Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers. The Monsters of the Midway come to Titletown. Brett Favre vs. --oh wait--just don't go there.
Tonight's game is shaping up to be a good one. The 1-3 Bears come in reeling after giving up thirty-four points in the fourth quarter to the Detroit Lions while the Packers come in 4-0 after escaping with a 23-16 victory against Minnesota.
But let's throw the records out. Let's throw the players out. When it boils down to it, this is NFC North football. Bears-Packers. Butkus-Nitschke. Sayers-Hornung. No one knows how this game will turn out.
But we can get a pretty good idea of how this will end up.
Chicago comes to Lambeau for Green Bay's national television debut on NBC's Sunday Night Football. Da Bears are currently 1-3 and tied for third place in the division with the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers are in first place with a 4-0 record and a one-game lead on the 3-1 Detroit Lions. The Bears have lost to San Diego, Dallas, and Detroit so far this year, while beating Kansas City in Week 2. The Packers come in with victories over Philadelphia, the New York Giants, San Diego, and Minnesota. The Packers are one of four undefeated teams, joining New England, Indianapolis, and Dallas.
The last time these two teams what was a 26-7 Packers victory on December 31, 2006. The Packers dominated the Bears, holding Rex Grossman to a 0.0 passer rating in the first half before he was pulled. However, Nick Barnett won't be lining up across from Grossman this time. This time, it is Brian Griese, the ten-year vet. In the Detroit game, Griese's first start since joining the Bears before last season, Griese was less than impressive, going 34/52 for 286 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Favre comes into this game second in the league in passing yards with 1,205 and tied for fifth in touchdowns with eight.
Injuries have taken a toll on the Bears. Starting offensive tackle John Tait is listed as doubtful, along with starting cornerback Nathan Vasher. The other starting cornerback, Charles Tillman, is listed as questionable. Neither played last week against Detroit. If the Green Bay offensive line can protect, Favre is looking at a field day. Other members of the Chicago Bears defense joining Tillman and Vasher on the injury report are Lance Briggs (questionable, hamstring), Brian Urlacher (probable, back), Adam Archuleta (probable, hand), Tommie Harris (probable, knee), and Brandon McGowan (probable, shoulder). That's seven members of the Bears' defense. On the offensive side of the ball, running back Adrian Peterson (questionable, calf), guard Ruben Brown (probable, shoulder), and tackle Fred Miller (probable, knee) join Tait on the injury report.
As for the Packers, injuries have taken less of a toll, but are still evident. Cornerback Will Blackmon is out for the season after breaking his foot, while DE Mike Montgomery is out because of a knee injury. RB Brandon Jackson (shin) is questionable, while OT Chad Clifton (illness), DT Colin Cole (concussion), S Nick Collins (knee), CB Al Harris (back), DE Cullen Jenkins (ribs), DT Corey Williams (back), and CB Charles Woodson (foot) are all probable for the game.
Now, even with Favre playing like a magician, the Packers still need the running game to give them some help. The Packers' leading rusher, Brandon Jackson, has only 97 yards and is averaging a measely 2.6 yards-per-carry. DeShawn Wynn is not far from taking over the leading rusher spot, with 87 yards and 3.8 yards-per-carry. To really solidify themselves, one needs to have a huge game. However, the chances of any Packers running back having a big game is decreased by the return of Vernand Morency (one rush, two yards in his return last week) and the presence of Ryan Grant, who has six rushes for 27 yards on the season. Jackson was supposed to take the ball and run with it during Morency's absence, but he could not prove anything.
On the other side of the ball, Cedric Benson has been the leading rusher for the Bears, with 239 yards on 74 carries. Benson is currently twenty-fourth in the league in rushing yards and twenty-seventh in yards-per-game with 59.8. He is not producing how the Bears expected him to when they got rid of Thomas Jones at the end of last year.
Wide receiver-wise, the Packers have a clear advantage. Donald Driver comes in eleventh in the league in receiving yards with 323. Rookie James Jones is thirty-ninth with 232 yards, ahead of such names like Marvin Harrison and Javon Walker (hehe). Tight end Donald Lee has become a reliable option, with 176 yards receiving, while Greg Jennings has rebounded nicely from injury, snagging seven passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns in two games. Driver and Bubba Franks also have two touchdowns through the air. Favre has thrown a pass to eleven different receivers this year.
The Bears receiving situation is much different, with Bernard Berrian fourteenth in the league in receiving yards with 320. However, after Berrian, production drops off almost entirely. Desmond Clark has 16 receptions for 169 yards and Muhsin Muhammad has nine catches for 85 yards. There is basically no production outside of Berrian, but that is not that far fetched, given the quarterback situation and the fact that the Bears running game is stronger than the Packers running game.
The Bears offensive line has given up fifteen sacks to opponents this year, while the Packers have only recorded ten. However, the Packers have given up only eight, while the Bears defense has sacked the opposing quarterback sixteen times. Earlier in the season, the Packers offensive line was giving up more hits on Favre, but as the season has progressed, it seems they have shored up their weaknesses.
Favre has become more of a game manager, only throwing two interceptions so far this season. The Bears defense only has three picks itself, while their quarterbacks have thrown nine already this season. The Packers defense needs to be on its toes for errant passes from Griese.
Tonight's game is going to have an almost college atmosphere, as the Packers add to their "G-Force" campaign. "G-Force" is "an extension of the Green Bay Packers that's 72,928 players strong every game at Lambeau." Tonight, fans are encouraged to wear white and white t-shirts that say "Fan Flurry" will be handed out. Lambeau will look almost like Happy Valley during Penn State's Whiteouts. My opinion on "G-Force" is that it is rather corny, but I like the idea. Green Bay has always had some of the best fans in the NFL, and this will solidify their claim. The white t-shirts will add an element of intimidation, not to mention it will look pretty cool.
I'll be sitting at home in my white Brett Favre jersey.
Anyway, time for my prediction. The injuries to Vasher and Tillman really hurt the Bears, so I think Favre will have a field day through the air with 250+ yards passing and two touchdowns. Packers in a substantial victory, 31-17.