Well folks, Week 2 of the 2012-13 NFL season is under way. With the first week of games have wrapped up as we head into Week 2 and the most anticipated rivalry game of the season, the Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears. The Bears head into Lambeau Field 1-0 after a 41-21 rout of the Indianapolis Colts and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The Packers come in 0-1 after a close loss to the San Francisco 49'ers and look to redeem themselves after a slow start. However, this matchup will be unlike any in the history of the oldest rivalry in the NFL.
The Bears come into this season with more firepower on the offensive end than ever before, Chicago accumulated 428 yards of offense in their first real test of the season. Chicago displayed one of the most balanced attacks after getting off to a very shaky start that included a sack on the first play of the game, followed by a false start and eventually a pick six at the 11:53 mark in the first quarter. The Bears showed a short memory afterwards, taking the next drive 95 yards for a Michael Bush touchdown and practically never looked back.
So to say that this will be just another Bears v Packers game, isn't truly understating what's at hand. This will be unlike anything fans on either side of the rivalry have ever seen or anticipated. From the 1921, 20-0 shutout of the Packers, to the heartbreaking NFC Championship loss that saw the Bears watch Green Bay go on to win the Super Bowl, the oldest rivalry in sports just got that much more interesting.
Let's breakdown the new generation of Bears-Packers...
Throwing away "tradition"
For decades, the Chicago Bears formula has been to rely on the defense to carry the team through low scoring, ground and pound games. No matter the opponent. This season however, the league and Bears fans alike are in store for something quite different. The Bears come into the 2012-13 season with a unique identity, unfamiliar to seasons past. They now boast a powerful offense that consists of wide receiver Brandon Marshall (averaged 1,041yds past 6 seasons), Matt Forte (4,313yds rushing, 2,025 receiving currently), rookie receiver Alshon Jefferey (3rec, 80yds, 1TD in first NFL start) and running back Michael Bush (977yds, 7TD's last season with Oakland). The Bears have so many weapons now on the offensive side of the ball that defenses will approach scheming Chicago in ways they never have before.
On the flip side of that coin, the Packers boast an offense that may one of the most efficient in the NFL. Far removed from maverick gun-slinging brought in part by Packers "great" Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers (4,643yds passing, 68.7% completion, 45TD's) and the new Green Bay offense work like clockwork and defenses have to be on their 'A'-game in order to merely slow down the attack. However, in most cases, it will come down to a mere shootout, as the Packers defense ranks among the league's worst. Much like Chicago, Green Bay's arsenal of weapons are formed primarily by committee, so many names that defenses struggle to focus on just one.
Faces to match the names
Although both teams work by committee there is still a level of star power that graces both sidelines. Aaron Rodgers is the reigning league MVP and State Farm "Discount Double Check" icon, a play off his trademark touchdown dance. B.J. Raji has since joined him, displaying the hula dance he showcased during the Packers Super Bowl. Even Packers leading wide receiver Greg Jennings (949yds, 9TD's, 13 games started) is an Old Spice rep (Jennings status for game is uncertain).
Now more than ever, with social media and an increased television visibility, players are seen on a more personable level. Not too far removed from the "Mean" Joe Greene jersey throws and Flutie Flakes, this NFL exposes players more than ever before.
This enhances the appeal of a rivalry, we know that Rodgers shows a West Coast swag and the rights to brag. We know that Jay Cutler - at times - can seem a bit standoff-ish and can be just as brash. As the same for the mercurial Brian Urlacher. Bears fans know more about a players personal life, like that of Marshall and his Borderline Personality Disorder - as well as shorcomings - and his off the field issues with him being stabbed by his wife and a club altercation with a female that ultimately led to the Miami Dolphins practically giving him away to the Bears. These things are on the surface now more than ever, which give fans and customers of the NFL brand a unigue perspective of the players they cheer for.
As if the fact the Bears v Packers rivalry being among the oldest in sports wasn't enough. In 2010 the Packers not only defeated the Bears in the last game of the season to make the playoffs, they eventually went on to face them in the NFC Championship game and won, in a game that will live forever in infamy for many Bears fans.
- Cutler's injury met much controversy, and heartbreak
The NFC Championship game with much anticipation, but quickly became something many Bears fans would like to forget. The Packers jumped to a 14-0 lead before the half, as Chicago struggled to find offense and left the defense hanging on the field for far too long. It obviously wasn't long enough. Jay Cutler came back after halftime unable to participate with what appeared - at the time - to be a "mystery" injury. He stood on the sidelines, hand on shoulder pads, with a blank disappointed stare as fans, analysts and fellow NFL players all took shots and diagnosis as to what happened and why he refused to go back in the game.
Nevertheless, Cutler's injury did not stop Green Bay from putting the proverbial foot on the throat as the lead would eventually get to a 21-7 coffin-nailer. Caleb Hanie would enter the game and give the Bears some glimmer of hope with a 35yd pass to Earl Bennett in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter. The game however, was over the moment Jay went down. The rivalry that typically only resonated in the regular season, suddenly became more meaningful and left Bears players and fans with worst of tastes in their mouths as they watched a bitter rival beat them to go to the Super Bowl, and ultimately won.
Every employee that works and plays for the Bears franchise are hired with one thing on the itinerary, beat the Packers. And they didn't get it done when it mattered the most.
Midwest goes Wild Wild West
Typically the "Black & Blue" division has been predicated on ground and pound, defense and low scoring games, with the Bears-Packers scoring average versus one another 17-16 going the Bears way. In over 184 games, the Bears have accumulated 3,145 points to the Packers 3,045. Look for that average to increase in the new era of the rivalry. The Bears managed 41pts vs the Colts in Week 1, more points than they scored in any game all last season. The Packers only posted 21pts against a vaunted San Francisco defense, but averaged 35ppg last season, making them the league's best offense.
I don't expect the Packers to maintain that NFL best 35ppg this season, but I also do not expect them to drop too far off as one of the most explosive attacks in the league. The Bears on the other hand, are a completely different story.
Chicago's new look offense has many fans and analysts up in arms as they debate the potential of a multi-headed offensive attack that could compliment a top 5 NFL defense. The Bears have traditionally had an undersized, under talented receiving core that never posed much of a threat against defenses. This season, that is no longer the case, as the Bears boast a duo of 6'4'' (Marshall) and 6'3'' (Jefferey) receivers who've exhibited as much strength and speed as they do height.
While addressing the new vertically enhanced receiving corps, quarterback Jay Cutler expressed immense pleasure in the opportunity to have a "go up and get it" weapon in this new offense,
"We've got some dudes that, if you're gonna get up in their face, even our speed guys are gonna get around them, and our big guys are gonna throw and go," Cutler said. "So we invite press coverage. We invite man (coverage). If we get that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us."
"It's all about matchups," Marshall said. "I'm 6-5 (listed at 6-foot-4), 230, and there aren't too many DBs walking around that big. "If they want to get physical, I do welcome that. But again, you look at (Tramon) Williams and (Sam) Shields over there, and even (Charles) Woodson when he's down there. They like to mix it up. They give you different looks, and that's what makes them big-play potential."
In any event, we welcome this rivalry, renewed and regenerated. However, this isn't going to be your parents Bears-Packers rivalry, no, this is something new and exciting. And myself, like many other fans, cannot wait.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Alshon Jefferey, Andrew Luck, Brandon Marshall, Brett Favre, Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears, Earl Bennett, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Indianapolis Colts, Jay Cutler, Joe Greene, Matt Forte, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49'ers