Thursday Night Football Preview 9/13/12
Green Bay is at 0-1 and hosting a rivalry game against the Chicago Bears in prime time. Other than that, this game doesn’t really count for anything. After being absolutely trounced by the 49ers in week one, the Packers have a lot to prove and face what’s essentially a must-win game in mid-September. A loss to the Bears here puts Green Bay down two games (basically 2 1/2 because of the tiebreaker) with only six home contests remaining. So what will be the keys for each team when they have the ball? I’m so very glad you asked.
When Chicago Has The Ball- With the excellent combination of Matt Forte and touchdown vulture extraordinaire Michael Bush at running back, the Bears are well equipped to control the clock if they execute their game plan. San Francisco ran the ball for 186 yards and had possession for 33 minutes. Chicago can do the same. If they’re unable to gain yardage on the ground, it will be up to the offensive line to protect Jay Cutler, which won’t be easy against the Green Bay defense. As my friend Ben Duronio points out, Cutler started the game out 1-10 last week against Indianapolis until Dwight Freeney left the game with an injury. When Cutler is back to throw, Brandon Marshall’s matchup with Tramon Williams will be worth the price of admission, and it’ll be interesting to see how Green Bay deploys Charles Woodson. I’m expecting a strong game for Alshon Jeffrey in his first big game under the spotlight that is this rivalry.
When Green Bay Has The Ball- The Packers ran for 45 total yards last week and only 18 of those came from running back Cedric Benson. If they can’t run the ball well tonight, the Bears will be on attack mode and this offense will once again sputter. I expect Randall Cobb to be used out of the backfield more tonight, either on quick pitches or sleek screen passes to utilize his speed in the open field. Cobb’s importance to the Packers could be even more significant if Greg Jennings is out of the lineup. The 49ers really limited Aaron Rodgers’ ability to throw the ball outside the numbers and down the field, and expect Chicago to try to employ the same strategy. Expect Rodgers to try to connect with Jordy Nelson on the outside and James Jones deep, and we’ll probably see a lot more of Donald Driver this week than last.
Bottom Line- A team as talented as the Packers in a must-win game finds a way. Expect at least two to three turnovers by Cutler and a Green Bay win. Green Bay 31 Chicago 23.