Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers game preview

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers game preview
Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

What if I told you the Chicago Bears have never been able to beat Aaron Rodgers on his home turf? While the team may be 4-4 (.500) up in Lambeau Field under Lovie Smith, four of those wins came against Brett Favre, the most recent four have been losses at the hands of the Super Bowl MVP.

As for the Bears’ record on Thursday Night Football, Chicago is again .500 (2-2), but they are 1-2 (.333) while on the road. What does it all mean? Nothing, really. This is a better Bears team than any before it to face Aaron Rodgers and his goon squad. And they can definitely win this game. So, how do they do it?

Let’s start with the Bears’ defense:

If I’m dialing up the offense for Green Bay tonight, what would I do? Easy. I’d see just how healthy Brian Urlacher really is. The Packers will look to create one-on-one matchups with Urlacher inside the numbers; particularly in the redzone.

The Bears held Urlacher out of practice this week, but he will play tonight. Lovie Smith has said holding Brian out is all part of the plan, but it raises questions for me. After watching Urlacher’s performance against the Colts, there are questions about his game conditioning.

I know the Bears have Urlacher on a very stringent plan this season in order to help keep him fresh, but he still has yet to get in football shape. All the experience in the world won’t get his body there.

The Bears will look for ways to cover TE Jermichael Finley, who has bested Chicago on a number of occasions, and who was Rodgers’ number one targeted receiver last week. The Packers will use Finley split wide and slanting up the middle, so as to find where they can best exploit soft coverage.

With Finley’s size/speed combo, he’s a mismatch for just about anybody, but the way the Packers use him, there’s no great way for the Bears to consistently cover him. The bottom line is the Bears defense will need to play smart football vs. the Packers and adjust on the fly.

The Packers simply do not pose much of a threat in the run game. RB James Starks is doubtful for tonight, and while Cedric Benson had a great game the last time he faced the Bears, the Green Bay offensive line has struggled to open the holes needed for him to have success. The lack of a consistent run game should allow the Bears to drop more personnel back into coverage and help seal up Finley, among others.

Of course, the number one factor, as always, is for the Bears’ front four to get pressure. That’s going to be the key for this defense week-in and week-out. It’s essential for this group to be able to function at a high level, and with the Packers’ suspect offensive line, they have an opportunity to do it up in Lambeau tonight.

Getting solid pressure will force the Packers into calling for reinforcements, and it will limit what they are able to do offensively. It’s a big part of the reason why the Bears look so promising this season. Even though they have questions on the o-line, like a lot of teams do, they have the personnel in the run game to remain a threat even while in max-protect mode. The Packers don’t.

Pressure, pressure, pressure.

On the outside, the Packers may be without WR Greg Jennings tonight, who is listed as doubtful. Jordy Nelson will match-up against Tim Jennings, who had a nice showing last week, but look for Jennings to not take so many gambles against Nelson and improve in coverage.

Advantage on this matchup is about even.

Switching sides to the Bears’ offense:

Hey, follow the 49ers lead—they just blueprinted it for you—and RUN THE FOOTBALL. The Packers have trouble stopping the run, plain and simple. And while they also have problems in the secondary, they are an opportunistic group and can create turnovers.

The Bears have to caution against getting too over confident following last week’s performance against the Colts. This is a much better football team they’re facing tonight. Regardless, Bears-Packers in Lambeau Field is going to be hard fought not matter how you slice it.

While the Bears should be able to finally keep pace in a shootout with Green Bay, why even go there? Run the ball, protect the ball, control the clock, open up the play action. I expect we’ll see quite a few packages against this Green Bay squad that we didn’t see vs. the Colts on Sunday, and that should be exciting to watch.

The other thing to watch of course is the offensive line. The Packers will definitely look to exploit that weakness, and they’ll look to do it early. But if the line can protect, and that group can hold, the Bears have too many weapons for the Packers to contend with. It all falls on that line tonight.

When I look at this game, here’s what I see: the Bears know this Packers team. They know how to defend them and how to beat them. It’s the Packers who have a whole different gameplan on defense then they have used in the past. And that defense is suspect to begin with.

Advantage here goes to the revamped 2012 Bears. No question.

How about some nuggets?

  • Tonight will mark the 185th game in the NFL’s oldest rivalry. The Bears hold a 92-86-6 edge in the series all-time, which includes two playoff meetings.
  • Green Bay has won four straight and six of the last seven meetings between the two teams (including playoffs). The Packers have swept the season series twice in the last three seasons (2009, 2011).
  • Six of the last eight games between the Packers and Bears (including postseason) have been decided by seven points or less.
  • Tonight’s game will mark the seventh consecutive season (2006-12) that the Bears and Packers have squared off in a Prime-Time game.

Official prediction: Bears 27, Packers 24

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