In a pivotal Week 15 matchup, the Green Bay Packers will be going up against the Chicago Bears with a shot to clinch the NFC North for the second straight year. The Packers won earlier this season against the Bears in Week 3 by the score of 23-10 which was dominated by the defense. If Green Bay is going to sweep the season against Chicago they will need another great performance from them.
The Bears started off the season with a 7-1 record but have lost four of their last five games to not only lose their division lead, but are now the last spot in the playoffs only one game ahead of a handful of teams. They had a disappointing loss last weekend against another division opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, and quarterback Jay Cutler injured his neck but says he is ready to go this weekend.
That may not be a good sign for the Bears as Cutler has struggled against the Packers in his career only winning one time in seven meetings. Back in Week 3 Cutler was intercepted four times and sacked seven times in the loss. The Packers defense has their flaws, but the one thing they are really good at is creating turnovers. Cutler plays right into the hands of the Green Bay defense as he is a risk-taker and is prone to throwing interceptions. With that being said, don’t be surprised if Bears head coach Lovie Smith has a gameplan to call mostly running plays. A late-December match-up between two division rivals usually is a slow-paced, pound the ball type of game. With the struggles the Bears have had passing the ball against the Packers, it is most likely they will try to establish the run first.
The Bears use two running backs in Matt Forte and Michael Bush , both of whom have not had the best of seasons, but have contributed well to the Bears offense. However, both players didn’t do much against the Packers in Week 3, Forte only had 54 yards rushing on 14 carries. That was back in September, now here in December the Packers have struggled stopping the run. Two weeks ago Adrian Peterson had over 200 yards rushing, while Ahmad Bradshaw had over 100 yards rushing the week before that.
The Packers defense has been devastated with injuries this last month which has been part of the problem in stopping the run; however, that is still no excuse for all of the poor tackling. Forte and Bush are both hard runners to take down and the Packers have to be at their best tackling or they will have huge gains. The Green Bay defense needs to make sure they keep the Bears in second and long or third and long situations and make Cutler try to beat them and not the running game.
The Good news for the Packers is that star linebacker Clay Matthews has returned to practice this week and there is chance he might play in his first game in over a month. Charles Woodson, who broke his collarbone earlier this season, is also close to returning. His status for this weekend is still undetermined, but if he and Matthews are able to comeback, the Packers rush defense should improve significantly. Those two players are two of the best tacklers on the team and while Matthews is known mainly for his pass-rushing abilities, he is also a great defender at stopping the run.
Even if those two don’t return to action this week, the Packers still need to make sure that they stop the run early and build a lead so the ball can be in the hands of Cutler and not their running backs. If Green Bay is able to do this then they should be able to clinch the NFC North this Sunday.
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