3 things to watch Sunday night against Chicago
Jay Cutler has been awful against the Packers. As Chicago's quarterback, he has a 1-9 record against Green Bay with a 61.97 rating. The 31-year-old kept pace with Aaron Rodgers through the first half of September's encounter before reverting to old habits in throwing two second-half interceptions. Sooner or later, you'd think Cutler would be able to solve Dom Capers' scheme. Cutler hasn't been bad this season. He's on pace for his first 4,000-yard passing season since he was traded to the Bears in 2008, and his 95.8 passer rating is the highest of his career. However, reports out of Chicago seem to suggest things are falling apart in the locker room. Receiver Brandon Marshall even called out Cutler after his two turnovers in a 27-14 loss to Miami on Oct. 19. The math has been simple for the Bears. They're 0-5 when Cutler throws an interception and 3-0 when he doesn't. Marshall and fellow receiver Alshon Jeffery remain large perimeter targets, but trusty tight end Martellus Bennett (ribs) is questionable. Despite their prior successes against Cutler, the Packers say they're not reading too much into it. "I think that's a bad trap, mental mindset to try to fall into," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We have a lot of respect for Jay. He's very talented, can make all of the throws. He's clearly comfortable in this system. I think this system has been very good for him. You can see the impact it made to their football team last year. This is a very dangerous offense."
Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang don't miss games because of broken fingernails. It seems like every year the Packers' starting guards have muscled their way through one ailment or another to stay on the field on Sundays. If Sitton (toe) and Lang (ankle) had their way, we probably wouldn't be talking about their availability for today's game. But the Packers wanted to take the full week to gauge their availability with the final test coming in Saturday's practice. Reserves Lane Taylor, JC Tretter, Garth Gerhart and Jamon Meredith, who was signed Saturday, remain on call in case one or both starting guards can't go. Sitton has missed only two games since moving into the starting lineup permanently in 2009 with Lang missing one game in 56 possible starts since 2011. The Packers never have gone without both of their starting guards, which could present problems for a rushing offense that's struggled to find an identity this season. Even if Sitton and/or Lang is cleared, it remains to be seen how effective they could be pulling or handling bull rushes. Little has gone right for the Bears' 22nd-ranked defense, but defensive tackles Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea could give the Packers' reserves trouble. The two have combined for 7½ sacks in 13 games.
Winter is coming
McCarthy wasn't going to bite when asked about a game-time forecast calling for below-freezing temperatures and a daytime mix of rain and snow. "It doesn't matter," McCarthy said. "The only thing I really ever look at is the wind. Rain and snow has never really bothered me." What has bothered McCarthy recently is the defense's struggles against the run, particularly against the Bears. Running back Matt Forte has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his past three encounters with the Packers. Although Capers has been steadfast in saying the Packers' 4-3 defensive look remains on the ready list, chances are it's still in a trash can in the visitors' locker room at Soldier Field after the Bears tore through it in the first half of the Sept. 28 game. If the Packers are going to stop it today, they'll need their old-fashioned 3-4 base defense to hold the fort after conceding 193 rushing yards to New Orleans before the bye. On their sideline, the Packers will look to get their ground attack going with Eddie Lacy and James Starks sharing the backfield. Lacy was mired in his September slump when the teams last met (17 carries for 48 yards), but he averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry during the Packers' 3-1 run in October. The Packers don't need to be the best in the league in either run offense or run defense, but they'll need to turn the tables on teams as the colder temperatures become more prevalent. Through eight games, they're being outrushed an average of 153.5-97.5 per game.