On Sunday, the Chicago Bears (3-10) are seeking revenge for their 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers (7-6) earlier this season in Lambeau Field. Expect horribly frigid weather on Chicago’s lakefront as the game starts at Noon in Soldier Field. It will be frigid with a pinch of bitters. Be thankful! It’s a good thing for these subzero “real feels” because revenge is a dish best served cold. Oh my is it going to be freezing on Sunday! In fact, this game may go down as one of the top ten coldest games in NFL history. According to AccuWeather, highs are expected to be around 3 degrees at kickoff with 12 mile per hour winds that will send the “Real Feel” to around 12 below zero. I think I’ll sit this one out….I’ll be watching the game on Fox TV from the comforts of my cozy “Bears Den”.
“Keep An Eye On” : Bears pass rushers vs Packers QB #12 Aaron Rodgers
Since Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is suffering from multiple injuries to his legs (right calf and left hamstring that kept him out of practice on Wednesday), he may not be able to scramble out of the pocket as much as usual. Therefore, look for Bears pass rushers to enjoy taking out their season-long frustrations on Rodgers. I would bet the Bears record at least 3 sacks on Sunday as long as the Bears CB’s can cover the Packers WR’s decently, which may be asking a lot. However, the Bears cover men seem to be improving by the week. Young CB’s #37 Bryce Callahan and #22 Cre’Von LeBlanc, along with veteran #21 Tracy Porter, seem to be growing confidence in themselves and the Bears scheme. If they can provide some decent coverage, look for OLB’s #94 Leonard Floyd, #97 Willie Young, and #92 Pernell McPhee to put some heat on Rodgers during the bitterly cold game. You know what, Rodgers may welcome that heat to comfort him from the brutal temps. Don’t forget about emerging star DE #96 Akiem Hicks. This guy is as hot as the weather is cold. He’s recorded 16 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 pass defended in his last two games. Those are gigantic numbers for a DE in a 3-4 scheme. This mountain of a man has been one of the most pleasant surprises for Chicago this year.
“Keep An Eye On” Too (Part 2) : WR #17 Alshon Jeffery
In case you forgot, Alshon Jeffery returns this week from his 4 game suspension for getting caught using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). Jeffery must be excited to come back for the last three games of the 2016 season in order to improve his status as an upcoming free agent. The Bears management will be watching like an eagle scouting out his prey as they need to make a decision about Jeffery. Will they offer him a long-term deal to stay in a Bears uniform? Will they offer him a 2nd consecutive year as a “Franchise” player, meaning he will make $17.5 million in 2017? Or will they let him test the waters as a free agent? Personally, I would let him walk. With all due respect to a guy that has performed admirably at times, I think Jeffery is a bit overrated. It’s crossed my mind many times over the years that Jeffery makes a fine #2 WR but he is NOT a #1 lead WR. I say this because he’s not very fast and he is a poor route runner. He is a long strider that makes it easier to cover him because of his lack of quickness in and out of cuts. His biggest value is going up and getting “jump balls”, often in the red zone. That’s a reason to keep him, but I don’t think he’s worth #1 WR money and that’s probably what he and his agent will demand. If I were the Bears, I’d put my money on #13 Kevin White, #81 Cameron Meredith, and new draftees or even free agents. The Bears could definitely use a better slot receiver since #19 Eddie Royal isn’t reliable. He has only played in 9 games out of 13 this season and been targeted more than 3 times in just 5 games. I’m interested to see 7th round pick #83 Daniel Braverman get more time moving forward in ’16 as well as adding a slot receiver in the upcoming offseason.
Aikman Efficiency Ratings (AER)
- Green Bay : 8th Offense, 26th Defense, 12th Overall
- Chicago : 25th Offense, 17th Defense, 26th Overall
Green Bay’s offense is solid as usual, while their defense led by DC Dom Capers has been inconsistent, as usual. This has been a theme for the Packers over the last 8 years since their management team was put together with Ted Thompson as GM (2005), Mike McCarthy as Head Coach (2006), Dom Capers as DC (2009), and Aaron Rodgers as QB (drafted in 2005, starter since 2008). The Packers have the 2nd most wins in the NFL (2nd to the Patriots) since this foursome has been in place. Hint hint to the Bears management team…….continuity is the key to success. For more on the strange up and down nature of the Packers defense since Capers took over, see the “Football Outsiders Almanac 2016”. It’s quite a good read. Any football fan who is interested in analyzing more statistical research should take a look at this thorough take on the League as well as college ball. It compares to the “Baseball Prospectus” for MLB fans.
Green Bay is favored by 6.5 points as of Thursday morning. Even though this seems like an obvious victory for the Packers, I’m not so sure. Chicago is 3-3 at home while Green Bay is 2-4 on the road. Despite the mounting injuries and losses, the Bears are playing pretty well on defense and are 2-1 in their last 3 home games. Meanwhile, Green Bay has won 3 in a row over the Eagles, Texans, and Seahawks, but they still have a crazy amount of injuries to their cornerbacks. Can QB #12 Matt Barkley take advantage? Can Jeffery get open? “Weather” games can be hard to predict. Will these professionals be able to throw the ball, catch the ball, and hold onto the ball? Can they throw and kick it despite high winds and underinflated footballs? How will Soldier Field’s notoriously poor grass hold up? I’ll call for a low scoring game with plenty of rushing and not much passing yardage. I will also predict Aaron Rodgers will “earn” at least one personal foul penalty against a Bears defender by complaining to a referee. The refs love to protect most quarterbacks outside of Cam Newton, but especially Rodgers. It seems like whenever he gets touched they throw a flag. He reminds me of an NBA veteran who knows how to complain about fouls enough and so eventually they give in and call fouls/flags. Plus, the NFL claims to be so into protecting their players (outside of the whole Thursday night fiasco) that they encourage referees to throw flags anytime a quarterback falls down. It usually turns my stomach. There are two games being played in modern football: two-hand-touch for quarterbacks and tackle for everybody else.
This game might play out similarly to the Bears game a few weeks ago versus San Francisco. Remember how there were no completed passes until the 2nd quarter? That game was 7-6 at halftime before the Bears ran wild in the 2nd half to cap a 26-6 victory. However, Green Bay is a much better team than the 49ers. I’ll take the Packers straight up (S/U) but the Bears to cover against the spread (ATS).
Green Bay Packers 17 Chicago Bears 13