Packers vs. Bears: 5 things to watch, views of the game
TEAMS: Chicago Bears (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-1).
WHEN: 7:25 p.m. Thursday.
WHERE: Lambeau Field.
TV/STREAM: CBS, NFL Network, Amazon.
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, AM-1360 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Tied, 94-94-6.
LINE: Packers by 7.
WEATHER: Low 60s.
SURFACE: DD GrassMaster.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (126-70-1) vs. Chicago's John Fox (137-121-0).
5 THINGS TO WATCH
1. SHORT SHRIFT: Both teams are coming off overtime games played in 80-degree temperatures. They were able to hold two scaled-down practices because the priority is getting the players' bodies prepared to play two games in five days. McCarthy is 8-2 in short weeks, including 2-1 against the Bears. The Packers have more injuries to deal with and could be down to a pair of undrafted free agents at both tackle positions on the offensive line. McCarthy held a very short practice focusing mostly on drills on Tuesday and an hour-long unpadded practice on Wednesday. “We’ll be ready to play Thursday night, I can promise you that,” McCarthy said. “Yeah, they played a hot game, they played in the sun. We had the sun behind us for three-quarters of the game, I’m hoping that they’re extremely dehydrated.”
2. POUND THE ROCK: The Bears beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last week despite passing for just 84 yards and completing one pass to a wide receiver. The Steelers played zone coverage against quarterback Mike Glennon and dared him to throw it downfield. Bears coach John Fox wouldn’t let him and Glennon basically played check-down football. Glennon finished 15 for 22 for 101 yards and a touchdown with an interception. Running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined to carry 35 times for 216 yards (6.17 average) against a Steelers defense that was allowing 3.3 yards per carry. “They're committed to it, obviously as much of a commitment as any team in the league right now,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of the Bears running game.
3. MANO-A-MANO: While the Steelers played mostly Cover 2 against the Bears, the Packers are a man-coverage team and they’re likely to see this game as an opportunity to pressure Glennon and cause turnovers. But they’re best pressuring out of their “nitro” package with safeties Josh Jones and Morgan Burnett near the line of scrimmage. Playing that defense is a risk against a Bears team willing to run the ball up the gut down after down. If defensive tackle Mike Daniels plays, the Packers might be able to make it work, but without him, they may have to play two inside linebackers on early downs. “We’ve got a lot of different packages and, you know, we think that package gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of matchups and those types of things,” Capers said of “nitro.” “And if people start running the ball significantly on us, then we have other things that we can go to. But as I stand here I don’t feel like we can’t stop the run out of that defense.”
4. SLIPPERY FINGERS: The Bears defense has been remarkably stingy, especially given the offense has turned the ball over six times, including once at its own 35, once at its 16, once at its 13 and once at its 7. Of the six touchdowns the Bears defense has allowed, half came from those turnovers. The Packers have done a good job controlling the ball – they rank fourth in time of possession – and have six touchdown drives of 70 or more yards. Something is going to have to give between a defense that doesn’t give up long touchdown drives and an offense that specializes in them. “They’re going to challenge your pass concepts,” McCarthy said. “You just can’t go out there and run the same plays from week to week, that’s for sure. They’re scrappy, they’re tough.”
5. RUN AROUND: Is this the week running back Ty Montgomery gets 20 carries? So far, the most he’s carried the ball in a game was 19 times (vs. Seattle) and he’s averaging just 13 per game. The Packers rank 23rd in the league in yards per carry at 3.5 and Montgomery is averaging just 3.0. Rookie Jamaal Williams has carried five times for 21 yards (4.2). The longest run of the season by a running back is 8 yards. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has topped that three times on scrambles. Rookies Aaron Jones and Devante Mays have yet to carry the ball. Maybe this is the week they get involved.
VIEWS OF THE GAME
Based on the Packers’ injury situation, I really want to pick the Bears, but I think at least one of the two starting tackles will make it through the game and that will be enough to separate the two teams. It’s going to be two exhausted teams by the fourth quarter, so depth is going to be critical. Packers 31, Bears 27
The Packers have been crushed by injuries at tackle, but rookie Josh Jones has added some playmaking to their defense. The Bears will test the nitro's ability to stop the run with backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, but the guess here is the run defense will be good enough. Packers 28, Bears 21
The Bears' defense is good enough to give the Packers some problems, but Aaron Rodgers will find a way to get it done for the second straight week — regardless of who plays left and right tackle. Packers 23, Bears 20
If left tackle David Bakhtiari doesn't play Thursday night, the Packers very well could lose. They'll probably have a competitive game against the Bears regardless. But on a short week, one team has Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The other has Mike Glennon. And the team with Rodgers is playing at home. Expect the two-time MVP quarterback to make enough plays for a victory. Packers 21, Bears 17
Aaron Rodgers and the offense won't have an easy go of it, but they should be able to put up enough points at home to outpace a Bears team whose only victory came on a day when their quarterback threw for 101 yards. If the Packers' nitro defense can hold up against a potent Bears rushing attack, they should win. Packers 23, Bears 17