Monday, September 27, 2010

Packers vs. Da Bearz Monday Night Preview

Yesterday, we offered an overview of the well-known rivalry between our beloved Green Bay Packers and that team from south of the border, Da Bearz. Today, with less than 10 hours to kickoff, we offer our take on what we might expect to go down tonight in ChiTown.

Yesterday's pre-preview concluded with the statement that this will be one of those old fashioned smash-mouth games. Players on both sides will be hitting the whirlpool and ice tub heavy tomorrow. There is a lot on the line tonight: not only leadership atop the NFC North but also the NFC...whichever team wins tonight will be the only 3-0 team in the conference. Now really, should that be Da Bearz? Of course not. And it won't be.

So let's break this down a bit.

Packers offense vs. Bearz defense -- edge to the Pack. Da Bearz defense, especially the front 7, isn't bad. They are good at stopping the run. But since the running game is not what the Packers rely on anyway, that advantage for Chicago basically goes by the board. Julius Peppers can create problems, although he also is known to take plays off. Expect him to rotate to both sides of the line. But Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are veteran tackles who have played against him before and know what to expect. In general, especially during those games when Peppers was with Carolina, both Cliffie and Tausch have held up well. One of the question marks tonight, however, is how well Clifton's ailing knee will hold up. According to the injury report, he's listed as probable for tonight which means he will likely get the start. But if Peppers starts to get to QB Aaron Rodgers through Clifton, look for head coach Mike McCarthy to pull the plug quickly and insert rookie Bryan Bulaga. Da Bearz linebacking corps, especially with Urlacher back in the middle, can also create problems of course. It's Da Bearz secondary that is really questionable, which bodes well for the Pack's air attack which we all know can cause opponents fits. The Packers receivers and tight ends, as well as running backs, can all open up opportunities. The key will be to protect Rodgers so he and the receivers can shred Da Bearz secondary.

Bearz offense against Packers defense -- edge to the Pack. Da Bearz offensive line, so far, has protected QB Jay Cutler better than expected. Note that the operative phrase there was "so far." They haven't come up against a defense like the Pack yet this season. So while Cutler is off to a better start than anyone expected, he'll come back to earth tonight. Those 5- and 7-step drops that offensive coordinator Mike Martz has him making might work well against some teams. But against the Pack, it just means that his O-line is somehow going to have to hold their blocks longer against the Pack's pressure defense. By the way, this is the very first time that Bearz offensive coordinator Mike Martz has come up against Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Imagine that! In all the years and various positions, including head coaching gigs, this is the first time the two have met up. Sets the stage for a great chess match. But Capers has more artillery to bring to the game. Look for LB Clay Matthews to continue his sack-a-thon. As the Pack defense pressures Cutler he'll start to force things, which means turnover opportunities. Matt Forte is a good running back, who is also Da Bearz leading receiver coming into this game. TE Greg Olsen is a very good tight end. But the Packers "D" will hold Da Bearz in check.

Special teams -- edge Bearz. This is close to a draw. The Pack upgraded its punter this season, K Mason Crosby regained his confidence, and the return game got an unexpected boost from Jordy Nelson. The Pack's coverage units, to date, have also generally performed well. But Da Bearz also have a good punter and kicker, and the slight edge has to go to Da Bearz returners.

So, two out of three segments of the game favor the Pack, with nearly a draw in terms of special teams.

The Packers are favored by 3 points and the over/under for the game is listed at 46. Most pundits are picking the Pack to win, and I've seen predictions of anywhere from a 1- to 13-point winning margin.

The score which has been rolling around in my head consistently for a couple days has been Packers over Da Bearz 24-20. So I'll go with that. But if the Packers play up to what they are capable of, that margin could be wider by at least another touchdown.

Go Pack Go!!!