Posted by Matt Clapp | 11/04/2013 05:24:00 PM | Aaron Rodgers, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears, Devin Hester, Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers, Jordy Nelson, Josh McCown, Lambeau Field, Matt Forte, Mike McCarthy, Monday Night Football, NFC North
Game: Chicago Bears (4-3) vs Green Bay Packers (5-2)
Location: Lambeau Field; Green Bay, Wisconsin
Time: Monday, November 4, 7:30 PM CT
Bears' Passing Game vs Packers' Defense
While I'm certainly skeptical of how Josh McCown will perform in comparison to Jay Cutler, I still think he'll do a solid job running the offense and do his part in giving the Bears a chance to win games. Also, Marc Trestman will do everything he can with the play-calling and scheming to put McCown in a position to succeed.
We'll likely see a lot of quick, efficient throws to the Bears' very talented group of skill-position players on offense (Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Earl Bennett, etc), relying on those guys to do their thing.
Marshall, Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett particularly cause matchup problems for most any defense, and can turn seemingly inaccurate throws into big plays with their length and ability to go get the football. Additionally, McCown is fortunate to have a terrific receiver out of the backfield in Forte that can turn screens and "dump-off" passes into big gains.
The Packers come into this game with Pro Football Focus' worst cumulatively-graded pass-rushing unit, and their pass coverage hasn't graded too much better (PFF's 23rd unit). They'll also be without linebackers Clay Matthews (obviously a big deal) and Nick Perry which should hurt their pass rush.
We obviously don't have a good grasp on how McCown will perform, but I still think the Bears having a slight edge in this area even with Cutler out, due to the playmakers surrounding McCown, and a vulnerable Packers pass-rush and secondary.
Bears' Running Game vs Packers' Defense
The Bears are averaging 4.7 yards on the ground (seventh in the NFL), and Matt Forte certainly knows the importance of his role with Jay Cutler sidelined.
The Packers will likely stack the box frequently early in the game and make Josh McCown show he can make plays in the passing game. But with our assumption that the Bears are at least decent in the passing game in this matchup, running lanes should be opened up for Forte to be effective as well.
Green Bay is allowing just 3.7 yards per carry (tied for sixth in the NFL), but with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry out, the Packers' run defense (on paper) takes a hit like their pass-rushing does. PFF has graded Matthews (+4.6; second) and Perry (+2.3; eighth) as two of the Packers' eight best defenders vs the run this season. And the Bears' run-blocking unit has been very impressive this season, with PFF grading it as their sixth-best team in that department thus far.
Packers' Passing Game vs Bears' Defense
A team (Bears) with a terrible pass rush so far on the season, vs arguably the best quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) on the planet? Yikes.
Due to injuries, the Packers are without electrifying wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley, but wide receiver Jordy Nelson is playing better than ever, and second-year receiver Jarrett Boykin is impressing. And Rodgers is so good that it really doesn't make a massive difference who he has to throw to.
Rodgers has 15 touchdown passes on the season, compared to just four interceptions, and has the NFL's second-best quarterback rating at 108.0. He also has a 102.7 quarterback rating in his career vs the Bears, and with most all of those games vs much better Bears defenses than the unit he'll face in this game.
Nelson has 39 receptions for 649 yards and seven touchdowns, and has graded as PFF's third-best wide receiver this season at +14.2. Rodgers has an insane 148.2 quarterback rating when throwing Nelson's way.
Boykin has been very impressive in essentially being Cobb's replacement, with 13 receptions, 192 receiving yards, and one touchdown over the last two games.
Veteran wide receiver James Jones is also expected to play in this game after missing the last two games due to injury. The 29-year-old Jones had a whopping 14 touchdowns for the Packers last season.
The Bears' pass-rush and safety play have been abysmal (and those two things frequently go hand in hand), and although Charles Tillman is likely to play in this game, he hasn't been close to 100% healthy a single game this season, so we can't expect him to be the Peanut we're used to seeing.
It's hard to imagine anything but a very productive game from the Packers' passing offense in this matchup (and most any matchup).
Packers' Running Game vs Bears' Defense
Maybe the scariest thing about this game to me is that I'm as concerned about the Bears' ability to stop the Packers' running game as much as I'm concerned about the Bears' ability to stop the Packers' passing game.
The Packers' first-round pick in 2013, Eddie Lacy, looks very good in his rookie season. The 5'11", 229-pound back has 112 carries for 446 yards (4.0 yards per carry), and is extremely difficult to bring down, while still being very dangerous in space.
Meanwhile, the Bears' run defense has been awful this season (PFF's second-worst overall unit vs the run in 2013). There have been missed tackles left and right, from the defensive line to the safeties.Making matters worse, the Bears will be without star weak side linebacker Lance Briggs for at least a few weeks, and are now starting two rookies at linebacker in Jon Bostic at middle linebacker (replacing D.J. Williams who was lost for the season) and Khaseem Greene at weak side linebacker.
Also keep in mind that the Bears will likely be in their nickel package a lot on defense to try to slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' passing attack, which would only open up for more room for Lacy to run.
The Bears have disappointed in this department in 2013, likely due in large part to brilliant special teams coordinator Dave Toub departing to Kansas City in the offseason after the firing of Lovie Smith. But Devin Hester was able to get a punt-return touchdown in the team's week seven loss against the Redskins, with some terrific blocking setting up a free sideline for the league's best-ever returner to run free on. A Hester return touchdown against the Packers would be huge for the Bears in this matchup. And it would take place on his 31st birthday, too (Happy birthday Devin).
The coverage unit, though, has had far too many missed tackles and assignments (again, miss you, Toub), with Blake Costanzo and Eric Weems being the only consistent contributors in the group.
The Packers' Micah Hyde had a 93-yard touchdown return in week eight against the Vikings, so the Bears' coverage unit needs to do their job, or else Hyde, like Hester, could take one to the house.
After a nightmare 2012 season, Packers kicker Mason Crosby has made 17 of 19 field goal attempts. And the Bears' Robbie Gould is as good as good of a kicker as anyone in the business.
Bears punter Adam Podlesh was on the verge of being cut after terrible performances in weeks four and five, but he's been good in recent weeks. Packers punter Tim Masthay is solid, but doesn't even see the field much because of the team's juggernaut offense.
The Packers are 10-5 against the Bears under head coach Mike McCarthy, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers has done a remarkable job in scheming to bring the worst out of the Bears (and particularly Jay Cutler) in his time with Green Bay.
Marc Trestman's been impressive in his first season as the Bears' head coach, particularly with his impact on the offensive side of the football. However, there's been a major drop-off in the productivity of the Bears' defense under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and with the team's special teams unit under new special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. Injuries have certainly played a part in the Bears' struggles in those departments, but the performance has still been disappointing.
Going into Lambeau is always tough for a road team. Especially for the Bears in recent years. Especially in primetime.
Add in that the Bears' defense is playing as badly as anytime we can remember (and will be without arguably their best player on that side of the ball in Lance Briggs)... it's hard to see them slowing down Aaron Rodgers and this Packers offense. And without Jay Cutler at quarterback, it's going to be mighty tough on the offensive side of the ball for the Bears to keep up with the Packers' scoring.
There's just no reasonable argument for picking the Bears to win this game. It's certainly possible that they can pull this off (hell, look at the winless Buccaneers almost beating the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday) , but it will likely take things happening that we can't predict (bounces going their way, special teams touchdowns, etc.). Hopefully, they can find a way though, and if so, it would be the biggest regular season Bears win in years.
DBN's Pick: Packers 38, Bears 24
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