For the first time in years, the Bears have a coach I worry may be competent. While Lovie was admittedly good at setting up a defensive game plan against us in his day, his teams seemed to melt down a lot offensively against the Packers. And his in-game coaching was suspect. But I worry that Marc Trestman has the capacity to create a solid enough overall game plan to keep this game uncomfortably close. And Forte, Marshall, Jeffrey, Bennett and Devin Hester – these are very good players that can turn the game on one play. And they still have Julius Peppers who enjoys sacking Rodgers….Ok, the truth is I’m just trying to conjure some worry here so this preview doesn’t sound too biased and cocky. Even though I picked the Bears to win the division before the season, I’ve seen enough this year to think that’s not going to happen anymore. Especially with Cutler and Briggs out. If those two were playing tonight, I’d be a lot more concerned. Anyway, here are some other game thoughts:
- Josh McCown actually stepped in admirably after Cutler went down in Washington a few weeks ago. He’s a veteran who has had 2 weeks to prepare and he’s been prepared by a guy whom I believe knows what he’s doing in Trestman. However, one factor that I don’t think is a small one, is that mentally for McCown, it’s a lot easier to be thrown into the mix of a high-scoring game on the road as McCown was a few weeks ago in DC, than a heated rivalry with 2 weeks lead time and the build-up and hype of Monday Night. At Wash there were very limited expectations when he came in there and he delivered for the most part. But with the hype of Monday Night Football at Lambeau, I think the mental circumstances for McCown are much different. Frankly while I think he may end up generating some positive offense, I am guessing he will also make a bunch of mistakes (sack/fumbles, a couple picks) that help shut the door on the Bears.
- If Tillman and Tim Jennings play to their potential, Rodgers could have a bit more trouble in the passing game than he normally does. He already does not like facing the Bears and their particular brand of cover 2 (especially Tillman). I don’t have a stat to quote but I’m pretty sure Rodgers lifetime QB rating against the Bears is quite a bit worse than it is against other teams. And if our WRs are having trouble getting open/getting separation, things could be extra challenging, especially without Finley in there to create match-up headaches. But this won’t end up happening…here’s why.
- Chicago’s pass defense has been near the bottom this year – giving up 273 yards per game. I listen to Chicago’s AM 670 the Score a fair amount mostly because I’m entertained by the huge mood swings Bears fans go through (headed to Super Bowl one minute and going winless the rest of the season the next). Anyway, one of the concerns former Bear Alex Brown often talks about is the weak, weak play of the D- Line. Because they’re not getting any pressure on opposing QBs, the secondary is left to fend for itself which in part explains the 273 yards a game they’re giving up in the air. The Bears lead the league in fewest sacks with an embarrassing total of 9. That’s terrible. Packers have 23 and the Chiefs (where did that come from) have 36.
- And the Bears run D has been just as bad believe it or not – giving up 117 rushing yards per game. If they keep their safeties back too much to prevent big plays to Rodgers, the Pack could run on them all night the way our O-Line has been run blocking.
- Speaking of running, that’s going to be a big factor in this game. It has been a decade or so since the Bears have faced a Packer team with a reasonably scary running game (going all the way back to Ahman Green’s dominating days from 2001-2004…). Preparing for this more balanced offense would be very difficult for any D-Coordinator and despite the Bears success with the cover 2 against Rodgers, I think with Lacy/Starks running and our O-Line run blocking effectively, we could really expose the weaknesses of the cover 2 through the running game – and keep them off balance. This said, one possible drawback of focusing TOO much on the run is that it could slow down the tempo of the game enough to essentially allow the Bears to hang around within striking distance even if they have no business being within striking distance.
- The Bears will also find it rather odd to suddenly have to worry about another dimension of our game that hasn’t caused worry for a long time – the return game. Micah Hyde could be a legit factor in this game returning punts etc.
- As I started writing this post, I was thinking hard for reasons why I should be worried tonight about the Bears. I know that this is an important NFC North game, I think Trestman is a decent coach and I know the Bears historically get more pumped for the Packers than any other opponent. At one point I even considered the wild, unpredictable nature of Week 9 NFL games – and how this could possibly carry over to tonight. But the truth is I just don’t see how the Bears can compete tonight. They are outmatched.
- Packers 38 Bears 16.