Packers vs. Bears Preview: 5 Things to Watch

The Green Bay Packers (2-0) and Chicago Bears (1-1) face off in Week 3 of the NFL season.

The basics

When: 3:15 CDT, Sunday, September 25, 2011

Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

TV: FOX, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman with the call, Pam Oliver on the sidelines

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network

Series: Bears lead, 92-84-6. Packers won last regular season game, 10-3, in January 2010 at Lambeau Field. Bears hold 20-19 record at Solider Field.

Five things to watch

1. Containing Forte

In six career games against the Packers, Bears running back Matt Forte has only averaged a little over 20 touches per game. The Bears will need to go over that number on Sunday to win. Forte is the focal point of the Bears offense, but too many times the Bears have went away from him.  Mike Martz isn’t making that same mistake to start this season. After asking for a new contract before the season, Forte has looked like one of the more complete backs in the game through two weeks. He’s averaging 4.5 yards on 26 attempts, but Forte is doing his real damage as a receiver, where he’s caught a team-high 15 passes for 204 yards.  If the first two weeks are any indication, the Packers might have trouble containing him in that role. Of the 851 yards the Packers have allowed to opposing quarterbacks, running backs are responsible for 235 of those. With the kind of film the Packers’ defense have put out early this season, you’d have to think Martz spent this week looking for ways to get Forte the ball in space.

2. Missing a playmaker

For all the nicks and bruises Packers safety Nick Collins has endured over the years, he’s played in 95 of the 98 regular season games the team has played since 2005. After suffering a neck injury in the second half against the Panthers, Collins will now miss the Packers final 14 games. I think most are underestimating how big of injury this could potentially be. Yes, Charlie Peprah played over 900 snaps for the Packers last season. Yes, Morgan Burnett looks like he could be a playmaker. But you simply can’t replace a two-time All-Pro who has 18 picks over the past three seasons with a journey man backup or a guy who really is in his first year at the professional level after an ACL injury. Making matters worse is the fact that the Packers now have undrafted free agent M.D. Jennings, who was expected to be nothing more than a practice squad guy, as the primary backup to both Peprah and Burnett. What was a position of strength for the Packers now appears to be a place opposing offenses could go to attack.



2011 NFL Season Week 3: Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears Preview: Chicago Can Hardly Bear It!

Yes, it’s the first Bear Week for the 2011 season.  The chance to once again rub salt in the wounds of Bears fans whilst polishing the Lombardi Trophy at the same time.  Life could not be any better if you are a Cheesehead.

That said, let’s stop picking on the infidels and focus on the game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears this Sunday at poorly renovated Soldier Field.

The Packers enter this game 2-0 after surviving a much tougher than expected battle with the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.  The win was costly however as Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins was lost for the season (and perhaps longer) with a neck injury.  Running back James Starks continued to make his case to be the Packers featured back and despite the loss of Collins, the defense once again held tough when it counted and cornerback Charles Woodson intercepted two of rookie quarterback Cam Newton’s passes.

The Bears face their archrivals with a record of 1-1 after being beaten down by the New Orleans Saints 30-13.  Bears quarterback Jay Cutler once again was thrown around like a rag doll after being sacked five times behind a very leaky offensive line.   The Bears are also suffering a bought of injuries with tackler Gabe Carimi and wide receiver Earl Bennett missing practice time while receiver Roy Williams  and safety Chris Harris had limited participation this week.

Breaking down Da Bears

On offense, you have to start with their beleaguered field general.

Cutler has taken a merciless beating since January, both on and off the field.  After exiting the NFC Championship with a knee injury, many current and former players brought Cutler’s toughness into question and those questions lingered all through the lockout and into the preseason.   On the field, Cutler once again is falling prey to far too many sacks behind a wounded yet still poor offensive line.  The loss of Olin Kreutz in free agency to the Saints apparently did more damage to the team than originally thought.

On the bright side, running back Matt Forte is one of the best backs in the NFC and will provide the Packers defense a huge challenge.  Not only is he a strong runner, but Forte has proven to be lethal in the passing game particularly on screen routes.   Stopping Forte will be crucial to the Packers keeping the Bears out of the end zone on Sunday.



Do the Green Bay Packers Have the Best Offensive Line in the NFC North?

Last week, ProFootballFocus.com released their 2010 Offensive Line Rankings. They used three categories – Run/Screen Blocking, Pass Blocking, and Penalties – to determine which NFL teams had the best and worst set of players along the line. After putting together all the numbers, the Green Bay Packers ended up ranking 12th overall, 5th in the NFC, and 1st in their division.

Here is how each of the NFC North teams ranked, along with their summary analysis from PFF:

12.  Green Bay Packers (2009 Rank: 22nd)

Run Rank 12th, Pass Rank 15th, Penalties Rank 15th

Nothing too flashy about the Packers, they get a good push up the middle but had some issues with pass rushers coming off their right side. When you have a quarterback as mobile as Aaron Rodgers, that’s not necessarily the worst combination in the world.

Best Player: Impossible to look past Josh Sitton. He elevated his game to another level in the post season, showing he’s more than just an excellent technician.

Biggest Concern: He was a rookie, but 13 sacks is way too many to give up, Bryan Bulaga. He needs to step up.


21.  Minnesota Vikings (2009 Rank: 25th)

Run Rank 27th, Pass Rank 13th, Penalties Rank 9th

It’s like a computer game. One player is too good so you crank the difficulty setting up by making the guys on his team so much worse. That’s the Vikings run blocking line who are determined not to give Adrian Peterson any free yardage.

Best Player: Their best blocker may well be Jim Kleinsasser, but unfortunately he’s classified as a tight end.  Bryant McKinnie is at least an above average pass blocking left tackle.

Biggest Concern: That there is no one concern that jumps out at you. This is a line that could use an upgrade and injection of youth at near enough every spot. Even promising rookie Phil Loadholt turned into a struggling sophomore.


23.  Detroit Lions  (2009 Rank: 18th)

Run Rank 24th, Pass Rank 16th, Penalties Rank 19th

More was expected of this line, but it didn’t quite pan out. Rob Sims wasn’t terrible, but didn’t upgrade the left guard spot, and Gosder Cherilus is still yet to live up to his draft slot. We’ve seen everyone on this line play better in recent years.