The conclusion of NFL on Thanksgiving will be between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, a rivalry that’s been around since the 1920’s.
And it’s been very one sided in the Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler era, with the Packers winning the last five games (including 31-23 in Chicago this season) and 10 of the last 11. In Lambeau it’s been even more one sided, with the Bears going without a win on the Frozen Tundra since 2007. Brett Favre was still the quarterback for the Packers, while Brian Griese was under center for the Bears. Yes, it’s been that long, and so much has changed since then.
The Bears lost their last game to the Denver Broncos, but most of their losses, including the one in the season opener to the Packers, was one that could have been avoided with one bad drive overturned. Overall, this has been a very good season for Cutler, but he still hasn’t shaken off the ability to somehow ride a perfectly good momentum and find some dumb way to destroy it with a foolish interception or throw. Getting Matt Forte back to help the running game, maybe the key for the Bears, might be helpful.
The Packers are also relying on their running game to carry them. They beat the Minnesota Vikings 30-14 behind 100 rushing yards from Eddie Lacy, maybe erasing the bad season he’s been having so far. Overall, Rodgers has escaped criticism for three consecutive losses, most of them directed at Mike McCarthy and his coaching. But Rodgers has struggled with some throws this season, maybe trying to play it too safe at times and blowing some open potentially big plays.
One thing the Packers will need to handle is the big lineups from the Bears, who might be playing a lot of two tight end sets and maybe even more in an attempt to make it about the running game, and keep the pressure off of Cutler. The Bears are also big when it comes to their pass rushing, with their 3-4 scheme, a first in Bears history, still not rid of the previous defensive ends, although some of them have adjusted. Pernell McPhee is the extremely dangerous one.
But the defense isn’t perfect. The Bears struggle with their secondary at times and are one of the worst teams in the league defending third downs. Even if the Packers struggle on offense like they have for most of the last month, avoiding third and long puts them in a very good spot every time, as long as they can keep the Bears pass rush off of Rodgers, who has been shaken up quite often this season and more than he’s been used to.
Prediction – Chicago, Cutler, in Green Bay? Sounds like the easiest prediction to make. And it’s true. Even if the Bears are better and more solid than last year, it’s hard seeing them putting a complete enough performance to win against a Packers team that might have already been through its crisis this season.