Packers at Bears: 3 storylines to watch
Here's a preview of what to watch for when the Green Bay Packers travel south to take on the Chicago Bears for a noon kickoff Sunday.
1. Aaron Rodgers' health.
It may seem like we’ve been down this road before, with all the emphasis leading up to a big game being placed on the condition of the Packers' starting quarterback, but you can bet much will be made this week of how Aaron Rodgers looks at practice, how much he practices and how limited he might be when the Packers face the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Much like he did in 2014 when Rodgers hurt his calf at Tampa Bay, Mike McCarthy will need to devise a game plan that allows the team to operate in an efficient manner but doesn’t ask too much of his quarterback when it comes to pushing back from center or sprinting on roll-outs. In general, the goal will be keeping him stationary in the pocket.
Rodgers has tried to downplay his health concerns, pointing out he hasn’t missed any starts and that the team it still winning. These are fair points, but there’s no question that all eyes will be on what kind of condition No. 12 is in walking into Soldier Field.
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2. Frigid weather.
Okay, campers, rise and shine and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cold out there today!
Anyone waking up in Chicago on Sunday morning will be forgiven if the above line from "Groundhog Day" is playing through their minds as they ready to make their way outside.
But the Packers and Bears will have to play in it, and it’s going to affect the way the game is played. With a high of 1 (yes, 1) and winds off the lake, it’s going to be a bitterly difficult environment.
This is lovingly referred to as “football weather,” most often by people in nice, warm TV studios.
The Packers and Bears will spend the week preparing for the elements. Mike McCarthy mentioned the weather more than once during his Monday news conference. While it may not directly change what the Packers want to do on offense, you can bet they’ll be thinking about it as they’re putting the game plan together.
3. The Bears’ improvement since the last time these two teams met.
Another thing McCarthy harped on Monday was the improved play of the Bears.
Any objective observer would say the Bears are playing much better football, especially on the defensive side of the ball, since coming into Lambeau Field and losing 26-10 on a Thursday night in October.
In spite of dealing with a bevy of injuries and suspensions on both sides of the ball, Bears coach John Fox has his team playing hard and competing for 60 minutes. One doesn’t have to reach too far back to remember how a Bears team that wasn’t going anywhere came into Lambeau on Thanksgiving last year and beat a Packers team that was trying to make a run to the postseason.
So here we are again, with the Packers coming off a big victory, fighting for their playoff lives, facing a Bears team that is just playing out the string. You can bet Fox will have his guys ready to try and ruin things for the Packers and their fans.