Bears offense vs. Packers defense
In years past, as the famed, but fabled, “Bear Weather” would arrive in December, the Bears would have to resort to grinding out tough yardage with their run game and rely on their defense to stop the opponent’s running back. Now that the Bears have a legitimate NFL quarterback, the playbook remains wide open, hindered not by the weather but by the talent on the offense. In fact, it’s a good thing they have Jay Cutler because who knows how bad they’d be without him, riding the second-worst rushing offense in the league. The Bears aren’t going to be able to impose their will in this one. The Packers’ defense is just too good. Green Bay is ranked No. 1 overall and has the No. 3 pass defense and the No. 4 run defense. Good luck to the Bears trying to find holes in the impenetrable defense across from them. Their only hope is to get what they can on the ground, take a few shots deep against a secondary that got flagged for pass interference often last week against the Ravens, and mix in a few short passes — not screen passes — that will aid the run game.
Bears defense vs. Packers offense
The Bears’ offense has been bad for most of the season, but it’s their defense that has bothered me for three years now. A team can get by with a mediocre offense, as the Bears have proven countless times this decade, but it can’t get by with a bad defense, which is exactly what the Bears have become since their Super Bow season. The Bears have the No. 25 run defense and the No. 9 pass defense. That’s obviously a deceiving ranking because, although they haven’t given up many passing yards per game, it’s their poor run defense that has allowed teams to run the ball at will and neglect the passing game. Opposing quarterbacks — assuming they are competent — can methodically pick apart the defense down the field. It’s not as though the Bears can send blitzes at Aaron Rodgers, although Lord knows they’ll try, because Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league at reading a blitz and getting rid of the ball to an open receiver. The Bears will need to rely on their front four to generate a pass rush, and that hasn’t worked for them this season.
Last week’s game against the Rams was the worst performance of the season by the special teams and maybe the worst since coordinator Dave Toub came here. It wasn’t just an aberration, either. The Bears’ special teams have struggled in a number of games this year and have been inconsistently average all season. Robbie Gould has been solid as usual, Brad Maynard has been a helpful commodity in the field position battle, but the coverage teams have been poor and the three speedy returners the Bears possess have been held back, somewhat by their poor decisions and also by the shoddy blocking in front of them. I’ll take Gould, Maynard, and the kick returners, but the blocking and coverage edge goes to the Packers and they get the slight edge in the special teams phase.
How do you devise a game plan to beat a team that is better than yours in all three phases of the game? You can try to throw in the Fourth Phase — but with the Bears being as bad as they are, I’m sure a lot of Bears fans have sold their tickets and many Packers fans have gladly snatched them up. I’m not so sure there even is a home field advantage in this one. Larry Mayer, of ChicagoBears.com, tried to write a story this week propelling the myth of “Bear Weather” by claiming: “Since 2005, the Bears are 11-0 at Soldier Field when the game-time temperature is below 40 degrees.” Two of those seasons — 2005 and 2006 — the Bears were one of the top teams in the NFC, so I don’t feel that the weather had anything to do with their victories. The only game that you can scratch your head about and say that weather affected was in 2007 against the 12-3 Packers, when the Bears pounded them, 35-7. Most of their other victories came against poor opponents. As an analyst, I typically have received disagreements from Bears fans in the past claiming I’m too rough on them. Saturday night, I received some more disagreements from my Bears fan friends, only this time, when I told them my score prediction, they claimed I was too soft on them and figured this game will be a Packers blowout victory. That’s pure irony. That’s also an example of how far Bears fans’ trust in the organization has fallen. With nothing to play for but pride — and maybe the role of spoiler — this is the Super Bowl for the Bears, as sad as it sounds. It’s all they have left. I expect the Bears to keep it close and Cutler should have a better game than he did in the season opener, but they should fall short of victory because they’re just… not… good enough.
Final Score: Green Bay 24, Chicago 20