Week 9 Key Matchups for Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers: 5 Key Matchups Vs. Chicago Bears Week 9
The Green Bay Packers, currently riding a four-game winning streak, host their long-time rival the Chicago Bears this Monday night at Lambeau Field. It will be the 187th meeting between the two teams and will be a battle for first place in the NFC North.
The Packers are sitting atop the division at 5-2, but have the Bears (4-3) and the Detroit Lions (5-3) breathing down their backs. The Packers have already defeated the Lions once this season and are coming off a victory over the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday.
Division wins go a long way in finding out who will be crowned champion at the end of the season, so needless to say, this is another huge game for both the Packers and Bears.
Both teams are going to have some key injuries and will have a few big named players inactive. The Packers will be without linebacker Clay Matthews again as he recovers from thumb surgery. They will also be without Randall Cobb, who has given the Bears fits in his time as a Packer.
The Bears will be without quarterback Jay Cutler and veteran linebacker Lance Briggs. Cutler is out with a groin injury, which he suffered against the Washington Redskins early in the second quarter of Week 7. Briggs also was injured in the Redskins game. He fractured shoulder after making a tackle late in the game. Both Cutler and Briggs are expected to recover quicker than early reports indicated, but both will be in sideline gear come Monday night.
Even with big time injuries, the game must go on and the rivalry that is the Packers and Bears will surely be an exciting one. Here are five key matchups to look for this Monday night.
#5-Micah Hyde Vs. Devin Hester
I’ll start off my matchups to look for not on offense or defense, but special teams.
The Bears have always been known to have a great defense and very effective special teams play. Most of the success on special teams for the Bears is thanks to return man Devin Hester.
Hester has been one of the most explosive return men in the NFL for years. He always seems to break one big play a game and when he is deep, you must be careful kicking the ball to him.
Since the NFL has moved the ball forward on kickoffs, Hester has not had many opportunities to return kicks, but he surely is still dangerous in the punt game. This season, Hester has returned one punt for a touchdown, but is only averaging around 13 yards a return. Hester will be looking forward to get chances against the Packers as they have struggled in the return game this season.
Last week against the Vikings, the Packers allowed Cordarrelle Patterson to take the opening kick of the game a record 109 yards for a touchdown and he nearly went untouched. It was a big play on special teams that boosted the Vikings. However, the Packers had some magic of their own on special teams.
Late in the second quarter, rookie Micah Hyde took a punt around the Packers 10-yard line. He made sure to protect the ball and made several great cuts before he showed off exceptional speed and erupted through the Vikings punt coverage for a 93-yard return that sparked the Packers.
Hyde may not have the speed that Hester possesses but both are explosive return men. One a rookie and the other a crafty veteran, it should be interesting to see who wins the matchup of return men on Monday.
#4-Packers D-Line Vs. Bears O-Line
One of the concerns coming into the season for the Bears was whether or not they would be able to protect their quarterback. Over the past few seasons, Cutler has been hit numerous times each game and was taking a beating. However, this season the offensive line has improved and has allowed the second fewest sacks of any NFL team. Unfortunately for the Bears, one of their 11 sacks allowed ended up sidelining Cutler for a few weeks.
The offensive line will look to continue its success this week against a Packers defensive line that has surprised many this season. They are tied for sixth in the NFL so far this year in sacks with 23. It is a much improved defensive line that has proven to many doubters that the Packers do indeed still have a solid defense.
Look for the Packers to try and get after this physical Bears offensive line and try to create havoc as they look to make Josh McCown uncomfortable in the pocket. It will certainly be one of the keys of the night when the Bears' offense takes the field.
#3-Sam Shields Vs. Brandon Marshall
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall won’t have to deal with Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather trying to tear his leg up or attack him personally this Monday night, but he will have to go up against Packers cornerback Sam Shields the entire night.
Marshall has performed well in his matchups against the Packers in the past. He has tallied up 540 yards and five touchdowns against the Packers and will look to continue his success on Monday night. However, it won’t be so easy for Marshall.
The Packers will most likely put Shields on Marshall the entire night and will look to frustrate the hotheaded star receiver. Shields has performed great for the Packers this season and really has taken over the role as a No. 1 cornerback for the team. They are getting healthy again in the secondary and will also have Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward give Marshall a look to spell Shields at times.
I believe Shields is up for the matchup and will try to play physical with Marshall and make him work very hard for every catch. You can also expect Marshall to get a very unfriendly reception from the home fans after he has said on numerous occasions how much he dislikes the Packers. Look for this battle to be a great one this week.
#2-David Bakhtiari Vs. Julius Peppers
In another intriguing matchup Monday night, we pair up another Packers rookie against a Bears veteran. This time it’s on the offensive line for the Packers and the defensive line for the Bears.
Rookie David Bakhtiari has been an absolute standout on the offensive line this season for the Packers. He was thrown into the role of protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blind side and started at a position he was new to. Not only has he learned and changed his game, he has had major success against Pro Bowlers and veterans.
He will have his hands full and will be tested again this week as he takes on Bears All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers, who has been everything the Bears expected when they signed him in the offseason in 2010. He has averaged at least 11 sacks the past two seasons and has always been a force on the defensive line. However, this season he has struggled a bit.
Peppers currently has just one sack and only eight tackles. A possible reason for his decline in statistical production can be attributed to the retirement of Brian Urlacher and the recent injury to Briggs. Regardless, Peppers knows he can perform much better.
Bakhtiari and Peppers will do battle for the first time against one another on Monday night, and if the Packers are to be successful passing and running the ball, this matchup will have a lot to do with it.
#1- Jordy Nelson Vs. Charles Tillman
The No. 1 matchup to watch for this Monday night is a no-brainer in my opinion. The battle on the outside between Packers receiver Jordy Nelson and Bears shut-down cornerback Charles Tillman will be as an exciting matchup to watch as any; not only in this game, but in the entire NFL this week.
One thing that may limit this matchup is the health concern of Tillman. He has been battling a knee injury. However, I expect Tillman to play on Monday night coming off the bye week and with an extra day of rest, the veteran corner should be plenty ready to go against the Packers.
If he is ready, he better lace up his cleats and get ready for a battle with Nelson. Even with the plethora of injuries to Packers receivers, Nelson has overcome double-coverage looks and is having one of his most productive seasons yet as a pro. So far this season, Nelson has 39 receptions for 649 yards and seven touchdowns. His game improves every single week and he somehow always finds a way to get open, and Rodgers always seems to find him.
Look for the Rodgers-Nelson combination to try and continue their torrid pace this week. It certainly won’t be easy however as they will be seeing Tillman manned up with Nelson the entire game. It will be THE MATCHUP to watch when the Packers and Bears line-up for yet another edition of the biggest rivalry in the NFL!