I first met Tony the Packers Fan in the fall of 1996, right around the time of Brett Favre’s apex. I mistakenly invited Tony to my Super Bowl XXXI party in January of 1997, making him the only person in my parents’ house (they had a party, too) who left happy that night.
We’ve been close ever since.
And since I’m heading to Poitin Stil in Rogers Park tonight to meet Tony, where we'll watch the Bears-Packers game together, I figured it was a good time to renew our sporadic tradition of previewing the first Bears-Packers game of the season.
Who needs to step up for the Bears to win in Green Bay without Jay Cutler?
The obvious answer here is Josh McCown. This is his first start since the last two weeks of 2011, and just like that year, his first start of the season will be at Lambeau. He lost the other one ...
But, his offensive weapons that day were Khalil Bell and Armando Allen at running back (in for the injured Matt Forte), and Roy Williams, Dane Sanzenbacher, Earl Bennett and Kellen Davis at receiver and tight end. Along with Garza at center, the starting o-line was J'Marcus Webb and Lance Louis at tackle, and Edwin Williams and Chris Spencer at guard.
Tonight, McCown will roll into Lambeau with arguably the best skill position players the Bears have had at each position in the last 20 years. Matt Forte is the best Bears' back since Payton and is having his best season. Brandon Marshall is the best Bears receiver EVER and is having a wonderful season. Alshon Jeffery is currently having a season that is up there with Conway '95, Robinson '99 and Booker '01 on the list of best non-Brandon Marshall seasons for a Bears receiver. Martellus Bennett is chasing Mike Ditka's rookie year for the best season ever for a Bears' tight end.
And on the o-line, we still have Garza at center, but swapped those other four guys for Bushrod, Slauson, Long and Mills.
The problem, of course, is still the defense, where season-ending injuries on the d-line and at linebacker are battering the Bears' depth. Entering Monday's game, the Bears are second in the NFL in points scored and 29th in points allowed. That's the biggest rankings gulf in the offense's favor in franchise history — the previous record was 14 spots in 1995 between the eighth ranked scoring offense and the 22nd ranked scoring defense.
The Packers have scored 212 points this season, which places them third in the league and only one point behind the Bears. And Green Bay has put up points on two top ten scoring Ds (San Fran and Cincy).
In other words, just as in weeks past, I'm not too worried about the Bears' offense. It's the defense that has me terrified.
To answer your question of who needs to step up? Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman. We need Julius to regain the Pep in his step, and we need Peanut to make a full return from his knee injury and regenerate the life and pride of a depleted Bears' D. Don't forget: Peanut was not supposed to play in the 2007 game at Lambeau, and not only did he play, but he forced two fumbles. In his career at Lambeau, Peanut has forced seven turnovers in 10 career games. If he's on the field (and it sounds like he will be), the Packers know to watch out for 33.
Feel free to give me any follow-up to what I just wrote, but this is my question for you:
Before the first Bears-Pack game of 2010 (Week-3, with both teams 2-0), I asked you to compare the trust you had for Rodgers (then in the start of his third season as starter) vs. the trust you once had for Favre. Your response:
"No, I do not yet have the trust in Rodgers that I had in Favre. Rodgers hasn’t led too many comebacks."
