Chicago Bears (7-7) at Green Bay Packers (5-9)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Venue: Lambeau Field (Packers 26, Bears 22)
Referee: Rob Merilees
TV info: Fox
Point spread: Packers (-5.5)
The comeback train took a major hit for the Chicago Bears last week in Cleveland, where they were blown out by the Browns. While they’re a strong unit with special teams and a fundamentally sound defense, they haven’t been able to get going on offense, where the pieces are not quite there yet.
If Mike Glennon can get things going and make some plays, this could have a few playmakers, so while they’ll give the Packers problems, they also probably have all of the speed and experience to match with them.
In these one-win seasons for the Bears, it’s certainly not surprising that the game-winning touchdown plays come from the punter. But this week, it’s rookie punter Pat O’Donnell who will try to keep the momentum going for the Green Bay Packers, who they will host in their second home game of the year.
The Bears have won the last two meetings in Chicago, which started the Packers’ 0-5 start, so Chicago will be coming in confident, but the Packers also aren’t taking this one lightly. They understand the importance of this game to their season, and believe they can contain the injury-ravaged Bears. They also realize the importance of the fifth win of the season, because it will put them in great position to make the playoffs.
Pat O’Donnell and the Packers are coming off their bye week, where they were able to gain some momentum. They are hoping to continue that after a solid win against the Lions. Rodgers said this week that the run offense has been a strength of the offense throughout the season, and the running backs (Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery) are now in full stride. James Starks and his increased workload aren’t fully healthy, however, and Ryan Grant hasn’t stepped up for him. Look for a closer-to-the-line-of-scrimmage effort from the running backs against a good Chicago defense.
Veteran linebacker Clay Matthews returned this week after a groin injury kept him out of the first nine games of the season. Matthews has always been an efficient pass rusher, but had not been the same before his injury. He’ll probably need a few games to get his timing back with the rest of the defense. Matthews and middle linebacker Jake Ryan will have to anchor the Packers against the Bears’ new-look offense.
The Packers have struggled defensively with injuries on the defensive line, but coach Mike McCarthy announced at the end of the week that his DL will be active for this week’s game. Fellow DL Nick Perry won’t play, however, because of a groin injury. The Packers are still young, and they’ve lost their best defensive lineman when Perry went down, but hopefully they’ll be able to respond.
The Bears need to get their run game going before the offense could really hit on all cylinders, but an inconsistent pass rush will slow them down on Sunday. Starting DL Akiem Hicks will play after missing the last game with a hamstring injury, but the Bears also lost OLB Leonard Floyd last week, although he has been listed as questionable this week.
Linebacker Roquan Smith, taken No. 8 overall in this year’s draft, will make his Packers debut on Sunday, and coach Mike McCarthy was able to get in his first practice for the game this week. Smith can be the heir apparent to Matthews and Perry, and he’ll try to make a name for himself on defense.