Green Bay Packers: Why they’ll win, lose vs. Chicago Bears in Week 15

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

The storied rival Chicago Bears are the next opponent standing in the way of the Green Bay Packers bid to win the NFC North by reeling off six straight wins to finish the regular season with both sides set to duke it out within the glacial confines of Soldier Field, where temperatures are projected to hover in the single digits later today.

Frigid weather conditions and 15-mph winds certainly play in the favor of the Bears that feature a subpar passing attack led by third-string quarterback Matt Barkley, who’ll be looking to hand it off to rookie sensation Jordan Howard 20-plus times and win a low-scoring battle if everything goes according to plan.

The Packers, on other hand, face the unenviable dilemma of having no choice but to start Aaron Rodgers despite a nagging calf and hamstring injuries that have forced him to miss a week’s worth of practices.

In a perfect world, Green Bay’s upcoming division showdown will follow the same script of their Week-13 conquest of the Seattle Seahawks that allowed Mike McCarthy to pull his franchise quarterback late in the game in an effort to prevent him from further aggravating his lower-body woes .

But while a lopsided Packers’ victory remains a very strong possibility on paper, one cannot discount the animosity John Fox’s group has for its neighbors residing less than 200 miles away.

The Bears could be, in essence, playing their Super Bowl knowing that they can single-handedly dash Green Bay’s hopes to extend their season into the playoffs by dealing them their seventh loss of the year.

By the same token, the 3-10 Monsters of the Midway could very well go into retreat mode if the enemy jumps out to an early lead given the harsh Arctic-like elements they’ll be facing during the course of a grueling three-hour affair.

But no matter how stark the mismatch may appear, wins are extremely difficult to come by in the NFL and one can almost always make a valid argument in favor of either team winning or losing.

Let’s ponder the possibilities.

Why the Packers will win

1. Can’t catch the Cardinal: The previously-referenced weather conditions could make it a chore for both teams to move the ball which all but ensures that former Stanford Cardinal Ty Montgomery will see the ball early and often with James Starks out with a concussion and Christine Michael still learning the playbook.

In his Thursday-night meeting with the Bears in Week 7, the 23-year-old back gained 66 yards rushing and caught 10 of 13 targets for 60 yards.

In that game, Chicago was without its top interior lineman, Eddie Goldman, and that looks to be the case once again, as the 320-pound nose tackle hasn’t practiced all week due to an ankle injury that has plagued him the entire season.

In recent weeks, Vic Fangio’s defense has allowed Derrick Henry and Dwayne Washington to post their best rushing performances to date along with surrendering 85 rushing yards to the plodding Rashad Jennings.

Without inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman in the starting lineup, the Bears’ front seven will be hard pressed to penetrate a now healthy Packers offensive line with T.J. Lang back in the fold.

2. Pick your poison: Though the Bears have some young talent in the defensive backfield, including the likes of Cra’Von LeBlanc and former Miami Hurricane Deon Bush, keeping both Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams in check will be an extremely tall order to say the least.

While cornerback Tracy Porter did a masterful job in shutting down Nelson, who caught only one of four targets for 9 yards back in October, Rodgers’ go-to receiver has been on a tear lately by scoring in six of his last seven outings and currently leads the league in red-zone targets (26).

And even if a banged-up Porter does provide a repeat performance, let’s not forget the game Adams had that week by reeling in a career-high 13 grabs for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

The 5-foot-9 LeBlanc, who will likely be matched up against No. 17 has been known to struggle against bigger opponents, particularly on deep throws.

Nelson or Adams—or both—are poised for a big game.

3. Against the wind: All things considered, Matt Barkley has been serviceable in his three starts with a 4:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but projects as more of a game-manager type, who will never start a season as any team’s starting quarterback.

The California-born signal caller has shown the ability to throw the ball accurately on the run, but lacks the arm to make all the throws required of an NFL quarterback and his warts began rising to the surface last Sunday versus Detroit.

Barkley hung up passes on easy completions inside the weather-proof Ford Field and luckily avoided throwing multiple interceptions due to Lion defenders that couldn’t capitalize on their turnover opportunities.

Forcing the former Trojan to throw on every down could be a disaster waiting to happen if the Packers get ahead by a comfortable margin.

Why the Packers will lose

1. Help me Howard: The unlikely event of the Bears scoring an upset will probably take place with Jordan Howard carrying the offense on his shoulders and slowing the game down to a grind.

But while that scenario isn’t what most media members are forecasting, it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility given how the Packers have struggled against the run by allowing six out of their last seven opponents to average 4.5 yards per carry or better.

With Mike Pennel serving yet another suspension, Green Bay is rather thin in the trenches.

The hard-charging 230-pound rookie running back can be a load to defend in that he combines the size and power to push the pile with the vision to cut back and explode for long gains.

For the season, Howard is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and is only 31 yards away from 1,000.

2. Jeffery looking to cash in: After a four-game suspension, a well-rested Alshon Jeffery is salivating at thought of making downfield plays to help his team restore some dignity in a down season.

The fifth-year veteran is also hoping to score a long-term deal in the offseason considering the fact that he’s currently playing under a franchise tag.

Although Jeffery has only once surpassed 100 yards receiving this year, he remains Chicago’s best vertical threat and this week’s adversary has given up the third-most touchdown receptions (19) to the wide-receiver position thus far.

In his first game versus Green Bay, Jeffery struggled to get open against Ladarius Gunter, who was very physical and disciplined in his coverage of the 6-foot-3 wideout.

The South Carolina native is always capable of making one or two momentum-shifting plays.

3. Rodgers pulls up lame: Cheesehead supporters are brimming with confidence after last week’s dominant showing against the Seahawks with a hobbled Aaron Rodgers providing yet another heroic performance despite his physical limitations, including a sore hamstring.

But the fact of the matter is—he’s dealing with not one, but two injuries at the moment. The two-time MVP, in fact, added to his list of maladies last week by hurting his calf on a first-quarter 66-yard touchdown pass to Adams.

The brutal cold could tighten his lower-body muscles and pave the way to an early exit.

Next: How the Packers can beat the Bears in Week 15

If Rodgers is replaced with the contest still in question, it could be anybody’s game taking into account the lack of experience offered by either Brett Hundley or Joe Callahan.