Sunday, December 16, 2018

2018 NFL Week 15: Packers vs Bears Preview & Prediction

Well, Packers fans, the team did what it needed to do at Lambeau Field last Sunday, dispatching the Atlanta Falcons 34-20. It turned out to not be as close as we had predicted. The Pack performed well across the board in defeating an Atlanta team that has been more disappointing for its fans this season than the Packers have been for us. It was the first game and first win under interim head coach, Joe Philbin.

Interim head coach, Joe Philbin, led the Packers to their first win under his
guidance last Sunday vs. the Falcons. He'll have a tougher job in Chicago today.

(Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

But today's opponent isn't the low-flying Dirty Birds. It's Da Bearz. While the offense may still be finding its way under young QB Mitch Trubisky, RB Jordan Howard is starting to come on strong which takes pressure off Trubisky. Chicago's defense, one of the top in the league overall, is what has led to Chicago's first potential playoff team in eight years. It gets pressure on the opposing quarterback with its front four and it generates turnovers in the defensive backfield. Chicago also has Khalil the Packers' chagrin after losing the trade talks with Oakland. (By the way, along these lines, we highly recommend to your reading pleasure -- or consternation -- an article entitled Bears' edge over Packers rooted in offseason maneuvers by Packers reporter, Ryan Wood. It gives us the willies.)

So Aaron Rodgers will be under pressure all day today, particularly as RT Bryan Bulaga will be out and replaced by Jason Spriggs who will be going up most of the time against Mack. (Let us pray...) The Packers will need to scheme to give Spriggs help or it could be a long day for Rodgers. Rodgers will need to get the ball out quickly, as was the case particularly early in the game against the Falcons, something which arguably led to the Pack's scoring 34 unanswered points at one point during the game. Failure to be in fast rhythm throughout the game today can be enough to allow Da Bearz to control things. Not ideal from the Pack's perspective, obviously.

Rodgers will have a healthier Randall Cobb back to take pressure off Davante Adams, who leads the league in TD receptions, with 11 of his 12 coming in the red zone. Coach Philbin used a Thunder-n-Lightening tandem running back approach a bit last week, pairing Jamal Williams and Aaron Jones at times. That will likely happen again, as Williams can provide additional blocking capability not only for Rodgers but in opening holes for Jones, as well, or helping him get into the flat for a pass reception. Or pounding for those tough yards in his own right. If that combination can get traction, it will certainly give Da Bearz something more to think about other than sacking Rodgers.

The Prediction

In order to win today, the 5-7-1 Packers will need to do something against the 9-4 Bears they haven't done in more than a year: win...on...the...road. Now, the good news is that in his career Rodgers is 16-4 against Chicago (and one of those losses came after he broke his collarbone and had to leave the game). He is 7-2 in games at Soldier Field. The Packers have won eight of the last nine games against Chicago under Rodgers, including the last four in a row. Rodgers has  thrown 45 TD passes and just nine INTs against Da Bearz, with a career passer rating against them a spectacular 108.3.

All well and good for what was. What is today is a different story. Rodgers hasn't had to go up as complete a Chicago defense in a long time as he will face today. That includes the first meeting at Lambeau in game 1 of the season where the Pack scored a 24-23 comeback win. The advantage to the Packers in that game, aside from the home field advantage, was Chicago had just acquired Mack and he hadn't had time to get fully in shape to participate in the game. That's not the case today. At all.

Chicago is favored by 5-1/2 points at the time of this writing. If the Packers can protect Rodgers and keep Mack from wreaking havoc, get a running game going and avoid turnovers while conversely putting pressure on Trubisky -- difficult with Kenny Clark out today (i.e., no opening game starters on the D-line) -- and generating a turnover or two, they will be in a position to pull off what will be an upset given all the expectations. Oh, and did we mention, a win by the Packers would also keep Chicago from clinching the NFC North Division title and a playoff berth today. Wouldn't that be shame? (#sarcasm)

As with the first game, this game will probably go down to the wire. We think the Packers will finally get a road win. And it couldn't happen in a better place.

We're calling it Packers 24 - Da Bearz 20.

Go Pack Go!!!