Chicago and Green Bay come into this Thursday night contest in similar boats, having won this past Sunday in overtime in games that they didn’t play particularly well in. The Packers are beat up and continue to use a lot of inexperienced players in big spots. Winning at home against divisional opponents is a key part to the Packers success this season, but playing on a Thursday night is never easy. A Thursday night game is even more difficult after going to overtime in the hottest game ever recorded at Lambeau just a few days prior. Here’s how the Pack can stack some success at Lambeau and add another one in the win column.
STOP THE RUN
The Bears offense is not dynamic — they don’t complete passes down the field, they don’t have wide receivers that they target, they don’t have a quarterback that can run or throw deep. What they do have is a running back tandem that can wear a defense out. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen have dubbed themselves “Thunder and Lightning” and they are about the only thing that the Bears offense has going for them. Howard is the work horse and Cohen is the electrically fast and elusive third down back. The two of them together accounted for 266 yards on Sunday. The entire Bears offense had 304 yards.
With Mike Daniels still on the Injury Report, Kenny Clark needs to continue to be a force in the trenches against the run. He has shown up in a big way this season causing distruption up and down the line of scrimmage. Against Cincinnati, rookie Josh Jones led the team with tackles, with Blake Martinez right behind him. These three will have their work cut out for them on Thursday against the dynamic running attack that Chicago is bringing to Lambeau. Not only do Howard and Cohen pound the ball in the running game, but they are also the two most targeted pass catchers for the Bears. During the off-season, there was a lot of focus on the packers defense getting faster. That is sure to be tested this week against the super speedy Cohen. This matchup should provide a good opportunity to see if the Nitro Defense holds up against a run-first offense.
Ahh, the good ole days…
The Packers remain banged up on the offensive line, specifically at the tackle position. Brian Bulaga was able to start the game on Sunday, but re-injured his ankle and was unable to finish the game. David Bakhtiari continues to nurse a sore hamstring, missing the last two weeks. Kyle Murphy was placed on injured reserve, joining Jason Spriggs and Don Barclay as the third back up offensive lineman to be placed Injured Reserved this season. This potentially puts the Packers top three options at tackle on the sideline in street clothes and does not bode well as they will be going against a very strong front seven of the Bears led by defensive end Akiem Hicks. The Bears defensive front put forth a strong effort last week against the Steelers and it’s safe to expect more of the same Thursday night against the battered Packers offensive line.
With the Bears defense being tough in the trenches and the Packers working with a depleted offensive line, the quick passing game will be extremely important for the Packers to see any sort of sustained drives on offense. Will McCarthy get to the short passing game and help out his tackles with some chips and added protection or will Rodgers be under pressure for the whole first half before McCarthy is willing to make any adjustments? Hopefully this past week was enough for McCarthy to see that his tackles just do not have the ability to go at it alone right now. Look for Ty Montgomery and Martellus Bennett to help along the edges.
With injuries hampering many of the stars on this team, once again the Packers are in the hands of Aaron Rodgers – we go where he goes. He has had some amazing moments already this season, but he also has had a number (4) of uncharacteristic turnovers, including a pick-six last week, putting the Packers down by 14 early in the second quarter. These are costly mistakes, especially when the team is struggling on both sides of the ball, getting stops on defense and putting points up on offense.
We all know Rodgers is capable of playing flawless, putting this team on his back and leading the Packers to victory. We saw that late in the second half and into overtime against Cincy. But he needs to be better for the Packers to be better. So far he has 6 touchdown throws to 3 interceptions through three games, that’s an interception in every game so far this season. The Packers are just not built to withstand costly turnovers. No team is really, but we are not operating with a shut down defense. There has been plenty of talk about the Packers porous defense, but it has been Rodgers that has been giving the opposition free points with his costly turnovers.
The Bears are not a good football team. Glennon does not get the ball down the field, their secondary is not good, and they are prone to turnovers and penalties. Watching their game against the Steelers was more like watching a comedy of errors. But, their running game is the real deal as is their pass rush. If the Packers can find a way to not only contain Howard and Cohen, but keep Rodgers upright, the Packer should have no problem winning this game. GET LOUD LAMBEAU, get the victory and enjoy a mini-bye weekend to let your bodies rest and heal.
Green Bay – 23
Bears – 13