The Green Bay Packers look to clinch their second straight NFC North title this weekend with a win other their rivals the Chicago Bears. After a 7-1 start by the Bears, the division seemed out of reach for the Packers, but after a recent surge they now hold a one game lead over their rivals.
Green Bay has won seven of their last eight games and have done so even with a handful of key injuries. Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson has been out the last eight weeks with a broken collarbone and was expected to come back this weekend, but doctors have advised Woodson to sit out one more week. However, the good news for the Packers is that linebacker Clay Matthews might be coming back from his hamstring injury after missing the last three games.
Matthews is still the team leader in sacks with nine which is three times more than any other player on the team. During his three game absence, the Packers have only been able to get two sacks which has made it very clear how important Matthews is to this defense. The Packers have also struggled stopping the run in those three games giving up over 200 yards to Adrian Peterson and over 200 yards rushing to Ahmad Bradshaw. Matthews effectiveness coming back form injury will be the key for this game defensively for the Packers. If he is able to play at full speed the Bears offensive line will have a tough time stopping the Packers pass-rush.
As for the Bears, they have been plagued with injuries as well. They lost middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and kicker Robbie Gould for the rest of the regular season and quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a neck injury last weekend but should be ready to play against the Packers.
Just like the Packers, the Bears have also struggled in stopping the run. During the first six games of the season the Bears allowed only an average of 71 rushing yards a game, but over the last five games they have allowed an average of 141 yards per game on the ground. The Packers running game had a rare game last weekend as they helped Green Bay get the victory. Head coach Mike McCarthy has been trying to establish a balanced offensive attack this season whether the running game is working or not and this weekend will be a great opportunity for the Packers to get more momentum in their running game.
The Packers have not lost to a divisional opponent all season and have beat the Bears in their last five meetings, including winning in Week 2 earlier this season 23-10. Cutler threw four interceptions in that game and saw his record facing the Packers drop to 1-6. This matchup has a lot on the line and has already seen plenty of trash-talking before the game to heat up the rivalry even more.
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