Week 17 NFL Game Preview: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Week 17 NFL Game Preview: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will battle for the 188th time ever on Sunday afternoon.

The Bears lead the all-time series 93-88-6. The Week Nine matchup in Green Bay went the Bears way as they knocked out Aaron Rodgers and won 27-20 on the shoulders of Josh McCown on Monday Night Football.

But, Rodgers is back and this game has a ton of meaning. The winner will head to the playoffs and capture the NFC North crown.

The Bears are looking to sweep the Packers for the first time since the 2005 season, but Green Bay is victorious in three straight meetings at Soldier Field.

If the Bears can win or tie, they will be playing in the postseason, if not they’ll be on their couches at home for the third year in a row.

The Packers defense hasn’t been very impressive this season allowing a total of 363 points this season and 4.61 yards per carry to opposing running backs.

Bears running back Matt Forte is averaging exactly 4.6 yards per carry this season on 267 carries for 1,229 yards and seven touchdowns.

Forte has run for over 100 yards in two of his previous three outings, including running for an average of five yards per carry or more.

The Packers pass defense has been better as of late, but they’ve allowed opposing quarterbacks to post a QB rating of 95.5 or better against them.

That bodes well for Jay Cutler, who is 1-8 all-time against the Packers, with an average of around 20 points per game for his offense.

The pass rush for the Packers has kept them alive at this point. They currently rank eighth in the NFL with 43 sacks, while the Bears defense has mustered a league low 28.

25 of Green Bay’s 43 sacks have come on blitzes, but team leader Clay Matthews (7.5 sacks) is out for the year and that is great news for the Bears’ offensive line.

The Bears need to focus on their strengths. Getting Forte the ball often on offense and finding their big targets downfield (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett) should put points on the board for them.

Those big-time players will be asked to carry the load often as Cutler looks to avenge all of his struggles against the Packers and lift the Bears to the playoffs once and for all.

It won’t come easy for the Bears defense, who allowed rookie back Eddie Lacy to stomp all over them with a 150-yard rushing performance in the first meeting this season.

Lacy (ankle) comes into this one banged up and will likely be used sparingly alongside James Starks. The Packers game plan will be to attack on the ground because quite frankly, the Bears haven’t been able to stop anybody.

Rodgers will get his chances to showcase his athletic ability out of the pocket and his receivers will find openings, especially deep against struggling safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright.

The key is to blitz often for the Bears. They haven’t done it much as of late, but there’s no reason not to take chances in a big game like this.

Against a rusty Rodgers and a banged up Lacy, the Bears’ defensive line need to put together an all-together great performance, led by Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin.

I expect Lance Briggs to have a big game after easing back into things last week in Philly.

There’s nothing better than Packers Bears matchup, especially when it means the winner heads to the postseason and the loser goes home for good.

Injury Report

Bears– Wide receiver Earl Bennett is listed as questionable after being absent from practice all week due to personal reasons. Rookie Marquess Wilson and veteran Eric Weems will see snaps in his place if he is not on the field.

Packers– Linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb) was placed on injured reserve this week, which is a huge blow to the Packers pass rush. Running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) practiced on a limited basis on Friday and is listed as probable for this NFC North title clash. He certainly isn’t 100 percent, but Green Bay needs him if they want to pull out the big win.

Players Who Must Step Up

Brandon Marshall

The 29-year-old was voted to the Pro Bowl alongside Matt Forte for the Bears. He’s reeled in touchdowns in two straight games. Marshall has 11 on the season, which tied his career-high that he set last year. In five career meetings with the Packers, Marshall has 28 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns. He hauled in seven grabs for 107 yards and a score in the first matchup this year. Marshall is poised for a breakout game with his best pal Cutler tossing him the pigskin likely often in this NFC North title clash.

Lance Briggs

Coming off a one tackle performance in his first game since Oct. 20, the 33-year old outside linebacker can’t do much worse on Sunday. He needs to help out James Anderson and Jon Bostic, who have struggled to hold down the fort in the middle of the field. Briggs can help the communication much, which includes less gap breakdowns. Also, making sure the unit is in the right spots more often than not. Briggs should have a big game in this one, as long as he can put last week’s blowout loss and shaky performance behind him.

Corey Wootton

The 26-year-old Northwestern product has just four tackles and a sack over his previous three games. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, playing both end and tackle along the defensive line. However, he’s fared pretty well against the Pack. In four career games against Green Bay, Wootton has 10 tackles and three sacks. He’s recorded a sack in each of his last two games against them. This game has a ton of meaning not only for the Bears, but also for the future of Wootton, who will be a free agent after the season. It is time for him to shine.

Final Score Prediction: Bears 34, Packers 30

Qwikcast.com Weather Report

Windy and cloudy. Scattered light snow showers in the late morning and afternoon. Much colder. Morning highs in the lower 30s. Then temperatures falling around 20 by sunset. West winds 10 to 15 mph early in the morning becoming northwest and increasing to 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Chance of precipitation, 50 percent.

 

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