Sunday, September 28, 2014

Week 4 Preview & Prediction: Packers vs. Bears...Time to Get the Pack Back on Track

Less than two hours from now, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears meet south of the border (that would be the Wisconsin-Illinois border, for those who don't know the geography) to renew the most-storied rivalry in the NFL. Da Bearz come in at 2-1 with two road victories under their belt, while the Pack has stumbled to a 1-2 start and leaving many questions in the minds of fans.

Allow me to quote Packers beat writer extraordinaire, Bob McGinn from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The defense has been taken to task by coaches for showing no pride late against Detroit. The O-line has been browbeaten by coaches for not finishing in the run game. Offensive kingpins Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy have taken their shots, too. If ever a Green Bay team should be motivated, this should be the Sunday." (See here for more.)

Rodgers typically does not have two off games back-to-back. He was not sharp in the loss at Detroit. Heck, the entire team was not sharp. Does that automatically mean a rebound today? Nope. Would we think there is, as McGinn points out in the statement above, plenty of incentive today to redeem themselves and get their season back on track? You bet.

Havings said that, of course, as with any Packers-Bears game, this will be a battle. Whether more of the offensive or defensive kind remains to be seen. Bears QB Jay Cutler has been rather un-Cutleresque so far this season; in other words, not bad. He's had eight passing TDs in the first three games. He's got three tall and dangerous receivers. He's got one of the best running backs in the league in Matt Forte. The Packers defense will have their hands full. If they are able to get to Cutler early and often, they will give him happy feet and he will make bad throws leading to interceptions. Let's hope that's the way that side of things plays out for the Pack.

Cutler is just 1-8 against the Packers and that's usually because they've been able to force him into making mistakes. Most of the losses came under the coaching regime of Lovie Smith. Cutler's new head coach supposedly has provided more discipline for him. To an extent, that may be true. But what's also true is that, under pressure, we all revert to our instincts. Cutler's instinct under pressure is to force things. If the Packers' defense doesn't get a pass rush on him today, Cutler could have another good performance. He's certainly got the weapons. But get him under pressure, bad things can happen for Da Bearz and good things can happen for the Packers.

If the Packers offense can somehow get out of its own way and find itself, they can certainly exploit Da Bearz' defense. After all, it's not as if the Pack doesn't have plenty of offensive weapons themselves, right? The offensive line, it goes without saying (although I'm saying it), needs to protect Rodgers and create some holes for Eddie Lacy to run through. Rodgers also needs to spread the ball around a bit. If Chicago's secondary loads up to try to shut down Jordy Nelson, the rest of the receivers need to get separation and eliminate the dropped balls that have plagued them so far this season. It's time for some of these players to step up and play like the pros they are being paid to be.

Oh...and not having a turnover right off the bat to put the team down before the game even gets started. That would be good, too.

This game means more to the Packers than to Da Bearz at this stage of things. We have to believe that this is a game where things finally start to come together. If not this game, when? That's not to say it will be a perfect or maybe even a good game throughout. But it should be enough.

In our preseason prediction, we said the Packers would be 2-2 at the first quarter stretch of the season. If the Packers do in fact win today, that's right where we thought they'd be. Not great, not horrible. But getting things together. This is the game to do that. The current line has the Packers favored from anywhere from 1-1/2 to 2 points.

We're calling it 27-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!