Obviously, at 10-3, the Green Bay Packers have been a better team than the 7-6 Chicago Bears this season.
But statistically and personnel wise, these two teams are evenly matched with the only big edges going to the Bears’ defense and the Bears’ return game.
Throw in the first meeting, in which two plays were basically the difference in a 10-3 slugfest, and almost anything could happen at Lambeau Field Sunday.
The Bears have been slightly hotter in recent weeks as both teams have faced relatively inferior competition, with the exception of a beating the Packers took at San Francisco.
Of course there is the rivalry, arguably the best in all of sports and certainly in the NFL.
As for motivation, the Bears’ playoff hopes will be on the line Sunday while the Packers have little to fear knowing they can clinch the NFC North with a win over the Vikings at Minneapolis the following Sunday.
Beyond all of that, though, there is Aaron Rodgers, who will be the only player on the field capable of winning the game all by himself, as he has done all too often over the Bears, compiling a 17-5 record in his 12 seasons against Chicago as the Packers starter, throwing 46 TDs and only 10 INTs.
Packers offense vs. Bears defense: Basically, this matchup starts and ends with Rodgers. As Bears Pro Bowler Akiem Hicks says, “His ability to slip out of a sack, his ability to keep his eyes downfield, Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks to play in this league, and you have to respect his capabilities while remembering that you’re here to put him on his back.”
Statistically, the Bears are a clear winner with Green Bay’s offense just 23rd overall, 17th running the ball, 16th passing, 21st on third down and 13th in points scored, while the Bears “D” is 10th overall, 7th vs. the run, 13th vs. the pass, 7th on third down and 4th in points allowed, only 17.8 points a game.
But Rodgers only needs a couple plays to beat you, as he proved on opening night.
Davante Adams appears recovered from a toe injury that slowed him through the middle of the season and will need to be doubled a good part of the evening.
That is doable, however, because while Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison and Allen Lazard have all had their moments, none have become a legitimate No. 2 or No. 3 receiver.
Aaron Jones is the other guy the Bears have to worry about, as he has become Rodgers’ favorite weapon — with 45-425-3 receiving to go with his 779 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as a rusher.
Jamaal Williams can also be a factor on the ground, but he’s battled a balky knee.
The Packers are excellent at the tackles with David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, but Bulaga has also battled a knee problem, and the interior of the Packers line is average at best.
The health of Hicks, Danny Trevathan and Prince Amukamara will go a long way toward dictating the outcome of this matchup.
Bears offense vs. Packers defense: After a hot start, the Packers defense has cooled off considerably, ranking just 22nd overall, 25th vs. the run, 21st against the pass, 18th on third down and 13th in points allowed.
Za’Darius and Preston Smith continue to provide significant pass rush with 10 and 11 ˝ sacks each, and Kenny Clark is one of the best nose tackles in the league. But the Packers have battled a host of injuries at cornerback as well as consistently getting on the ground.
Jaire Alexander is one of the better young cover corners in the league and will most likely shadow Allen Robinson a good part of the afternoon, with that matchup also going a long way toward dictating the outcome of the game.
Kevin King, who starts at the other corner, was inactive last Sunday, and his health this week could be key for Green Bay.
If Mitch Trubisky is effective with his legs again this week and the Bears can get David Montgomery untracked, the Packers could have a problem.
The Bears offense against the Cowboys last Thursday would rate an edge, but we’ve only seen that once this season to date, making it hard to predict. Based on their body of work over the season ...
Special Teams: The Bears’ return game with Tarik Cohen on punts (8th in the NFL) and Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoffs (1st) has a huge advantage over Green Bay’s 32nd-ranked punt return game and 29th-rated kickoff return game, in large part because Chicago is also slightly better in punt and kickoff coverage — 16th and 23rd —while the Pack is just 23rd and 26th respectively.
Mason Crosby gets the nod over Eddy Pineiro, having missed just one kick — field goal or PAT — all year, and Patrick O’Donnell gets the slightest of edges over Green Bay’s J.K. Scott, averaging ˝ a yard more in net punting, while both have been excellent in punts inside the 20 and avoiding touchbacks.
COACHES: These are two of the brightest young coaches in the league, with Matt Nagy’s 19-11 record and Matt LaFleur’s 10-3 start both outstanding. Honestly, we just don’t really know enough about either yet to split them.