Week 2 of the 2012 NFL regular season kicks off on Thursday night with the longest rivalry in football, as the Chicago Bears arrive at Lambeau Field looking to take a two game advantage in the NFC North standings over the Green Bay Packers.
A loss for the Packers however will leave them languishing on 0-2 start with only 6 home games remaining in the season. In short the Packers will come out all guns blazing for the win, so the Bears must perform almost flawlessly to really ram home an early season advantage.
With the weather report showing chances of rain for the Thursday night matchup, the Bears could very well be handed a key advantage in this game before the coin is even tossed.
The Packers struggled immensely last weekend against the power running game versus the San Francisco 49ers. This could very well be a week that Bears offseason edition Michael Bush RB flourishes against a Packers defense devoid of key starters such as OLB Desmond Bishop, who ranked the second lowest for rushing yards allowed in the NFL in their week 1 performance.
The Bears running back tandem of Matt Forte and Bush combined for a total of 122 yards on 28 carries for 3 touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts. In short the Packers better get their run defense in order or these two could have a field day for the second week in succession.
Former Bear Cedric Benson, who now earns his crust with the Packers, disappointed in his first outing. He had nine carries for 18 yards. Aaron Rodgers, as is becoming a running theme for the Packers, led the team in rushing with 5 carries for 27 yards. If the Packers want to put pressure on the Bears defense they will have to rush the ball in an efficient manner.
Since the Bears traded for Jay Cutler they are 1-6 against the Packers, who thrashed their long time rival on both occasions in their 2011 regular season matchups on the way to a 15-1 record. However the Bears have made significant upgrades to the wide receiver position with the acquisition of Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins this offseason.
Cutler and Marshall looked as if they hadn’t been separated for three seasons against the Colts. They combined for 15 targets, 9 receptions and a touchdown, on their reunion outing. You can expect to see a lot more of this against the Packers.
After an extremely poor start to their week 1 game, the Bears pulled things round magnificently, however against the Packers the game will be won or lost on the turnover figures. Cutler must start his first possession of the game much more efficiently against the Packers, than he did against the Colts.
The Packers will be looking for anything on defense to kick start this unit’s season. Protecting the ball and not forcing any silly passes will be absolutely paramount on Thursday night. Giving the Packers points is not conducive to a winning formula.
The Bears received good news on Wednesday with Brian Urlacher declared as probable and despite Charles Tillman being listed as questionable, Head Coach Lovie Smith remained firmly optimistic that Tillman would be ready to make an appearance on the Lambeau Field turf.
Packers star WR Greg Jennings on the other hand remains a serious doubt for the week 2 matchup. More good news for a Bears secondary that despite three turnovers week 1 gave up a ton of yardage to rookie QB Andrew Luck.
A surprise week 1 for the Bears was the outstanding play of JaMarcus Webb LT, who graded out as the second best Left Tackle in the whole of the NFL for his performance against the Colts. With RT Gabe Carimi also having a solid outing it was the Bears interior line that under performed.
Regardless of this, the Mike Tice ethos of “this team will go as far as this line takes us” will be given a stiff test at Lambeau Field on Thursday. They must have a strong and cohesive game in order to allow Cutler the time to pick apart an equally questionable Packers secondary.
Cutler really has the opportunity to prove just how elite he is this week. If he has a strong game, audibles at the correct time and goes error free, he should go a long way to silencing his critics.
If the Bears can get a solid push against the Packers Offensive Line they should also take a lot of pressure off of the secondary. This is easier said than done. Regardless of constant pressure in week 1 Rodgers still managed to avoid sacks on a number of occasions and scramble for positive yardage or pick out a receiver down the field.
In summary I believe that if the Bears can build and improve on last week’s performance, then they can walk out of Lambeau Field with a 2-0 record and a perfect start to the 2012 regular season.
In a game that is really hard to predict, I foresee a 31-21 score line in favour of the Bears. I just do not think given the short week and the bruising encounter against the 49ers, that the Packers will have enough time to work on their inadequacies showcased in week 1.
Having said this, given the nature and intensity of this rivalry, no result is going to surprise me come the conclusion of Thursday night’s game in Wisconsin.