It’s the only week 9 game that features 2 teams with above .500 records; the (4-3) Bears visiting the (5-2) Packers on Monday Night Football. Chicago has lost six straight games to Green Bay, and will attempt to end that streak with Josh McCown making his first start since the 2011 season.
McCown looked good after taking over for Jay Cutler 2 weeks ago throwing for 204 yards and a touchdown against the Redskins. Jay Cutler remains out with a groin injury, and Lance Briggs is still nursing a shoulder injury.
Aaron Rodgers has owned the Bears in his career going 9-2 against them. With James Jones back in the fold, the Packers will be looking to beat down on a reeling Chicago Bears team.
For the first time in his career, Aaron Rodgers has a running game to take the pressure off of him. The combination of Eddie Lacy and James Starks form the league’s 3rd ranked rushing attack averaging 141.4 yards per game. However, Green Bay’s passing attack has been decimated with injuries. Randall Cobb is out for the year, Jermichael Finley has a bruised spinal cord and is likely out for the year, and James Jones has missed the past 2 games, but is expected make his return in this one. None of these injuries have slowed down Aaron Rodgers who has 15 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions while having the league’s 5th ranked passing attack. With James Jones back in the fold and Jordy Nelson playing great football, expect even bigger numbers from Rodgers.
Without Jay Cutler, the Bears are destined to implode. In 2011, Chicago was 7-3 when Cutler went down, the team won just 1 game the rest of the year to finish 8-8 missing the playoffs. Last year, Cutler went down when the Bears were 7-1, and the team ended the season with a 10-6 record missing the playoffs again. At 4-3 now, and Cutler out for at least the next 3 weeks, it’s up to Josh McCown to keep the Bears season afloat. Chicago’s offense aside from McCown is loaded with weapons. Matt Forte is as complete a running back as they come, and Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett all have elite talent, but as is the case in the NFL, nothing really matters if you don’t have a quarterback.
Packers – Aaron Rodgers is a perennial MVP candidate year in and year out. Josh McCown is not.
A big reason why the Bears are (4-3) and not better, is because the defense has been atrocious. Chicago ranks 27th in the NFL giving up 391 yards per game, 27th in passing yards allowing 273 yards per game, and is 25th in rush defense giving up 117.3 yards per game. The Bears have allowed over 21 points in each game, and have given up over 40 points twice. With Lance Briggs still out, there’s no reason those numbers will improve in one of the hardest places to win at Lambeau Field. Chicago has yet to recover from losing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton for the season, and losing his replacement Nate Collins for the year as well, which is a large reason why the Bears have had a difficult time stopping the run. If the Bears defense has any reservations for turning this thing around, Julius Peppers must get it going and quick because 1 sack on the season isn’t going to cut it. As a team, the Bears 9 sacks rank dead last in the NFL.
Following a rough start to the season, the Packers defense has gotten the job done. Green Bay sports the league’s 4th ranked rush defense which does not bode well for the Bears who will be looking to Matt Forte to give Josh McCown more time in the pocket. As Clay Matthews continues to rehab a thumb injury, AJ Hawk is having his best season in the NFL. Hawk leads the team in tackles with 59, and has 3 sacks. Johnny Jolly being back on the D-line to help out BJ Raji has also paid dividends. The last year Jolly was with the Packers was in 2009, when the Packers set a franchise record allowing 83 rush yards per game. This year, Green Bay is allowing 83.6 yards on the ground per game, and a lot of that has to be credited to Jolly who bring a ton of attitude to the defense. The pass defense has struggled after losing Charles Woodson in the off-season, but MD Jennings and company have a favorable matchup in this game.
Packers – You can’t run the ball against the Packers, and the Bears will have a grueling task of attempting to stop Aaron Rodgers.
Kicker: Mason Crosby vs. Robbie Gould
Punter: Tim Masthay vs. Adam Podlesh
Return Man: Micah Hide vs. Devin Hester
In the kicking game, Robbie Gould was perfect until he missed a 34-yard field goal against the Redskins in week 7. Gould is typically one of the league’s most reliable kickers. Mason Crosby has missed 2 kicks this season, but he’s kicking at an 89.5 percent clip, compared to his career 79 percent average.
In the punting game, Tim Masthay is averaging 2 more yards per punt than Adam Podlesh. Podlesh however, has 3 less touchbacks than Masthay does.
Devin Hester is the most prolific return man in NFL history with 18 return touchdowns, while rookie Micah Hyde has just 1 return touchdown.
Bears – Devin Hester if the best to ever do it, and Robbie Gould and Adam Podlesh have been more efficient than Tim Masthay and Mason Crosby.
The Packers are on a 4-game winning streak and have won 11 straight home games, while the Bears have lost 3 of their last 4, and will have to start Josh McCown at quarterback. This adds up to a Packers win.
Packers 34 Bears 14