November 2, 2013

Chicago Bears Pregame Report: What To Watch For

Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears. As far as rivalries go, it's doesn't get much better than this. Even the usually vanilla and cliche ridden Mike McCarthy pointed out, "This is the game every year. In my humble opinion, this is the game in the NFL.”

Most Packers and Bears fans would agree, as would many other fans, pundits and players around professional football. Let's take a look at three key areas to watch during Monday night's game that will likely go a long way in deciding who wins in this prime-time divisional match up at Lambeau Field.

Creating Turnovers
Historically, the Chicago Bears have been one of the best teams in the NFL at forcing turnovers. Whether its their defensive line pressuring QBs without blitzing or their secondary punching out fumbles, Chicago feeds off turnovers and uses them to suck momentum out of teams. While this year's Bears defense is depleted and looking old, they've still forced 15 fumbles (recovered eight) and picked off opposing QBs 10 times, accounting for three defensive touchdowns. The Packers meanwhile have forced just 10 fumbles (recovered 4) and intercepted QBs only three times for one defensive TD. The point is, Green Bay needs to focus on protecting the football and winning the turnover battle. In four wins the Bears have forced 14 turnovers and in three losses have only forced four. Simple equation.

Finishing on Defense
Eighty points. It's the amount the Green Bay Packers have given up in the fourth quarter this season. While the Packers defense ranks 4th overall is rush defense, their finishing of games has been unacceptable. The offense meanwhile has only put up 43 points and has let teams hang around and in one game (Cincinnati), they lost because of it. This team has yet to show the "foot on the throat" mentality, but Monday night at home might be a chance to make that statement, loud and clear. Getting separation in the NFL (and especially in division games) isn't an easy thing but GREAT teams don't just beat their inferior opponents, they CRUSH them. The Bears are a much inferior team and are without their offensive and defensive signal callers; time for the Packers to crush.

Getting Even on Special Teams
Another area the Bears always seem to steal momentum is special teams. Hester hasn't been as potent at scoring TDs lately, but he's still a dangerous threat to give his team exceptional field position at any time. The Packers MUST limit Hester's effectiveness and limit the Bears return yardage on punts and kickoffs. On the flip side, Micah Hyde flashed a burst of surprise on his 93-yard punt return TD against the Vikings last week. The Packers don't need that every game, but they need more consistency out of their kick returners. Field position is important and the return game needs to do its part in setting up the offense in better starting drive position.

Score Prediction
Packers 45, Bears 20

The Bears are ranked 25th or worse in both rush and pass defense. Aaron Rodgers is lethal anywhere, but at home is simply filthy. Expect a healthy balance of Starks and Lacy coupled with early and often TDs from Rodgers to Nelson. The Bears simply won't be able to keep up with the scoring.

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