The Green Bay Packers have another must-win game Sunday when they host the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. If the Packers win, they will qualify for the playoffs. If they lose, they will need a lot of help to get back into the postseason. The Packers enter the game with an 8-8 record while the Bears are 7-9. The Packers are coming off a 33-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings while the Bears crushed the Atlanta Falcons 37-17. Here are six key matchups that will determine who will win Sunday’s Packers-Bears game.
The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 105-94-6 in the regular season. The series dates back to 1921 when the Bears were known as the Decatur Staleys. The Packers won the first meeting between these teams in Week 1, 38-20. Green Bay has won the last nine meetings between the teams. The teams split their two playoff meetings with the last being a Packers win in the 2010 NFC Championship Game.
Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game in Lambeau Field:
Packers Key Matchups: Number One, Don’t Let Justin Fields Beat You with his Legs
Justin Fields remains one of the better running quarterbacks in the NFL. The Packers have struggled to stop running quarterbacks from picking up key yards and first downs when they leave the pocket. If the Pack is in man coverage, it is particularly difficult if the offense runs downfield patterns that clear out the area 5-10 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Fields leads the Bears with 630 rushing yards despite missing four games. He can scramble out of the pocket for key gains, or he can gain yards on designed runs.
The Packers must use Quay Walker as a spy to prevent Fields from running free into the secondary. Players like Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, and Kingsley Enagbare must stay in their lanes when rushing the passer, so they don’t leave large amounts of open field for Fields to run through.
The defense also needs to force Fields to win the game with his arm. That means slowing down the Bears rushing attack in general which is ranked 2nd in the league and is averaging 145.3-yards per game.
Key Matchups: Number Two, Keep Aaron Jones Involved Early and Often
When Aaron Jones is healthy and gets the ball, the Packers offense goes to another level. The last two games, when Jones carried 21 and 20 times and gained more than 120 yards on the ground, the Packers scored 33 points both times.
Jones’ ability to cut back and explode through the hole has a big impact on the offense. It also opens things up for the other players in the passing game.
Head coach Matt LaFleur sometimes gets away from running the ball and that makes the Green Bay offense one-dimensional and easier to stop.
This season, Jones has 20 or more carries in three games. The Packers are 3-0 in those games. Even if the running game isn’t picking up chunks of yards, they need to be patient and use the threat of the run to set up the play-action passing game.
This will be a challenge as the Bears have the top-ranked run defense in the NFL and only allow 84-yards per game on the ground.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Three, Contain DJ Moore
DJ Moore gives the Bears a dangerous receiving weapon and has helped spur Fields’ second-half improvement.
Moore has 92 catches for 1,300 yards and eight touchdown catches. No other wideout has more than 31 receptions on the year.
The Packers should get Jaire Alexander back in the lineup after serving his one-game suspension. The duo of Carrington Valentine and Corey Ballentine did an excellent job in Alexander’s absence last week.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry cannot give Moore a large cushion in this game and allow him to consistently make short to medium gains underneath. They need to be more physical at the line of scrimmage and try to force Moore off his patterns.
Moore will get his catches, but the Packers defense has to prevent him from having a big game.
Key Matchups: Number Four, Keep Montez Sweat in Check
Former Commanders edge rusher Montez Sweat made a big impact on the Bears pass rush after he was acquired at the trade deadline.
Sweat recorded six sacks in eight games since joining the Bears including a streak of four straight games with at least one sack.
The Bears typically line Sweat up on the right side of their defense which means Rasheed Walker will have the primary task of slowing him down. If he lines up on the other side, that responsibility will fall on Zach Tom.
If quarterback Jordan Love has time to throw, he should be able to find success against the Bears secondary which ranks 21st in the league in passing yards allowed.
The Packers could be healthier at wide receiver and tight end than they have been all season. Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks and Jayden Reed returned to practice, and they may active rookie tight end Luke Musgrave from the IR.
Bears cornerback Jaylen Johnson did not practice Wednesday due to a shoulder injury. His absence would really hurt the Bears secondary.
It will be interesting to see how Love fairs with a full contingent of receiving weapons and a healthy Jones at running back.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Five, Don’t Be Intimidated by the Moment
Despite their second half surge, the Packers remain an inexperienced football team. This is a must-win game. Win and the Packers surprise everybody and reach the playoffs. Lose it and their season is likely over unless several other teams lose and they back in.
Last season, the Packers had an inexperienced quarterback and more veteran players on their roster. They were faced with a similar situation in the season finale: win a home game against an improving division rival and make the playoffs. They played poorly, especially on offense, and lost the game.
This is a big test for Love and the younger players on the roster. They have to show they are not intimidated by the pressure of the moment and that they’re ready to shine in the clutch.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Six, Win the Turnover Battle
The Bears lead the NFL with 22 interceptions through 16 games. Tremaine Edmunds and Tyrique Stevenson are tied with Johnson with four picks each while T.J. Edwards has three on the season.
They are a plus-two in turnover differential while the Packers are a plus-one.
Chicago tends to create a lot of turnovers, but they turn the ball over frequently as well. The Packers don’t create as many turnovers, but they don’t give the ball away often either.
The Packers cannot afford to give Chicago a short field and make things easier for Fields and the offense. If the Bears have to make 70-yard plus drives to reach paydirt, they are less likely to be able to keep up with the productive Packers offense.
This is a big game for the Packers. While the development of Love has made this season a success, getting to the playoffs and giving these young players some postseason experience will accelerate their development and take the accomplishment to another level.
The Bears have played good football of late and will not be a pushover. They would like nothing more than to spoil the Packers playoff party and if they take advantage of Barry’s shaky strategies, they may be able to.
The Packers are the better team, and they will get it done, but it won’t be easy. A late score will make the game look less close than it likely will be.
Packers 33, Bears 24
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