Packers XLV

Time To Zip It: Pack Must Match Bears' Urgency to Win North on Sunday

Posted December 14th, 2012 @ 05:12pm

There's been plenty of yappin' this week by players new to the NFL's oldest rivalry (Brandon Marshall) and veterans (Lance Briggs and Jemichael Finley). None of that will matter on Sunday when the Pack looks to invade the Bears' den and leave with the NFC North title for a second straight year. But from a fan's perspective, it's nice to see the players hate each other as much as we hate the Bears and their fans (OK, hate may be a little strong, but you get my drift).

From the outside they look like two ships passing in the night. The Bears are a mess, losers of four of five, with a banged up offensive line and missing two key defensive starters. Lovie Smith's seat is getting hot. A loss on Sunday would be his eighth in the last nine meetings and from Day 1 he has said his team's number one goal each year is to beat the Packers.

Green Bay, meanwhile is starting to heal up. We hope to get the return of Clay Matthews to invigorate the pass rush against the Bears' leaky line. We also expect to see TJ Lang back at his best position, left guard--no doubt strengthening the Pack's O-line and giving Don Barclay a chance to hold down the right tackle spot.

Unfortunately, Charles Woodson has not been cleared by doctors, despite returning to practice last week and Jordy Nelson will miss another game.

Both teams will try to run the ball. Mathews' expected return would be a shot in the arm for the Pack's run D, which has been hit or miss of late. If they can contain Matt Forte on early down and force Jay Cutler into second and third and long situations it will only force him to run for his life and force things as usual. Cutler is expected to start despite the neck injury he sustained last Sunday; but he'll be without possession guy Earl Bennett, who will miss another game with a concussion.

The Bears' passing attack obviously revolves around the vocal Brandon Marshall who caught just two passes in the first matchup and seems to want to dare Dom Capers to change the coverage against him. But with 101 catches and the second most receiving yards in the league, the Packers will attempt to take him out of the picture and make rookie Alshon Jeffery try to beat them.

The Packers' running game has roared to life of late, averaging 135 per game over the past five. The signature drive of the Lions win featured seven out of seven plays on the ground with DuJuan Harris cashing it in. The new three-headed monster should have its way with the Bears, who are giving up 141/game over the past seven and are now without Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher.

Aaron Rodgers is 8-2 against the Bears, but rarely throws even two TD passes in Bears games. He's been efficient and takes care of the football, which is what you need to do against the opportunistic Bears defense. Their 7-1 start was fueled by turnovers, forcing 28 and scoring eight times. They've come back to earth in their recent skid, meaning the older defenders are spending more time on the field and it's taking its toll.

The Bears will be weakened further if CB Tim Jennings misses another game. The biggest ballhawk remains Peanut Tillman, who's having an All Pro year with 13 takeaways and nine forced fumbles. Green, Grant and Harris have to be especially secure with the football. If the Packers don't turn the ball over, it's hard to envision them losing this game.

The biggest intangible to me is the sense of urgency. Yes, if the Packers win, they win the division and that's obviously a big incentive. But to the Bears, this will be a playoff game. Granted, with remaining games against the Cards and Lions they could still get to 10 wins and get into the post-season as a wildcard, but a win over the Pack would change everything. Suddenly the division would still be up in the air and the perception around the country would be that the Bears are still dangerous and a team to be reckoned with.

But the Packers have won 11 straight division games, seven of eight overall and despite slow starts the past two weeks, have looked like playoff contenders since the loss at the Giants. With the Bears' key injuries, including the loss of kicker Robbie Gould, and Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers' track record in this series, it feels like the Pack will take care of business, win the division and keep a first round playoff bye in their sights.

Packers 20  Bears 14

Reminder: KFAN Viewing Party: I'll be watching Sunday's game at the Park Tavern in St. Louis Park, longtime sponsor of "Packer Preview." As a bonus, if you bring an unopened toy or a cash donation for Toys for Tots, you'll be eligible for a couple of special Packer prizes. Twin Cities artist Michael Birawer, whose "Sunday Afternoon at Lambeau" is featured on this site, will be on hand to sell small versions of this awesome piece. We'll also give a few way after each quarter of the game. Hope to see some of you at the Park Tavern in St. Louis Park to watch the Pack take home the North!


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Comments (6):

It sounds like Lang will spend most, if not all, of Sunday on the sidelines again. Driver's thumb is still questionable (meaning he'll ride a lot of pine too). I just hope the ran holds off and that POS they call a football field down there holds up for one more game.

on December 14th, 2012 at 04:07pm

I don't know if you will make it 12 straight division titles or not Siny. But I know you won't make it to 13.

on December 14th, 2012 at 09:52pm

You wish...

on December 15th, 2012 at 02:44pm

Bears need this one way more than the Pack and that desperation makes me nervous. These buys will be playing to save not only their season but also Lovie Smith's job. Bears lose this game and Lovie is gone after this season. But, pack is the better team and here's hoping we can pull it off. I am already all antsy with excitement. C'mon clock: hurry up and get to Sunday at noon. Go Pack!

on December 15th, 2012 at 08:41am

You'll lose......

on December 15th, 2012 at 10:35am

The Packers win today to sew up the NFC North title and next week at home against Tennessee to stand 11-4 going into the season finale at Minnesota. With San Fran. playing two very tough road games at New England and Seattle the Pack should have the first round bye clinched and won't need the second game against the Queenies. That's how things could roll for the Packers with a win today. Expect a game similar to the recent ones with the Lions and Vikes but with the same outcome: a Green Bay win. The Bears are fading, as evidenced by their current 4 game losing streak, which includes home losses to Houston and Seattle. Chicago doesn't win without defensive and special teams scores and the Packers are not a team that gives those. The Packers are 7-2 in their last 9 vs. Da Bears and should continue their domination under Mike McCarthy; as they have lately over Detroit and Minnesota. This game should be pretty similar to the earlier one won by the Pack 23-10 back in September. Multiple sacks and picks, enough rushing and downfield big plays by Aaron Rodgers to get out of town with a 21-14 win.

on December 16th, 2012 at 07:56am

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