Key Injury Situations:
Offensively for the Packers, receiver Greg Jennings is questionable to suit up. In last week’s loss to the 49ers, Jennings had 5 catches for 34 yards. Slot receiver Randal Cobb led the team with 9 grabs for 77 yards. Jordy Nelson, last season’s touchdown machine, had 5 receptions for 54 yards in week 1. But it was James Jones who scored a touchdown with 4 balls, going for 81 yards. Another weapon that found the endzone last week is tight end Jermichael Finley.
Defensively, Bears’ defensive back and counterpart to Jennings and the receiving core is Charles Tillman. Last weak he limped off the field after getting kicked in the shin on a punt return. Most fans are aware about “Peanut’s” defensive playmaking ability and stripping the football, but he happens to be an elite special teams player as well.
Also, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher only played in the first half of week 1 against the Colts. Granted they didn’t need to go all out against an inferior team with a comfortable lead, we will see how healthy the former Pro Bowl player is against a division rival.
Packers O vs. Bears D
Aaron Rodgers is last season’s MVP, and Super Bowl MVP from the previous year. We know he is an elite player and quarterback, but his shaky offensive line has to tame Chicago’s Julius Peppers. The line has been spotty under the radar, in part to a great quarterback and offensive scheme. Last postseason they were exposed, and they struggled against San Francisco. Green Bay fans shouldn’t panic because it’s a long season, plus they might not see a better defense the rest of the season. I liked the quiet addition of running back Cedric Benson, but the ground game was nonexistent with Rodgers leading the team in rushing (27 yards).
The Bears have to get pressure with the front-4 all game. They know Green Bay is going to pass the football and that’s all they should be concerned with, especially if Tillman is sidelined. You welcome the challenge of them running the ball, it takes the game out of Rodgers’ hands and they have the linebackers to stuff the gaps. This is an opportunity for first round pick Shea McClellin to make his presence felt, while Henry Melton is quietly making a name for himself coming off a 7-sack season (2 in week 1).
Bears O vs. Packers D
Last week rekindled the spark between the quarterback-receiver duo of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. They were the real deal in Denver and the reunion against the Colts resulted in 9 connections, 119 yards, and a touchdown. Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery caught a bomb for a score, while Earl Bennett continues to be a safety valve since his Vanderbilt days with the gunslinger. Matt Forte was involved in both the aerial attack and the ground game as usual and he scored, but the addition of Michael Bush instantly gave them a 1-2 punch and a priority option in the redzone. Bush punched in 2 scores in his Chicago debut.
Green Bay hopes they have the answer by drafting Nick Perry and putting him on the opposite side of Clay Matthews. Perry tallied 8 tackles against San Francisco in week 1, and Matthews had a couple stops to go with 2.5 sacks. They can get the best of the Bears offensive line, but the linebacking core has to step up in a big way to contain the running game. Charles Woodson is their leader and he plays everywhere in the secondary, so it will be interesting to see if he spies Cutler or Forte, or shades over to double team on Marshall. My guess would be a combination of all the above.
Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby made both extra points but didn’t kick any field goals last week.
Bears’ kicker Robbie Gould was on the money and he was used often in a route against Indianapolis, drilling a pair of field goals and 5 extra points.
As for the punters, Green Bay’s Tim Masthay booted a long of 60 yards while Chicago’s Adam Podlesh punted a long of 50 yards.
Green Bay might be closing on the gap in the return game. Even if a penalty should have been called on the play, Cobb took a punt return 75 yards to the house in the opener. We all know the success Devin Hester has had returning kicks and punts.
Prediction: Bears 34-27
This game could have a hand in records and seeding come playoff time. The team that gets the short end of the stick will have an opportunity to redeem themselves in the final week of the regular season when they clash again. Perhaps the playoff picture is settled before then, but that’s a long way from now.
I like the Bears in week 2. I don’t sense urgency from a Packers point of view with an 0-2 start. They flirted with an undefeated season last year, and that was coming off a championship year. Week 1 shouldn’t be much of an indicator when looking at this matchup. The way I look at it, Chicago’s offense is going to put up more points on the Packers defense. I see the Bears getting pressure in the backfield, stuffing the run and forcing Rodgers to throw quicker than he would like. I don’t see Green Bay containing the balanced Bears offense, and they could be in for a long day.
When playing against a player like Rodgers, you want to milk the clock and keep them off the field. For Packers fans, last Sunday night the Steelers did a great job of keeping the Broncos and Peyton Manning on the sidelines. They controlled the clock, but Manning was efficient with pinpoint accuracy to put up 24 points in 25 minutes. (Cornerback Tracy Porter sealed the deal with a pick-six to give Denver a 31-19 victory).