Sunday, November 09, 2014

Week 10: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

As the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears look to renew the oldest rivalry in the NFL at Lambeau Field this evening -- this will be game number 190 in the series for those keeping track -- questions arise for both teams as they each come off their bye week.

For the Packers, can the team's 32nd-ranked run defense contain Bears RB Matt Forte? Can its linebackers and secondary cover TE Martellus Bennett? Can the Pack's hobbled offensive line -- possibly minus one if not two starting guards -- protect QB Aaron Rodgers and open holes for RB Eddie Lacy? For Da Bearz, can QB Jay Cutler not throw interceptions? Can a so-so secondary cover the Packers' outstanding receivers? For both teams, will weather conditions play a deciding role?

The preview here is a short one, Packer fans. The Pack has won 11 of the last 13 against Da Bearz. That in itself means little. The fact that the Packers are the better team overall, also means little in this historic rivalry.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Within the NFC North, the Packers, at 5-3, are in an unfamiliar position looking up at the Detroit Lions holding first place; they can’t afford to fall behind especially having lost to Detroit in their first meeting of this season. Chicago is looking up at everyone in the division, at 3-5. They also can’t afford to fall further behind. Lose tonight and it’s a long road to even have dreams of a wild card spot. Aaron Rodgers noted in a locker room interview this week that Chicago would be coming in playing as a desperate team and the Packers had better be ready for that.

Both teams want and need this game. But in a series such as this, on what promises to be a cold and blustery night in Green Bay, anything can happen. The best way for the Packers to prevent that is to get up early and big on Chicago, and to eat clock with their own ground game. To this point in the season, the Packers have been averaging about 59 offensive snaps, 10 fewer on average than their opponents. Time of possession has also favored the Pack's opponents to the tune of about 3 more minutes per game. The Pack needs to close the gap on both of those stats and tonight would be a great night to begin to do so.

Rodgers' hamstring will apparently be a non-issue, as long as it doesn't get tweaked by the cold or game action itself. If that rears its ugly head during the game, it could very much change the complexion of things. How long guards Josh Sitton and/or T.J. Lang might be able to go -- if they go at all -- will also have a major impact upon tonight's play and game plan. Let's hope none of these situations apply tonight.

The Packers are favored by 7 points at the time of this writing. The over-under is 55 points. Clearly oddsmakers are thinking lots of offense and not so much defense. We tend to agree.

We're calling it 31-24 in favor of the Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!