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PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the fifth of five key matchups this week in advance of the Packers' Week Three game against the Bears at Soldier Field Sunday.
Packers TE Jermichael Finley vs. Bears safeties
Finley could have a big edge Sunday going up against an undermanned Bears safety corps. With Major Wright, who has had his share of breakdowns both against the pass and run in the season's early stages, expected to miss this game with a head/neck injury suffered last week, ex-Patriot Brandon Meriweather is expected to start at free safety for the Bears. At strong safety, there could be a game-time decision on the starter between normal starter Chris Harris (hamstring) and Craig Stelz.
A big, fast, sure-handed target who is equally comfortable lining up outside as a split receiver, the 6-5 Finley figures to provide consistent mismatches. That was the case in his only appearance last season against the Bears in Chicago's Week Three win, when he caught all nine of the balls thrown to him for 115 yards (12.8 ypc).
Unlike last season, when Finley entered the season as the Packers passing offense's undisputed centerpiece, Finley and the team's other star receiver, Greg Jennings, have amazingly similar numbers two games into the season. Jennings leads the team with nine catches for 144 yards (16.0 ypc), but Finley is right behind him with 8-121 (15.1). The only real difference between the two is Jennings' TD catches each of the last two weeks, and it's a good bet Finley could get his share of receiving opportunities Sunday.
Meriweather, the Patriots' first-round pick in 2007 (24th overall) who was cut by New England, is a talented defender with big-play ability. But he gambles too much and is sometimes late reacting. He did make some nice hits and showed some explosiveness last week in New Orleans. Harris packs a wallop but struggles in space. Even if Harris can's suit up, help will be needed against Finley from both Stelz and raw rookie Chris Conte.