

"None at all. Everybody on offense has a load on their shoulders to continue to try to get better because we haven't played to our ability, and we've lost a couple games," he said.

CLAMPING DOWN:
Stopping the run (83.6 yards) is the strength of the Packers' defense. But Capers' crew is generating a pass rush, too, even down Matthews and Perry.

Green Bay got three sacks last week against the Vikings, its fifth straight game with at least that many. The defense has 20 sacks total during that period.