Packers vs. Bears: Three things to watch in Week 4 NFC North matchup

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 10: Martellus Bennett
GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 10: Martellus Bennett /

The Green Bay Packers escaped the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday with a 27-24 overtime victory. This week, they will be on short rest as they take on the Chicago Bears, who also needed extra time to squeak by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-17.

This will be the Packers’ first divisional game of the season and here are my three things to watch.

1. Will Martellus Bennett finally break out?

Though the season is still young, there seems to be a sense of frustration growing around Bennett’s lack of production.

Through three games, Bennett has only caught 11 receptions for 102 yards and zero scores. When the Packers signed the 6-foot-7 tight end this past offseason, expectations were extremely high for him to make an immediate impact.

Instead, he has been recognized more for his drops rather than his catches. Thursday night against one of his former teams is a great opportunity for Bennett to turn his season around. 

ATLANTA, GA – SEPTEMBER 17: Brian Poole /

The Bears have done a decent job limiting tight ends this season, only allowing eight receptions for 194 yards and one touchdown.

A majority of that production came from Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, who caught two passes for 128 yards and one touchdown.

However, Chicago has struggled immensely against Aaron Rodgers and that will play a role in Bennett’s success.

Rodgers has defeated the Bears more than any other team (14) in his career. He’s thrown for 4,417 yards, 38 touchdowns, and has a quarterback rating of 105.7.

Expect Rodgers to continue to dominate the Bears and find Bennett several times.

2.  Containing Bears running back duo

Green Bay’s defense will have their hands full as they take on another dynamic backfield featuring Jordan Howard and rookie Tarik Cohen.

Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers /

Green Bay Packers

Last week, Howard rushed for over 100 yards for the first time this season, while nursing a shoulder injury. Cohen, padded the stat line with 78 yards on the ground and four catches for 24 yards.

Howard has found the end zone three times already this season, while Cohen has only scored once, he’s been electrifying, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He has showcased his pass-catching abilities, as he leads the league in receptions for runnings backs (20). 

Cohen expressed confidence in himself and Howard after Sunday’s overtime victory against the Steelers, proclaiming the duo’s nickname as ‘Thunder and Lightning.’

The duo provides a great change of pace and keeps opposing defenses on high alert. Look out for Howard’s strength and ability to wear down defenses, combined with Cohen’s speed and elusiveness.

3. Clay Matthews Chasing Packer History

Thursday’s match-up against the Bears could end up being one of Matthews’ most memorable games against the NFC North rival.

Matthews is a sack away (74.0) from passing Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (74.5) for the most in franchise history (since 1982). The veteran linebacker has recoded 8.5 sacks against the Bears in his career.

Since being drafted by the Packers in 2009, the former USC Trojan has grown into one of the league perennial linebackers. He is tied for the second-most six-plus-sack seasons in the NFL since 2009 (7), only behind former teammate Julius Peppers. And he ranks in the top five in sacks since 2009 among active players.

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By surpassing Gbaja-Biamila, Matthews will officially cement his legacy as one of the best defensive players in Packers history.