Complete Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears Preview of NFC North Title Game
Complete Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears Preview of NFC North Title Game
With the announcement that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will start in Sunday’s incredibly important contest against the Chicago Bears comes the realization that the NFC North showdown is the must watch game of Week 17.
The game between two teams that form the NFL’s longest rivalry will be a winner takes all for the crown of the NFC North division and a postseason berth. The loser will go home, while their fans will be ridiculed.
The fact that Rodgers is playing just adds to the intrigue of the contest. There are several matchups located all over the field that will be interesting to watch. Chicago’s big wide receivers against a Green Bay pass defense that has struggled at times. A Packers pass rush attack that will be without its biggest playmaker on defense. The Packers much improved running game taking over in the cold weather, while the Bears can be just as dangerous in the same area.
The weather shouldn’t be as big of factor as people want to think. In fact, the high will be 28 degrees with a 30 percent chance of snow. With that being said, the wind will be 14 miles per hour, a few snow showers are likely and the temperature could very likely drop into the single digits in the second half of the game.
Make sure to click through the slideshow to see a complete breakdown by the numbers of the Packers and Bears divisional showdown that will decide the winner of the NFC North. Also, make sure to comment below on what you think will be the biggest factor in the game, and who you think will win and why.
The average ticket price for the Packers-Bears divisional showdown is $427.09. That number is the fifth most expensive Chicago home game since the 2010 season. The secondary market for ticket sales is currently $198. The most expensive ticket for sale on StubHub.com, a ticket search engine, is $3,301.99. Those tickets get you a seat in row 1, section 110 on the lower sideline.
The Packers rank eighth in the NFL in passing yards per game (263.7). Rodgers averaged 263.3 yards per contest, 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions in the eight games he appeared in this season. Matt Flynn averaged 208.8 yards per game, seven touchdowns and four interceptions in his last five games.
The Bears have posted 270.5 passing yards per game, which is good for fifth in the league. Jay Cutler has averaged 226.5 yards per contest, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 10 games this season. Backup Josh McCown has been the far better statistical quarterback with an average of 224 yards per game, 13 touchdowns and just one interception in eight games in 2013.
Running back Eddie Lacy is the leading favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He is expected to see a load of carries, assuming his right ankle can hold up. He set a franchise record as a rookie with a total of 1,112 rushing yards on 263 carries. He also has 10 rushing touchdowns and just one fumble. Overall, the Packers rank seventh in the league in rushing yards per game (131.7).
Chicago’s Matt Forte has put together another stellar season. He rushed for 1,229 yards and seven touchdown on 267 carries. He has put the ball on the ground just twice this season, losing both of the fumbles. The Bears rank 18th in the league in rushing yards per contest (113.8).
Green Bay was primed to have three receivers go over 1,000 yards each this season. Unfortunately, an injury to Rodgers and Randall Cobb prevented that from happening. The big names to look for on Sunday are Jordy Nelson (1,153 yards, 8 touchdowns), James Jones (776 yards, 3 TD) and Jarrett Boykin (673 yards, 3 TD). Also, tight end Andrew Quarless (281 yards, two TD) could be a big factor as he has really broke out in two of his last three games.
Chicago has several receivers that can take over games. Alshon Jeffery (1,341 yards, 7 TD), Brandon Marshall (1,221 yards, 11 TD) and Martellus Bennett (744 yards, 5 TD) are the big names that are guaranteed to be huge factors against a weak Green Bay pass defense. Forte (547 yards, 2 TD) also can ruin a defense’s day.
Packers Run Defense
The Packers run defense was dominant in the first few games of the season. Unfortunately, when Rodgers went down the run defense went with it. I understand there should be no correlation between the two considering Rodgers is the quarterback. However, the entire team has never been the same since they lost their leader.
Green Bay has allowed 125.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 26th in the league. In the Week 9 contest against the Bears, the Packers allowed Forte to rush for 125 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries. If that happens again, it will be a long day for Green Bay.
