John: It's week two in the NFL season. We're here to preview the first Thursday night game of the year as the Chicago Bears head to Green Bay to face the Packers. The game is on NFL Network in the United States, which means most people are able to see it unless you're a Time Warner customer. I think it's silly that they still haven't been able to work that out. Here in Canada we've had NFL Network since the very beginning and we don't even have a team in Canada (sorry Buffalo). That's weird isn't it?
As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike "The Packers Guy" Maloney to break down tonight's game.
Standings after Week 1 (Straight Up)
Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers (8:30pm ET)
Bret: What a tough game to figure out. So much of this game will depend on the health of a few players. Will Jennings play? Can Cobb step up to the plate if he doesn't? Will Tillman be able to go (hugely important for the Bears), and will Urlacher be able to play at an acceptable level?
It's at Green Bay and it's almost impossible to imagine Green Bay losing 2 games at home to start the year, but when I stack up the players, I like the match ups for the Bears. Green Bay is way too one-dimensional on offense right now (9 rushes!), and Chicago on the other end have an excellent balance going that will keep the Packers from getting to blitz happy. This game may turn on a turnover, but I like Chicago in a close one. Chicago 27 - Green Bay 21
Mike: Well, this is a bit of a rough start to the schedule for the Packers, isn’t it? Start off the season playing the Sunday afternoon game against what looks to be the best team in the NFC, then follow that up with a Thursday night game against their primary divisional competition in an improved Chicago Bears team. I don’t agree with anyone that calls this a must win game for Green Bay, as aside from the later game this year at Chicago, the schedule is noticeably less difficult the rest of the way out (Especially given how Seattle, New Orleans, and the Giants looked in week 1). It’s certainly an important game, both because it’s a divisional game, and because it’s a significant opportunity for the team to bounce back and put together a better performance than what we saw against San Francisco, where they were thoroughly outplayed on both sides of the ball.
If you’re Green Bay, I think there are a couple of areas to specifically look at improving from week 1. First is the run game. In a word it was awful, even by Green Bay’s standards. I don’t really understand what Coach McCarthy’s gameplan was going into the game, but whatever it was, I hope he threw it out. The Packers ran the ball 9 times, all by Cedric Benson, all on first down. That’s it. Second year player Alex Green didn’t even touch the ball. Really unimaginative play calling and strategy if you ask me. Second area is the pass rush. Overall I felt Green Bay’s pass rush was ineffective, despite the four sacks on Alex Smith. There were far too many plays where Smith would have the time to drop back, find his receiver and make an easy throw without being hurried or pushed out of the pocket or anything. Green Bay’s secondary isn’t good enough to be able to avoid completions if the QB is getting time and space to throw. The pressure has to be better.
With the Bears, it’s a little bit tougher to gather what to make of them after the Colts game, as the Colts just aren’t very good. It’s pretty clear that Brandon Marshall is going to be a factor, he had 15 targets against Indy, the next highest was Matt Forte with 6. Probably the best news is that last year’s primary “receiver” Devin Hester only had two passes thrown his direction. Basically, their offense looks good. Their offensive line is still suspect, and Cutler is still prone to making the occasional dumb play, but overall if I’m a Bears fan I’m happy with what I’m seeing on that side of the ball. It will be interesting to see how the defense plays against an elite offense, however. The team did give up 350 yards to the Colts, including a surprising 5.3 yards per carry from Donald Brown in limited opportunities. There was talk before the year that this might finally be the year where the Bears offense would be the better half of the team, and thus far that’s certainly looking like the case.
I’m expecting this to be a close game, which is why with a spread at Green Bay -6 I’d be inclined to take the Bears either way. The only way I see the Packers covering is if the Bears defense is in even more decline than I expected, and the game becomes a shootout. The Packers as a general rule are not going to lose shootouts. Instead I think both defenses will come out stronger than they did in week 1, and while I don’t expect either side to pitch a shutout, I could see this being a game that’s scored in the 20s. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Bears won, but I think this game is more important to Green Bay, and they come out with a sense of urgency on both sides of the ball and get the win. Green Bay 27 Chicago 24
John: This is a great game on paper. The problem is a lot of the time these Thursday night game are real stinkers early on because the teams haven't had much practice team or rest from the previous week. At least in this case we're talking about two elite level teams (in my opinion, at least) in a divisional game and in a great venue for football. In other words, the atmosphere will be awesome and I expect it to be a very good game.
I'm leaning towards the Packers to win. Yes, I know they are coming off a week one loss home to the Niners while the Bears looked dominant, but that was against the worst team in the NFL last season. Going from the Colts to the Packers is a big jump. I also think the Packers will have a sense of urgency because they know if they start the season at 0-2 after two home games they will have a tough time the rest of the year.
The Bears impressed me a lot last week. Now that they have Brandon Marshall at WR, Jay Cutler is more dangerous in the pocket and the RB duo of Matt Forte & Michael Bush can give teams problems as well. They're a tough team to stop. So are the Packers, though. Sure, they are an inept running team that only ran the ball nine times a week ago, but can the Bears contain their passing game? I don't think so. I think Rodgers will be able to find Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley even without Greg Jennings on the field. The biggest x-factor? Randall Cobb. The Packers played him a lot last week and I'd expect him to have a very good game once again.
I think it plays out this way. Bears get an early lead. It might be something like 10-0 or 14-0. Packers will come back with a huge 3rd quarter and seize the lead late in the 4th as Aaron Rodgers proves why he's the best player in the NFL. I just think they're too good to be 0-2 and they know that just as well as any of us. Great teams find a way to win. They will find a way.
From the betting perspective, I'm staying away from this one. I'm seeing the Packers at -5.5 on Pinnaclesports.com right now. I think it's too close to call. The over/under number is 51.5 and I'll pick a score that goes over than that, but I'm not confident enough to bet on it. Packers 34-31
Mike and I are on the Packers while Bret's on the Bears. Let's see who wins this important game.
Thanks for reading. We'll see you again on Friday for the rest of week two.
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