Friday, September 26, 2014

Preview: Green Bay Packers at Bears

After watching an uninspired performance last week in Detroit, I can't say I'm too optimistic about another road game against another top defensive team. I'm puzzled why the Packers are even listed as a favorite on the road, but it does help that the Packers are in a lot better health than the Bears. In recent years, it's usually been the other way around.

While the Packers only have six players listed on their injury report, and the only player I expect to miss the game is WR Jarrett Boykin (who was injured this week in practice and hasn't done much of anything this season anyway). On the other hand, the Bears are in bad shape. They'll be without four starters (LB Shea McClellin, G Roberto Garza, DT Jay Ratliff, and G Matt Slauson), and while I expect DE Jared Allen and WR Brandon Marshall will play, they shouldn't be 100%. Ratliff's been playing well this season, so this might be a chance for RB Eddie Lacy to break out.

While neither Garza and Slauson are stars, their absence leaves the Bears thin on the interior of their line. C Brian de la Puente might be a better player than Garza, but G Michael Ola is barely hanging onto his NFL career. According to Pro Football Focus, Ola played well in Week 1 against the Bills, but he's struggled in his last two games.

The Bears's offense has slipped a little bit this season, currently ranked as the No. 11 overall unit by Football Outsiders, because of their injuries on the line and at receiver. While the Packers's defense is only ranked No 18 overall by FO, they've played much better over the past six quarters. The Bears will have as much trouble with the Packer D as the Lions did last week.

I know QB Aaron Rodgers is telling me to relax, but the poor offensive line play and the lack weapons other than Jordy Nelson is a real. The Bears's defense is currently ranked No. 4 overall by Football Outsiders, and they're the fourth quality defense they've played against this season (Seahawks, Jets, Bears, Lions). Only the Seahawks's D is currently ranked outside of the Top 10 this season, so they qualify as the weakest unit they've faced so far (go figure). Against the first three, the Packers's offense struggled for long stretches of the game. The only two NFC teams to have scored fewer points this season are the absolute train wrecks happening in Minnesota and Tampa. I don't see how a struggling offense is going to turn it around on the road against a quality defense.

While the Bears have won their last two games, they're not blowing anyone away. They've been averaging 25 points per game in large part because their defense is scoring or giving them great field position. Aaron Rodgers has only 1 INT in his first three games, so as long as Lacy doesn't fumble again, the Packers offense shouldn't be giving them great field position. The Bears are going to have to work down the length of the field for their points so they might be held to 20 points or less. Unfortunately, the Packers are only averaging 11 points in their first two road games, so it's going to be a challenge for them to score 20 points. Bears 20, Packers 14.

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