All the chips go to the center…irresistible force versus immovable object…it’s the big one.
It might not quite be what a big NFC North title game should look like to most of us. It may be “all chips to the center,” but we’ve both only got a couple bucks worth of chips left. It’s not an “irresistible force” so much as it is “several good receivers with a questionable Quarterback,” or an “immovable object” as it is “very porous defense.” It’s the equivalent of wanting a big wedding on a beautiful day in the park with thousands of people in attendance and settling for a shotgun wedding out in the back of a 7-11. But still, it is what it is. It counts just the same. There’s a title on the line Sunday afternoon, and one of two frustrated teams will get a playoff birth.
Green Bay Offense vs Chicago Defense
Well, let’s start with the good news…it sounds as though Aaron Rodgers will be back. That sets an interesting storyline into motion: Rodgers was taken out by the Bears around mid-season. Now, he’s back to potentially eliminate the team that took him out for 7 weeks.
Payback is a female dog, ain’t it?
Well, that’s the storyline going in. The result is yet to be determined, and it’ll be a few days before we get it. We don’t know how rusty he’ll be, we don’t know if Randall Cobb will be available, we don’t know if Eddie Lacy will play and even if he does, we don’t know how close to 100% he’ll be. But our captain is back, and that’s the primary guy we want for this game. All due respect to Cobb and Lacy of course, and I’m sure they understand what I’m saying here. Because they read our site…right? Right?
It sounds like Cobb and Lacy did well today, according to Rob Demovsky. Today’s update informs us that Lacy was still limited, as was Cobb, but both show signs that they may be available on Sunday.
The Bears defense has no Peanut Tillman, a banged up Lance Briggs, and virtually nothing else, if you go by the numbers. The run defense is last in the league, they allow a lot of yards per game, and most problematic for them, they allow 29.7 points per game, 3rd most in the NFL. This defense was torched to the tune of 514 yards against Philadelphia last week. Philly is good, yet that game should be viewed as a “this is what great offenses should do against bad defenses” type of performance.
With or without Cobb, the passing game should be pretty effective against the Bears D. Even with a rusty Rodgers, there should be several drives where he leads a long drive or makes a great pass leading to a big play. That said, we can’t anticipate Rodgers to be better than 75%. If he’s better than that, great. If he’s only playing at 3/4 of his ability though, the rust could lead to a very frustrating afternoon. I hesitate to bring it up, but it could be a huge momentum shift if the Bears were to knock Rodgers out of the game again. If Rodgers stays upright and not let rust turn into a turnover at a critical moment, he should be fine. If Lacy is healthy, his job is that much easier. The bottom line is…there is no excuse…none…for the Packers offense to lose this matchup.
Green Bay Defense vs Chicago Offense
Chicago’s offense, likewise, should win the battle with Green Bay’s defense.
As bad as the Bears’ defense was last week, the offense didn’t help much. They lost the time of possession battle to the Eagles, the team that is dead last in that category this season. The Eagles average 2:05 per possession this year and allow 2:50 per possession to opponents (also last in the league) according to FootballOutsiders.com.
The Bears may suck, but their offense is still problematic. Jay Cutler won’t be throwing interceptions every time he throws the ball. He’ll hit Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett often enough to keep us Packer fans on the edge of our seats. But, he is still Jay Cutler, and he still has a terrible history against Dom Capers and his defense. I went over many factoids about Cutler on our Titletown Sound podcast (have I plugged that enough this week?), the inability to beat Green Bay when the Pack doesn’t destroy themselves with penalties, the terrible QBRs, the inability to throw more TDs than INTs, all that jazz. I am often one to say “the numbers could regress to the mean,” but it’s less likely to happen in cases like this. Whether it’s Capers capacity to confuse Cutler or frustrate him or something else, Capers has shown an ability to get to the Bears’ QB.
Matt Forte is one of the most consistent Running Backs in the game, and with the Packers’ run defense being what it is, Forte should hold up his end of the offensive load.
No two ways about it, the front 7 have to figure something out. Exotic blitzes or just straight-up butt-whoopin’ along the line of scrimmage, something has to keep Forte in check and get pressure on Cutler. If Sam Shields and Tramon Williams can hold Marshall and Jeffrey in check on a given play, Cutler will certainly settle for a check-down pass to a third or fourth option, which is where the Micah Hydes of the defense can make a play and get that offense off the field. The Bears O-Line doesn’t generally need to give Cutler a whole lot of time, so getting pressure to Cutler is easier said than accomplished. Capers might have to break out a couple of those Cornerback blitzes to get the job done.
Overall, I’ll stick with the adage of “don’t give up the big play” (boy, I like quotation marks and rhetorical questions today, don’t I?) Don’t give the Bears anything big, make them earn every little bit, be more physical than their offense. Do those things, victory will likely belong to the Pack.
Devin Hester. Don’t kick to him. Robbie Gould. let him kick as little as possible. Adam Podlesh. Almost lost his job earlier this season. His net punt average is on a three year decline.
This could be a game that is tight the whole way. This could be a game where one team surprises everyone and runs off to a 21-0 lead. Both teams have capable offenses and lame duck defenses. This is the epitome of a “could-go-either-way” game. If Rodgers were 100%, I’d say the Pack should walk off with this game; I said something to that effect last time, as I recall. With Rodgers being out for so long, I’m not sure exactly what to expect. 75% of his usual stats, I might be fine with. But 75% of his usual decision-making speed…not so much. 75% of his confidence…I don’t like that at all.
Either way, this game will give one team a moral victory, an NFC North title, and probably a home date with San Francisco in the playoffs.
Personally, I feel I’ve seen this setup before, and it favors the Bears Coming off a brutally lopsided loss they can shake off, the Pack walking a tightrope for weeks. I don’t like it. On the other hand, if Rodgers is indeed coming back, that changes the story. Does he lift the Packers closer to the level of play we expected from this team all season or does the rust hold him back or even hurt the team?