The Green Bay Packers head to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bears in an NFC North Division rivalry. The Bears are 3-9 and in last place in the division.
The Packers are coming off a 40-33 road loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. That dropped the Packers record to 4-8 and the Pack’s playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. The Bears lost to the New York Jets last week 31-10 to drop their fifth straight game.
The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 103-94-6. This is the oldest rivalry in the NFL with these two clubs first meeting in 1921 when the Bears were known as the Decatur Staleys. The teams have split their two playoff meetings with the most recent coming in the 2010 NFC Championship Game which the Packers won 21-14 to advance to Super Bowl XLV. The Packers have won seven straight against the Bears including a 27-10 win in Week 2 of this season at Lambeau Field.
Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game in Chicago:
- Don’t Let Justin Fields Beat You With His Legs
Fields’ status for Sunday is still uncertain. He missed last week’s game against the Jets with a shoulder injury.
When he’s healthy, he is one of the dangerous running quarterbacks in the game. The former Ohio State star leads the Bears with 834 yards on the ground and is averaging 6.8-yards per carry. He also leads the Bears with seven rushing touchdowns.
Last week, Jalen Hurts carved up the Packers defense, rushing for more than 100 yards in the first quarter. The Packers had rookie linebacker Quay Walker spying on Hurts but he struggled in the role, missing several tackles and being caught out of position too often. The possible return of De’Vondre Campbell who has missed the last four games due to injury, could help.
The question is if Fields plays, will his shoulder keep him from running the ball effectively. The coaching staff may also discourage him from running with the football to prevent further injury.
A healthy Fields could easily have a big running game against the Packers who often lose contain and have difficulty tackling. Last week, the Pack missed at least 15 tackles against Philadelphia.
If Fields can’t go, Trevor Siemian would be the quarterback. He is not the running threat that Fields is.
- Slow Down the Bears Running Backs
The Packers run defense has been a weakness all season. Last week, the Eagles gained 363 on the ground against Green Bay, the third worst total in Packers franchise history. For the season, the Packers are 31st in the league allowing 154.8 yards per game on the ground.
With Khalil Herbert on the IR, David Montgomery is the primary running back in the Chicago attack. Montgomery has gained 580 yards and three rushing touchdowns. He’s averaging 4.0-yards per rush.
Last week, he gained 79 yards on 14 carries while backup Darrynton Evans had nine carries for 34 more.
The Bears lead the league in rushing yards per game and average yards per rush so this will be challenge for Joe Barry and company.
The Packers run defense must play better, especially if Fields doesn’t play. The Bears will depend on their run game even more without their starting quarterback in the lineup.
The Packers defense needs to force the Bears quarterback to win the game with his arm, something both Fields and Siemian have struggled with this season.
- Get Big Plays from Christian Watson
The Packers offense has a new dimension since Watson had his breakout game against Dallas. The Packers have averaged 27 points per game over the last three games. Before Watson’s emergence, they averaged just 17.0.
Watson has caught 12 passes for 265 yards and six touchdowns over the last three games. The rookie out of North Dakota State has elite speed and great size. His hands are still inconsistent but if he gets a step on a defender, he’s usually gone. Look for Watson to make at least one big play on Sunday.
The Bears secondary is beat up with cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker both missing practice with concussions and Eddie Jackson is on the IR and won’t play. Watson, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb should be able to take advantage of some mismatches.
Aaron Rodgers has always done well against the Bears and should have another strong day against a compromised secondary.
- Protect Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers is dealing with a broken thumb and now an oblique injury. While he says he’s ready to play, protecting him and preventing a more significant injury is critical if the Green Bay offense hopes to be effective.
The Bears have traded away some of their most effective pass rushers and managed only one sack last week against the Jets and have just three total sacks in their last three games.
Inside linebacker Jack Sanborn leads the healthy and remaining Bears players with two sacks on the season, tied with DT Justin Jones and DE Trevis Gipson.
The Packers offensive line should be able to protect Rodgers but they’ll have to because he’s already banged up and they cannot afford to have him suffer a serious injury that could prevent him from being ready to start next season.
- Don’t Get Away From the Running Game
The Packers offense works best when the run the football consistently. Aaron Jones has been the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon all season while A.J. Dillon had his best game of the year last week against Philadelphia.
The Chicago run defense is ranked 27th in the league, giving up 143.9 yards per game on the ground. The Jets just gained 158 yards on the ground against the Bears a week ago. Over the course of the season, opponents are averaging 4.7-yards per rush against Chicago.
Jones and Dillon should be able to run the football against Chicago which should help set up the play action passing game and make Rodgers even more effective.
- Win the Turnover Battle
The Bears are even in turnover differential this season while the Packers are minus-five through 12 games. The Packers are the better team on paper, especially with the injuries the Bears are dealing with, but if the Packers lose the turnover battle, the Bears have a much better chance of pulling off the upset.
Rodgers threw two interceptions last week against the Eagles before leaving the game and his thumb injury has diminished his accuracy and causes him to throw some bad balls on occasion.
Fields and Siemian have combined to throw nine interceptions this season and the Bears have lost six fumbles.
If the Packers at least break even in the turnover department, they have a good chance of winning the game.
The Packers biggest challenge will be stopping the Chicago running game. By running the football well, the Bears can keep Rodgers off the field, control the clock and keep the game close.
Rodgers has owned the Bears and that dominance should continue if the Packers play to their potential, although they’ve struggled to do that all season.
The Packers playoff hopes may live for another week if they pull off the win.
Packers 27, Bears 13
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