25

December

Packers vs. Bears Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Jermichael Finley caught three touchdowns back in Week 3.

The Green Bay Packers (13-1) and Chicago Bears (7-7) face off in Week 16 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: 7:20 CST, Sunday, December 25, 2011.

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI.

TV: NBC; Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Also streaming online at NBCSports.com and NFL.com.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; Westwood One, NFL Sunday Drive.

Series: Bears lead, 85-92-6 (Packers won last regular season game, 27-17, on Sept. 25, 2011 at Soldier Field.)

Five things to watch

1. Banged up offensive line
Matching up against the Bears’ defensive line is a task in itself, but doing so with a makeshift offensive line only compounds the difficultly. The Packers will be without Bryan Bulaga (sprained knee cap) on Sunday, and other injuries to Chad Clifton and Derek Sherrod have forced the Packers to shift T.J. Lang to right tackle and replace him with Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard.
Understandably, the Packers shifting offensive line had its share of problems against Kansas City. How they handle a Bears defensive line that has 28 total sacks, including 10 from Julius Peppers and seven from Henry Melton, will be a focal point on Sunday. Another rough performance could make scoring points a struggle.

2. Not Cut-ting it

While the Packers are dealing with injuries on both lines, the Bears sustained a knockout blow when both Jay Cutler and Matt Forte went down with long-term injuries in consecutive weeks. Cutler has proven to be irreplaceable with the quarterbacks currently on the Bears roster. Caleb Hanie, who nearly brought the Bears back in the NFC Championship game against the Packers, threw nine interceptions in four starts with a 41.8 passer rating. The Bears lost all four games and have all but eliminated themselves from the playoff picture.

Now, Lovie Smith is turning to Josh McCown, a nine-year NFL veteran who hasn’t started a game since 2007. For the Bears to have a chance at beating the Packers at Lambeau Field, McCown needs to play a lot better than he did the last time he was there. In ’07, McCown was just 7-of-15 for 115 yards and two interceptions for the Raiders in a 38-7 Packers win.

3. Bouncing back

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.

21

December

Packers Wednesday Injury Report: No Bryan Bulaga on Sunday vs. Bears

Packers RT Bryan Bulaga was ruled out for Sunday's game with the Chicago Bears.

As expected, the Green Bay Packers will be without right tackle Bryan Bulaga (sprained knee cap) Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Head coach Mike McCarthy announced the news at his Wednesday press conference.

Without Bulaga, the Packers are prepared to start left guard T.J. Lang at right tackle, with Evan Dietrich-Smith at Lang’s natural spot. Dietrich-Smith started two games for Josh Sitton at right guard while Sitton dealt with a knee sprain.

McCarthy also said that new addition Herb Taylor would likely be active as an emergency offensive tackle. Taylor was signed to replace first-round pick Derek Sherrod, who broke his tibia and fibula against the Chiefs and later placed on IR.

Receiver Greg Jennings (knee sprain) was also ruled out. He’s expected back for the Packers first playoff game.

The Packers did welcome back to practice Desmond Bishop (calf), James Starks (ankle), Brandon Saine (concussion) and Chad Clifton (hamstring, back). Starks was a full participant but the other three were all limited. Ryan Pickett (concussion) was held out, and Mike Neal was limited with a new shoulder injury that he suffered during the game Sunday.

McCarthy said that Clifton was “making strides” and wouldn’t rule him out for Sunday, but you’d have to think he’s still a long shot to play. He also said that Bishop would “have a chance to play” if he continues to practice like he did today. It sounded like Pickett was held out solely for cautionary reasons.

Other highlights from McCarthy’s press conference:

  • On Josh McCown, who the Bears announced Wednesday would start against the Packers: “He’s an exceptional athlete. Can make plays with his feet and has a good arm.” If you remember, McCown was the same quarterback who connected with Nate Poole to knock the Minnesota Vikings out of the playoffs as a member of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 of 2003.
  • Excited about playing last two games at Lambeau Field, especially with a home playoff game to follow.
  • On Bears defense: “Good tackling team and adjust well to how you attack them.”
  • “Big challenge” playing against their defensive line. Offensive line will be well-prepared.
  • On Aaron Rodgers winning AP Male Athlete of the Year: “Huge award. Speaks for itself what he’s done. Well-deserving. He should be NFL MVP.”