It’s actually sort of a shame that any team from the NFC North has to make the playoffs. Detroit and Green Bay each gift-wrapped a division title last Sunday, and yet the Bears refused to open the present. They were soundly beaten in all phases — the offense, defense and special teams were complete and utter garbage.
Despite that ugly and embarrassing performance, if the Chicago Bears beat the Packers on Sunday, not only are they in, but they also get a first-round home game at Soldier Field, while the potential 11-win Arizona Cardinals sit at home and watch.
That’s the crazy NFL. So let’s take a look at the keys to the game:
Hey, Rodgers, we know who you are
And we know that if you get cleared and play, the Bears are probably going to lose. Meanwhile, with the playoffs on the line, as well as a chance to stick it to their arch-rivals, you just know the Packers will do almost anything to get Aaron Rodgers back on the field for Sunday’s game.
Or, perhaps after watching Sunday night’s humiliation in Philly, Green Bay believes they can beat the Bears with Matt Flynn, which is possible. But no matter what, we all know that — even if rusty — Rodgers presents a more difficult challenge for Chicago if he plays.
Matt Flynn is better than Seneca Wallace and apparently more ready than Scott Tolzien, but there is no replacing an elite QB like that Discount Daaable-Check guy.
Flynn did throw for four touchdowns last week, but it took a collapse for the ages by Dallas in order for the Packers to keep their playoff hopes alive. Flynn does not possess a strong arm and — although he denies it — possibly a bum elbow.
Bears need Matt Forte to be Matt Forte
Sunday’s game was certainly not an indication of how Forte has played all season for the Bears. Like the rest of the team, Forte was bad — really bad — against the Eagles.
And on top of his inability to hit the hole (what hole?) or to cross the goal line to avoid a safety, Chris Collinsworth and NBC went out of their way to show what an awful job of blocking he did.
An early deficit forced the Bears to become pass-happy, but the Bears will need a running game if they are going to eat up some clock on Sunday. The offensive line has to play better, that much we know, and Forte has to do better than 29 yards on nine carries.
Even with Cutler’s two scrambles for 15 yards, the Bears averaged a pedestrian 3.2 yards per carry and called just 16 running plays.
Forte needs more than 54 (ugh, there’s that ugly number again) combined yards if the Bears are going to win. In their initial meeting, the Bears controlled the clock, winning the time of possession battle, as Forte ran for 125 yards and the Bears totaled 32 designed running plays.
At least try and slow down the Packers’ running game
I know the Bears’ defense is historically bad against the run and likely will not stop the run on Sunday, but they must at least prevent Eddie Lacy from running wild.
I know Lacy is not LeSean McCoy, but he’s been very good. He averaged 5.6 yards against the Steelers and scored twice. James Starks added 47 yards on 10 carries too, so the Packers actually have a running game that matters.
Lacy pounded the Bears for 150 yards in their first meeting, and the Pack combined for 199 yards rushing. He did leave Sunday’s game with an injury, however.
If Lacy doesn’t play, imagine how the Bears would feel if Khalil Bell carried the Packers to a victory on Sunday?
Clay Matthews’ thumb in the Christmas pie
Matthews was the Packers pass rush on Sunday, accounting for their lone sack, and as we saw in the first meeting, when he doesn’t play the Packers defense just isn’t as effective.
According to reports, Matthews re-injured the thumb that had been fractured earlier in the season and is unlikely to play again this season.
Look, the Bears certainly know about injuries, and the Packers won a Super Bowl despite a slew of injuries before, so no one is crying over Matthews being hurt. But it’s good for the Bears.
We all recall how Matthews dominated the Bears back in September of 2012, registering 3.5 sacks, albeit against a much worse offensive line.
Need to wrap up like a Christmas present
The Bears’ defense is bad due to an overall lack of talent. However, there are some things scheme-wise and with fundamentals that they can do to shore things up just a bit. Such as, TACKLE SOMEONE!
Bears’ D-coordinator (who probably shouldn’t rush out and buy a home in the Chicagoland area just yet) Mel Tucker said they missed “at least 20 tackles” in the Eagles game.
Look, if you’re going to go with an attacking style of offense, I’d like to see a more aggressive defense next year. But first, you need the players. I honestly don’t know if we can judge Tucker’s work with the hand he’s been dealt.
Meanwhile, just wrap someone up, please.
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Filed under: Game Preview