If the Packers were playing well - and they are certainly not - I don't know if I could conceivably pick the Bears this week. Even as it is now, I'm about at the bottom of the confidence drain. Nevertheless...
Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?
- I always like the Chicago Bears.
- The only non-football reason I can conceive is the Bears approach this game with a "nobody believes in us" mentality. The coach is being fired in the media. The players are being called decrepit. Is this the kind of game wherein a back-to-the-wall Bears deliver an inspired effort? Or do they go gentle into that good night?
Admin Note: Tee Shirts Out Friday, Monday
The second round of tee shirt orders are now being processed and will be placed in the mail on either Friday or Monday. You should receive the shirts by the end of next week. I want to thank everyone for their patience during what was a tricky time and we sincerely hope you enjoy these shirts. The shirts will be available again on a day-to-day basis when we re-launch the site on March 1 at straight-up DaBearsBlog.com.
On the Emotional Evolution of Packer Week.
Brett Favre killed the Packer Week of the modern era. Or at least he attempted to kill it. For the last two decades it was very easy to understand the emotional relationship between the Chicago Bears and the other teams in the NFC North. (For the sake of brevity, we'll leave the Tampa Bay Bucs out of this discussion since the NFL decided Tampa, Florida was neither in the "central" part of the nation nor the "north".)
The Lions were not worth any consideration. Sure, it was difficult watching Wannstedt's boys attempt to tackle Barry Sanders and thrilling to see Paul Edinger kick the Wayne Fontes team out of the postseason in 2000. But, especially in modern times, the futility of the Matt Millen Lions was more endearing than anything else.
The Denny Green Vikings were a pain in the ass, especially with Culpepper, Moss, Carter, Robert Smith...etc. They were an offensive juggernaut. But there was never anything hate-inducing about them. The were inoffensively challenging and the Bears tended to play them pretty well.
The Packers have always been hated. In the blood. In the cradle. On the big yellow school bus and the small white one escorting folks to their medical appointments. And never more so than when Brett Favre was under center for the cheese. His grotesque on-field attitude, overblown media persona and sheer dominance at Soldier Field made him archenemy number one to a football fan base and the majority of a city.
Then he went to Minnesota. Myself and many other Bears fans found their abject rage shifted from the green and gold to the purple folks out west. I still disliked the Packers, of course, but I'd spent so many years thinking the Packers were #4 that I could not let that notion go. So I didn't.
While the Lions have become a despicable unit, the Packers have returned to the top of the NFC North food chain and become once again the focus of my disdain. It's because I don't like their quarterback. It's because I don't like their coach. But primarily it's because Brett Favre has finally faded from memory.
Goodbye, Brett. Welcome back the true spirit of Packer Week.
Analysis of the Actual Game
- All eyes will be on Olindo Mare as he replaces one of the NFL's all time great kickers. The Bears will not be able to stall drives at the forty and kick long field goals. Mare's range is inside 45. Nothing longer.
- I expect the Packers to follow the trend of recent Bears opponents and give them a steady diet of the run game. Alex Green and Ryan Grant will be given an opportunity to run away from Lance Briggs, especially in the first quarter. If the Bears can't contain the run and let their safeties stay high, they'll lose.
- With Craig Steltz on IR, the Bears need to keep their safeties on the field.
- I expect nothing from Kellen Davis and Devin Hester on offense. I'm not insane. I do think the Bears will Jay Cutler look to Alshon Jeffery early and often.
- I expect Dom Capers to actually scheme Brandon Marshall out of this game and I expect Jay Cutler not to care. It should result in 7-10 catches. 80-100 yards. 1 touchdown. 1-2 interceptions.
- The Lions didn't necessarily dominate the Packers with the run game but they controlled the line of scrimmage most of the evening. The Bears need to do the same. This should be a 25-35 carry afternoon for Matt Forte. Forte has yet to have a signature performance in 2012 and looked ready to burst out against Minnesota. Is Sunday his game to win?
- We know EXACTLY how the Packers want to attack the Bears. Stretch runs. Quick throws over the middle to slot receivers and tight ends. Shots down the sideline to players like Cobb. How do the Bears stop it?
Why This Game is Entirely About Pass Rush
The Bears have suffered injuries this year but Julius Peppers, Izzy Idonije, Shea McClellin, Corey Wootton and most of the interior defensive line will be healthy and active Sunday. If these fellas don't pressure Rodgers and allow him a safe pocket, they will be torched. And if they can't exploit the weaknesses along this Packers offensive line, this unit may need to be seriously evaluated at season's end.
Some Folks Are Depressed By the Bears. Watch.
- Thrive: It is time for Charles Tillman to have another brilliant game. I can't imagine a scenario where the Bears line up Kelvin Hayden or a hobbled Tim Jennings on Randall Cobb and Cobb has become Aaron Rodgers' number one target by a wide margin. It'll be on Peanut to shut him down.
- Survive: Who else? Lovie Smith. This is the most important regular season game the Bears have played since the 2008 finale against the Houston Texans. That day, with the playoffs on the line, the Bears were an embarrassing no show. Another performance such as that and Lovie's club will no longer have destiny in their own hands for the 2012 campaign. And Lovie may be captaining a sinking ship.
Dogfight. Close to the end. And in a surprise moment for the 2012 season, Olindo Mare wins it with a field goal. A win Sunday saves the Bears the season.
Chicago Bears 20, Green Bay Packers 17