Monday, December 22, 2008

Packers - Da Bearz preview we are. Week 16. One team still alive with playoff hopes. The other, not. And somehow, in a game where the temps will be in single digits and the wind chills below zero, in a stadium appropriately referred to as the "Mistake by the Lake" since its ill-conceived renovation, we still care. While we haven't quite reached the depths of the '70s and '80s teams, those of us old enough to remember know that the one thing that was essential back then -- even if the Pack couldn't beat anyone else -- was to beat Da Bearz. Twice. We still have that chance tonight.

In the longest running rivalry in the NFL, the Packers take on Da Bearz in Chicago this evening. The last time the teams met, in Green Bay, the Pack played their most complete game of the season and walloped Da Bearz, 37-3...37-3!!! They got back to 5-5 and looked as if they were finally putting it all together for yet another late season run. But there was a kink in that plan. Namely, four straight losses. Wow. We all know the story.

So what can we expect tonight? Da Bearz not only have revenge as a motive this evening, but after the ViQueens once more pulled their late season choke-a-rama by losing at home yesterday to the Falcons, they also still are playing for the playoffs.

Given the weather conditions, it's expected that the team that runs the ball best and stops the run best will win the game. OK. Well, believe it or not, Packers RB Ryan Grant has gone over 1,000 yards for the season; he's 10th in the NFL actually with 1,036 yards, and a 3.9 yards per carry average. His counterpart on Da Bearz, Matt Forte, who everyone seems to be ga-ga over, is eighth in the league with 1,115 yards rushing and a 4.0 yards per carry average. Now, Grant actually has some incentives in the contract he signed this season that could earn him another $500,000 or know, when you're talking that kind of money, "or so" is just fine. So, even if no one else on the Packers has anything to play for -- and that's a false assumption, by the way -- Mr. Grant should want the ball and be running like a madman every chance he gets.

Now, as to stopping the run, which is the better team? Ooops, sorry I asked. Never mind.

While it's not expected that there will be much of a passing game tonight given the weather conditions, the Packers defense still has to be aware of shutting down TE Greg Olsen. If they do that, whether or not Da Bearz try to use Devin Hester as a deep threat should become a moot point.

This is the Packers vs. Da Bearz. THE rivalry in the NFL, regardless of records. Chicago is favored by 4 points. If we were bettin' folk, we might be tempted to take those points.

And while my head tells me Da Bearz have more to play for -- revenge and playoffs -- my heart still pumps that green'n'gold blood through my veins. Gotta take the Pack. Especially in this game. It's against Da Bearz, after all. I'm expecting a low scoring game. Turnovers could and probably will play a factor as well. If the Packers can get up early maybe just once the defense can hang on, aided by the elements. I'll go 13-10 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!