23

December

2011 NFL Season Week 16: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears Preview — Home (Field) For The Holidays

Packers vs. Bears

Packers vs. Bears

After giving their fans a lump of coal last week in Kansas City, the Green Bay Packers look to make amends and stuff Packer Nation’s stockings with home field advantage for the playoffs as well as beating their despised archrival.

A week after suffering their first loss of the season, the Packers return to the friendly confines of Lambeau Field to take on the Chicago Bears Christmas night on national television.   Should the San Francisco 49ers lose on Saturday to the Seattle Seahawks, the Packers will have home field wrapped up before they take the field and there is the possibility Mike McCarthy could rest his starters.

Should the 49ers win, the Packers can secure the NFC number one seed with a win over the Bears.  The game plan could go one of two ways depending on Saturday’s outcome.

Regardless, the Packers come into the game with a battered offensive line.  Bryan Bulaga is out this week with an ankle injury and Derek Sherrod, Bulaga’s replacement, broke his leg in gruesome fashion and is out for the remainder of the year.  Throw in an off day by Aaron Rodgers and his receivers in Kansas City, and the Packers have plenty of motivation to play well even if they have the top seed locked down.

The Bears meanwhile are looking like they could be in a complete tailspin. With top offensive players Jay Cutler and Matt Forte sidelined, the Bears turn to Josh McCown at quarterback after Caleb Hanie stunk up the joint the past few weeks.  Marion Barber carries the load on the ground.  The Bears also lost Johnny Knox to a scary injury last week, though Knox fortunately was able to gain feeling back in his extremities.

Let’s look at the key Bears to watch on Sunday.

QB Josh McCown

I would normally say this should be all too easy with the Packers facing a quarterback that is out of practice and having one the best ball hawking secondaries in the league.  After watching their performance against a supposedly rusty (and injured) Kyle Orton a week ago, I’m not taking anything for granted.

McCown is already a legend to Packer fans after he led the Arizona Cardinals to a comeback victory over the Minnesota Vikings in 2003 that clinched the NFC North for the Packers, and fans hope he wraps a few more gifts on Sunday in the form of interceptions.

1

November

Week 9 Packers Stock Report: NFC North Edition

Through eight weeks, Matt Forte might be the runner-up to Aaron Rodgers for NFC North MVP.

While the Green Bay Packers were enjoying their bye week, some potential challengers for the top seed in the NFC struggled on Sunday. The Saints laid an egg against the Rams. The Giants had to rally to beat the Dolphins, and the Cowboys got destroyed by the Eagles.

Meanwhile, the Lions overcame the power of Tebow to improve to 6-2 and the 49ers took care of business aginst the Browns to improve to 6-1.

In other news, the Vikings got a little bit of good fortune to win their second game and the Bears joined the Packers in taking the week off.

Even though the Packes didn’t play, their stock went up. If you watched any football at all this weekend, you’d be hard pressed to find a team that could beat the Packers right now. But instead of spending another stock report praising all that is right in Cheeseland, lets devote some attention to other stocks throughout the NFC North.

Which players in the NFC North are on the rise and could give the Packers some fits down the stretch? Which players are playing at a steady level and which have dropped off a cliff?

Rising

Matt Forte
Bears RB
A new contract might not be in his immediate future, but that hasn’t stopped Forte from carrying the Bears’ offense. In addition to 672 rushing yards and 5.4 yards-per-carry, Forte also has 38 catches for 419 yards. To put those receiving numbers in perspective, the only Packers player with more receptions is Greg Jennings (42). The only Packers receivers with more yards through the air are Jennings (677) and Jordy Nelson (465).

I know the Packers offense doesn’t rely solely on one or two players, but those comparisons are still eye-opening.

Calvin Johnson
Lioms WR
Speaking of eye-opening, Calvin Johnson has left many DBs wide-eyed this season. Johnson is averaging six catches for 101 yards and over one TD per game. More importantly, he makes defenders and coaching staffs feel helpless when trying to stop him.

How do you stop a guy that’s bigger than some TEs, runs faster than a lot of WRs and jumps higher than a lot of NBA players? Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and Dom Capers better figure something out.

26

September

Packers vs. Bears: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 27-17 Win In Chicago

Photo: Getty images.

Packers vs. Bears: Aaron Rodgers found Jermichael Finley three times for touchdowns and the defense held the Bears to four yards rushing as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears, 27-17, Sunday at Solider Field in Chicago.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Big man in the red zone

Jermichael Finley sounded confident that he was going to make a major impact on this game, and he backed it up on the field. The Bears didn’t have an answer for him in the intermediate passing game and they certainly couldn’t handle him in the red zone. Rodgers found him three times inside the 20 for back-breaking scores.

On the first, Finley put a fantastic outside-in move on Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who trailed Finley by a few yards by the time Rodgers found him in the back of the end zone. His second touchdown came when Rodgers rolled right to avoid pressure, and Finley broke off his route perfectly to give Rodgers an area to throw him the football. Finally, on a third-and-9 play in the fourth quarter, Finley exposed a misplaced Cover-2 look where backup safety Craig Steltz was far too slow rotating over. That left 88 wide open in the back corner of the end zone for an easy pitch and catch. All three were fairly routine plays for both Rodgers and Finley, but the fact that the Bears were helpless to stop them is an encouraging sign. If Finley is on the field for 16 games, there is no way he doesn’t score 10 or more touchdowns. He’s just too much inside the 20.

2. Grounding the run

With the way the Bears have struggled to protect Jay Cutler, you’d think the Bears would have wanted to establish the run early and often on Sunday. I definitely thought so, and I figured Matt Forte, who has looked so good through two weeks, would find room running the football against the Packers if he got the opportunities. That couldn’t have been further from what happened. The Packers were dead set on containing Forte and it showed, as the Bears running back Forte had  just two yards on nine carries. Five of those carries went for zero or negative yards. Forte did catch seven passes for 80 yards, but a majority of that came in garbage time with the Bears struggling to stay in the game.