Mary Langenfeld- US PRESSWIRE
This season, the Green Bay Packers were favorites to win the NFC North and favorites to win the Super Bowl. After Week 1, the Packers were the only team who didn’t win in their division, putting them one game behind three teams. That is not a big deal at all, but this week the Packers will be going against their division rival, the Chicago Bears. This isn’t a must-win game for the Packers, but it is an important game for them since they would be in an early hole for the playoffs and the division title if they lose.
For the Packers to win, the defense is going to have to step up its game. There wasn’t much improvement from 2011 in Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers and this week against the Bears will be another big test. This past offseason, the Bears signed star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has already gotten his career in Chicago off to a hot start after having more than 100 yards receiving in his debut with the team. Tramon Williams will have the assignment of covering Marshall, which leaves Jarrett Bush as the man who will cover Bears number two wide receiver Devin Hester.
Bush was chosen as the Packers starting cornerback to replace Charles Woodson, who has moved over to safety this season, and he was targeted often by the 49ers. Not only did they target him a lot, they were having success when the ball was being thrown to him. With the Packers expecting to put tight coverage on Marshall, Jay Cutler and the Bears offense should be putting a lot of pressure on Bush, who needs to improve over his Week 1 performance.
On the offensive side of the ball, all eyes should be on the Packers offensive line. The Bears have one of the best front sevens in all of the NFL and can apply pressure on the quarterback on any given play. Julius Pepper is the anchor of the defensive line and is one of the quickest defensive lineman in the league. His speed is something that offensive lineman aren’t used to and have trouble keeping up with. The Packers have a young left tackle in Marshall Newhouse making only his second career start and this is a big early test for the Packers’ lineman.
Finally, another big thing to watch this Thursday will be the play-calling of coach Mike McCarthy. Last week against the 49ers, running back Cedric Benson ran the ball just nine times for 18 yards. Granted, the Packers were behind most of the game, but McCarthy seemed to have abandoned the run game very early on. This might have been because the 49ers had the best rushing defense last season and the Packers are already weak at their running game. However, this week the Packers have to try to establish a running game to keep the Bears’ front seven honest and try to stop some of the aggressive pass rush the Bears have.
Divisional games are always big in the NFL and this is a big matchup early in the season. The Bears will have huge momentum if they are able to pull out the victory and take a two-game lead in the division of the Packers. As for Green Bay, they must treat this game with a playoff mentality. It is not a must-win game, but a lose on Thursday will put them in a tough hole to come out of.
Follow me on Twitter @KVP_10