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January

Hey Lovie Smith, Play With Your Best (Packers Will Win Anyway)

The Green Bay Packers will defeat the Chicago Bears today – I just hope it’s the REAL Chicago Bears.

Bring your best, Lovie. Go all out for the win. Don’t rest anybody. It will make the Packers win that much sweeter.

I firmly believe the Packers are a better team than the Bears.

That doesn’t mean I’m disparaging the Bears, though. While we all know they have had lady luck on their side this year, that’s immaterial.

I expounded the virtues of the Bears’ defensive front seven in preseason. The pressure provided by Julius Peppers was exactly what the Bears needed  to allow them to play their cover two and mask some weaknesses in their secondary. All the attention paid to Peppers has helped the “other” defensive end, Israel Idonije, who has as many sacks as Peppers (8).

On the offensive side, Mike Martz learned from his early season mistakes. You can not give Jay Cutler free reign to throw on almost every down. Run the ball effectively, force opposing safeties to move up and then take some shots downfield to your deep threats.

The Bears have done a good job of figuring out who they are and playing within their means. Having veteran assistant coaches like Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, and Mike Tice has certainly helped Lovie Smith in this regard.

And then, of course, there’s Devin Hester.

But you know what?  IT DOESN”T MATTER.

The Packers are the better team. The key to a Packers win will be the offensive line. They’re not going to dominate the Chicago DL, but they don’t need to. Like last week against the Giants, they just have to hold them off long enough to give Rodgers some clear looks in the Bears secondary. Some semblance of a running game will also help, letting the Packers use play action to slow down the rush, as they did against the Giants.

On the defensive side, the Packers need to make Jay Cutler nervous with a variety of pressures. No need to go into great detail here, as this point has already been covered very nicely this week by Aaron Nagler of CheeseheadTV ( Capers needs to keep Cutler guessing ).

The wild card, of course, is  Devin Hester. With the Packer’s struggles on special teams, Hester is the one factor that could ruin Green Bay’s day. This is perhaps my only area of concern for this game.

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January

NFL Week 17: Packers-Bears Preview: Packing for the Playoffs?

The Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants 45-17 last Sunday to set up what is basically a “win or go home” game against the Chicago Bears this Sunday at Lambeau Field.

The Packers can still make the playoffs with a Giants loss to the Redskins and a Buccaneers loss to the Saints if they lose to the Bears, but the Packers and their fans know the best way for them to take care of business is do beat their arch rivals and not rely on other teams for help.

The Bears, meanwhile, have wrapped up at least the No. 2 seed and in theory could get home field advantage should the Saints and Falcons both lose and they beat the Packers. Atlanta plays the Panthers, so that scenario is incredibly unlikely but again “any given Sunday.” You never know.

Breaking down Da Bears

The big, no HUGE, question is how long Bears coach Lovie Smith will play his starters. If he is anything like mentor Tony Dungy, the odds are they will play very little in a meaningless game. That said, when Smith took the Bears job he swore that beating the Packers would be his number one priority so the Packers could see the Bears first unit for a good chunk of if not the entire game.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has never played in a playoff game, so perhaps offensive coordinator Mike Martz will want to keep his arm fresh and have him sit most of the game. Or, on the flip side, Martz wants Cutler to remain hot and will keep him in the game for the majority of it.

Cutler has been playing very smart football as of late and his trademark interceptions have been on the decline. Still, it seems like everyone is waiting for one of those boneheaded Cutler throws that tips the outcome of a game in favor of the opponent. If one defense will do that, it’s the Packers who lead the NFL in scoring defense.
The Bears defense has played lights out all year and it’s highly unlikely Smith would want to subject any of his players to injury. If the starters do end up playing a majority of the game, that’s bad news for the Packers. Defensive end Julius Peppers leads a superb pass rush and linebacker Brian Urlacher is returning to the Pro Bowl after missing all of last season with a wrist injury. The Packers offensive line will have their hands full again. They handled the Giants so they should be able to handle the Bears.