Bears Run Defense
Chicago’s run defense has been horrendous this season, which is certainly unusual for a Bears team. They rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per contest (161.5). Lacy averaged a whopping 6.8 yards per carry and 150 total yards against the Bears in the last meeting. He also added a touchdown for good measure.
Packers Pass Defense
Defense in general will be the downfall of the Packers if they do indeed lose the contest. Along with that, pass defense could be the main culprit, especially since the Bears employ some very talented receivers. Green Bay has surrendered 248.8 yards through the air per game, which ranks 21st in the league. McCown torched the Packers for 272 passing yards, his fourth most of the season, and two touchdowns. Even though Cutler will start, Green Bay must be ready for anything.
Bears Pass Defense
Chicago’s pass defense hasn’t been terrible, but that was before veteran cornerback Charles Tillman was ruled out for the rest of the season. Up to this point, the Bears rank 14th in the NFL in opponent passing yards per game (227.8). Rodgers went down after throwing just two passes, so it’s hard to compare what happened in the previous meeting to what Chicago will encounter on Sunday. Whether Rodgers plays or not, Chicago will have their hands full either way.
Green Bay has done a terrible job in the turnover department this season. Packers’ quarterbacks have tossed 14 interceptions, while the defense has only picked off the ball 10 times, which is good for 27th in the league. The good news is they have done a decent job when it comes to fumbles as the defense has forced 16 fumbles and recovered 10 of them. Meanwhile, the offense has lost eight fumbles on the season.
Chicago’s defense has always been menacing when it comes to turnovers. The defense has recorded 17 interceptions, 20 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries. However, the offense has tossed 12 picks and lost nine fumbles of their own. Taking care of the football will be a critical part of the game, especially if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Packers Attacking the Quarterback
Without Clay Matthews, the Packers will struggle mightily getting after Cutler. The bright side is that the defense has done a decent job getting sacks even with Matthews sidelined. In total, the Packers have 43 sacks on the season. Mike Daniels (6.5 sacks), Mike Neal (5.0 sacks) and A.J. Hawk (5.0 sacks) will have to step up in the place of Matthews.
Bears Attacking the Quarterback
The Bears have really had a hard time attacking the quarterback this year as they only have 28 sacks. Julius Peppers (6.5 sacks) is someone the defense will have to count on having a big day, especially since he has yet to step up when it matters most. Shea McClellin (4.0 sacks) is also someone that must make a difference.
Packers Special Teams
Mason Crosby knocked the rust off his career-low season in 2012 and is back to his old form. The kicker has converted 88.6 percent of his 35 field goal attempts, including 5-for-7 in kicks longer than 50 yards.
Rookie return man Micah Hyde can be very dangerous on both kick and punt returns. He has averaged 24.4 yards on kick returns and 12.9 yards on punt returns this season. He also has returned a punt for a touchdown this season.
Bears Special Teams
Robbie Gould has been terrorizing the Packers and other opponents for years with his stellar kicking accuracy. In 29 field goal attempts this season, he has converted 89.7 percent, including 3-for-4 from 50 yards or longer.
The always deadly Devin Hester hasn’t been that dangerous as in recent years. A big reason for that is because most teams refuse to kick to him. Hester has averaged 28.0 yards on kick returns and 12.2 yards on punt returns this season. He has returned one punt for a touchdown.
Why Packers Will Win
It’s easy to say the Packers will defeat the Bears because Rodgers will play. Obviously, that will be a deciding factor in the game, but there’s an even bigger reason why it will happen. Lacy and the running game against a dismal run defense that hasn’t been able to slow down anyone will be the ultimate reason Green Bay is victorious.
Why Bears Will Win
The Bears have big, physical, incredibly talented wide receivers who can jump into the stratosphere to haul in receptions. On top of that, Cutler has a very strong arm that can put the ball wherever he wants. Even though Green Bay’s pass defense has improved slightly over the course of the season, there’s no question they will have their hands full. If the Bears win, it will be because of the stellar play of the receivers.