Every game is big in the National Football League, but today’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears rises to a new level. This is for the division title. This is for bragging rights between the two teams with the oldest rivalry in the league. This one could determine so much across the league as far as playoff seedings. It’s HUGE.
So, again this week, we place our necks in the noose and look at how this game might play out.
But before you read about how we think the game might go, take our poll.
Enjoy … and let us know if you agree or disagree with our predictions …
Ray Rivard: Huge is an understated descriptor for this Packers vs. Bears tilt. By 3 p.m. today we will know whether the Packers have clinched their second straight NFC North Division title or whether the Bears have come back to life to get back into the playoff race. Just like every division game, you can throw out the records, you can throw out the trash talk, you can throw out the fact that both teams have suffered debilitating injuries to valuable players. These two teams know one another so well, that it always comes down to a turnover here, a special teams play there, a tipped ball, a trick play – remember the Packers’ fake punt back in September that turned that game? You can bet Lovie Smith remembers – he’s the king of the trick play and the Packers better be on their toes today. It’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when it will happen.
That said, I think this will be close for at least the first three quarters before Aaron Rodgers brings his A-game and makes a couple of more big plays than Jay Cutler. Look at Rodgers’ statistics against the bears the past four years. He’s been lights out, has only lost twice to them and is facing a defense that has slipped the past month, is without two of their best players and is primed for exploitation. I think Rodgers once again has a big day, Mason Crosby hits one more field goal than Olindo Mare and the Packers get out of Chicago once again as NFC North Division champs.
It won’t hurt that the Packers also get their best defensive player, Clay Matthews, back. Couple that with the addition of Sam Shields to the defensive backfield and the Packers are nearly at full strength on that side of the ball. Matthews is just one player, but his return is likely to tip the defensive balance in the favor of the Packers.
Packers 26 Bears 17
Tommy Marquardt: Looking at the game objectively, the Packers are playing better and have weathered their worst injuries up until now. The Bears are without two of their better defensive players, a top-notch kicker and Cutler is nursing injuries. My head says go with the Packers.
My gut is telling me to beware, the Packers have won 10 straight against the NFC North dating back to 2010 and no team has run the table within their division two years in a row since the current 4 by 4 division format was implemented in 2002. The Bears always play the Packers tough and are due for a win in the rivalry. Turnovers and weather can keep any game close and if that happens the Bears can probably pull it out at home.
Even with all that said, I’m going with my head and I predict a Packer victory
Packers 24 Bears 21
Bill Walton: When the Packers play the Bears it’s always special – even when they play in Chicago. Even more so when they play with stakes like these. The Packers can clinch the NFC North with a win. The Bears can disrupt the Packers playoff plans but cannot eliminate them.
Both teams have dinged up players. Green Bay gets Clay Matthews back for this one, albeit in a diminshed role. Any Clay Matthews is better than none, and if nothing else he’ll make Chicago think about how to defend him. Clay Matthews a decoy? Perhaps. But I still think he’ll get to Cutler at least once and make him move around more than he would like on his gimpy knee. Packers DBs will have to finish on INT opportunities. Packers special teams will have to control Hester. The usual subplots are in play. The Packers just have to execute.
Wife and Clay Matthews devotee Deneen thinks the Packers will win 31-14. Christmas-crazed son John says it’ll be 35-24 Packers. I think it’s going to end up 38-17 Packers. But as long as the Pack wins it’ll be a good day!
We’ll be at tailgaters in Magnolia for the game watch party. Follow me on Twitter at @PackersTX and watch LombardiAve.com for my post-game fan rant. And come on by and help us out-fan the Bears fans!
Patrick Hughes: Packers versus Bears, the rivalry of all NFL rivalries, one of two games Cheeseheads and those blessed with a three-letter acronym not appropriate for this site have had circled on the schedule all season. And this game in particular is important. The Packers win and they secure their place as NFC North Division champs and a playoff bid. The Bears win and they keep their playoffs hopes alive. High stakes and I expect a punch-you-in the-mouth all-out brawl.
The Bears have been talkin’ smack all week. It started with Brandon Marshall yapping about how he does not like the Packers and whining about being double covered. Then Bears linebacker Lance Briggs called Jermichael Finely an idiot for comments Finley made about Brian Urlacher. Briggs’ remarks may have made some Packer fans think to themselves, well better him saying it than one of Finley’s teammates. Other than Finley’s two cents the Packers have been relatively quiet. You can bet Coach McCarthy had something to do with that.
It seems the Bears understand the gravity of this game; they are desperate and attempting to make the Packers take their eyes off the prize. I sense that following the smack down the Packers were given by the Giants they have a renewed focus and understand the necessity of bringing their “A” game each week, especially this week.
I don’t expect the Packers to roll the Bears like they did in week 2. This one will be close. My prediction is Packers 28, Bears 17. Look for the Packers running game to have a nice effort, coming in at around 110 yards. Look for solid contributions from Green, Grant, and Harris, the three-headed monster. I also expect Greg Jennings to be a difference maker. On the defensive side of the ball, well they are playing against Cutler so look for picks from Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward and sacks by CMIII and BJ Raji.
Go Pack GO!
T.J. Lang returns to the starting lineup this week, yet there is more uncertainty than ever along the offensive line. Coach McCarthy refused to confirm whether Lang will be playing at tackle or guard, and now Josh Sitton is questionable. Should Sitton miss the game, Lang will certainly play at left guard with Evan Dietrich-Smith filling in for Sitton at right guard and Don Barclay making his second start at right tackle.
Despite his head/neck injury from last week, Jay Cutler is set to start for the Bears. He’s been inconsistent for the Bears all season, and actually has performed slightly worse at home than on the road. He’s been better of late, however, sporting a 101.6 passer rating in his last two home starts. While that’s a good sign for Chicago, the Bears’ defense has inversely trended. It’s not only Urlacher’s absence; there has been a marked decline in the performance of Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs. While Charles Tillman still has performed well (two forced fumbles in the last two weeks), this, too, represents a cooling off.
With the Packers returning Clay Matthews after a four-game stint on the sidelines, it’s hard to imagine the Bears being able to keep Cutler upright. If the Packers pass protection is anything like what they’ve had the past two weeks (a challenge if Sitton is out), that should be the edge they need to pull it out.
Packers 31 – Bears 24