We've got a much larger sample size now — Rodgers has started 85 career regular season games. Favre's 85th career start was in Week-8 of the 1997 season, his sixth as a starter. This is also Rodgers's sixth full season as starter. A look at their numbers through 85 starts:
FAVRE: 56 wins, 20,645 yards, 165 TD, 85 INT, 61.7 completion percentage, 89.2 QB rating, nine fourth quarter comebacks
RODGERS: 57 wins, 23,523 yards, 185 TD, 49 INT, 66.0 completion percentage, 105.9 QB rating, five fourth quarter comebacks
FAVRE: 10 games in four seasons, 7-3 record, two conference championship appearances, one Super Bowl appearance, one championship, 243 yards per game, 18 TDs, seven INTs
RODGERS: Eight games in four seasons, 5-3 record, one conference championship appearance, one Super Bowl appearance, one championship, 289 yards per game, 18 TDs, five INTs
FAVRE: MVP (1995, 1996), first team All-Pro (1995, 1996), Pro Bowl (1992, 1993, 1995, 1996)
RODGERS: MVP (2011), Super Bowl MVP (2010), first team All-Pro (2011), Pro Bowl (2009, 2011, 2012)
FAVRE: 11 games, 10 wins, zero fourth quarter comebacks
RODGERS: 11 games, nine wins, two fourth quarter comebacks (stats include playoffs)
And so, my question to you is two-fold: On a scale of 1-10, how does the collective confidence of Packers fans in Brett Favre through 85 starts (a season that ended with his third straight MVP and a seven-point Super Bowl loss) compare to their collective confidence in Aaron Rodgers through 85 starts?
And, on a scale of 1-10, how does the love Packers fans felt toward Favre compare to the love they now feel for Rodgers?
First off, I'd say the obvious guy [who needs to step up for the Bears] is Forte. You don't want a shoot out. McCown is like bringing a toothpick to a knife fight.
If you have any plans of beating Rodgers, keep him on the sideline. Control the clock.
I've got love for ARod. And Favre. The main difference is Rodgers will take a sack rather than throw an interception. 12 plays great with a lead. But if he's trailing, I'm skeptical.
I'd be more comfortable playing defense than offense in a close game. In a game of formidable offenses, I think Green Bay has the edge on defense. Datone Jones is a baaaad man. AJ Hawk is having a career year.
The Bears are very suspect and vulnerable on D. Eddie Lacy will eat some clock and live up to his nickname of "The Hammer."
In 2013 I like Green Bay at home. Chicago has the perfect storm. I see upset written all over it. But who's f$%king with Rodgers? Definitely not McCown.
Maybe Aaron gets his squad to the 33-yard line in a tie game to set up a Mason Crosby game-winning field goal. That's a guy you can count on to win games.
So it sounds like you're picking ... who exactly? You guys have been heavy favorites all week, and now you're saying you see "upset written all over it." But on the other hand, you have Crosby hitting a game-winner. Name it, man!
Me? I'll take the Bears in a close one in seemingly the only kind of game this series has never seen: an honest-to-goodness shootout. I know you say we don't want one, but it's my birthday week and I'm feeling lucky.
To top it off, I scanned the rivalry's results for the most points ever scored by the losing team, and the total is 31, posted by the Pack in a 21 point loss on ... you guessed it, my birthday. And not only was it my birthday, but it was in 1955, meaning it took place during the week that Marty McFly spent in the past.
BEARS 51, PACKERS 48
How's that sound to you Tony?
The Crosby part was a joke. There have been very few blow outs in this series, at least in our lifetime.
The Packers have the number one defense in the league against the rush. The Bears best chance to win would be a heavy dose of Forte. That's going to be hard to do.
On the other hand, with soft defensive line play and no Lance Briggs, Eddie Lacy is in for a more than decent night. I see close to 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Pack roll, 30-17.
That was the final score of one of my favorite Bears-Packers games ever, albeit in the other direction. A classic game for two reasons:
1. The Bears' defense outscored the Packers' offense and the Bears' offense by a combined 21-14. (The Bears' offense was TD-less.)
2. This was the last Bears win before Favre and Co. kicked off their rivalry-leading streak of consecutive victories, with 10. The Bears' best mark was eight straight from Oct. '85 to Nov. '88.
Okay, that's that. See you for kickoff at the Stil.
I think we're getting another Hester return TD tonight ...
THE READJACK – TONY THE PACKERS FAN ARCHIVES, SINCE 2007
October 2007, for the now-defunct ProFootballNet.com
August 2009, for ReadJack.com
October 2009, for ReadJack.com
September 2010, for ReadJack.com
January 2011, for the now-defunct SportsBlogNetwork.net
October 2012, for RedEye
September 2013, for RedEye
November 2013, for RedEye