I don’t know about all of you, but I’m going to have a hard time getting a lot of work done on Monday. It’s gonna be one of those days where the clock crawls along and 7:30 will feel like it’s never going to come. Why? Because though it’s only week three, the Packers have a chance to join New Orleans as the clearcut leaders of the NFC, if they can take care of the Bears on Monday night.
That doesn’t mean a whole lot since it’s only September, but with the early struggles of the Vikings and Cowboys, Green Bay has a chance to put a nice bit of distance between themselves and the slow starting preseason NFC favorites.
The Bears are one of the surprise stories of the first two weeks. After Calvin Johnson handed them the victory in Week 1, they went down to Dallas, won the turnover battle and took out the under-achieving Cowboys.
Cutler is clearly flourishing in Mike Martz’s system, as is RB Matt Forte who’s been channelling Marshall Faulk in the first two weeks, with nearly 200 receiving yards. The Pack will need to make sure they know where Forte is at all times, because if they get pressure on Cutler like I know they will, he will look to Forte as his check down guy. The Bears will be without LT Chris Williams (hamstring), so they move RT Frank Omiyale over to the left side and insert Kevin Shaffer. With a starting tackle out, you know Dom Capers smells blood: with the major shift to the line, he’ll provide a number of new looks and will move Clay Matthews all over the place to confuse the OL–one of the worst in the NFL when healthy.
Aaron Rodgers finally looked like Aaron Rodgers in the second half of the Bills game. He found all of his receivers and looked the sharpest he’s looked since the Indy game in the preseason. The Bears secondary is their defense’s week link and where the Packers have the biggest advantage. Peanut Tillman is not the corner he used to be and young Zack Bowman still has a lot to learn. Safety Major Wright is injured, so Chris Harris steps in, a good hitter but a liability in coverage.
The Pack and Bears have met seven times in prime time in the past 20 years and not only is Green Bay 6-1 in those games, the only time the Bears have had a lead was when Robbie Gould kicked a gamewinner in OT in 2008. The Packers have scored twice as many points as Chicago in those seven meetings.
As I said, the Pack has a chance to show the world that they are legit Super Bowl contenders with a dominating performance on Monday night. A loss won’t dampen those dreams, because let’s face it, it’s a divisional road game and those are always tough. Besides, we get them again in the season finale at Lambeau.
The key on Monday is to disrupt Cutler like they did in the season opener a year ago. Get him out of his comfort zone, force him into mistakes and bring out the pouty, snotty Cutler who barks at his linemen and receivers. A matchup to watch: veteran and cheap short artist Olin Kreutz against the Pack’s emerging young nose tackle BJ Raji. Raji’s had his way with his first two opponents–this will be his stiffest test of the year.
Feels like a 10-point victory for the Pack, something like 27-17. If you’re up early on Sunday morning, tune in to “Packer Preview” at 8am CDT on KFAN in the TwinCities or at kfan.com. We’ll spend an hour dissecting this game that cannot come soon enough.