The Bears opened as eleven-point underdogs against the Green Bay Packers Monday night at Lambeau Field. They are as beaten up a defense as there is in the NFL. They are starting their backup quarterback. As Michael Kehoe wrote to me on Twitter, “Bears don’t stand a chance in GB. I’m emotionally all in. But a win would be one of the biggest surprises in decades.” He then followed up on his own Twitter page, “Historical trends, road game, MNF + no pass rush, 2 rookie LBs= give the pts all day. Hate it. Hoping to be wrong. Bears!”
So why in God’s name do I like the Chicago Bears this week?
I always like the Chicago Bears.
BUT WHAT FOOTBALL REASONS, JEFF?
- I went back and watched all of Josh McCown’s snaps against the Redskins and there were two things I liked. (2) He made remarkably quick decisions – whether to throw the ball quickly to an outlet receiver or tuck it and run for what he could. The less time he spends in the pocket Monday night, the better. (3) He used Earl Bennett. With Brandon and Alshon on the field, Bennett is going to consistently see second and third-rate defensive backs in coverage. The Bears need to get the ball into his hands and let him make a few plays.
- Mike McCarthy won’t want the ball anywhere near Devin Hester and it should give the Bears short fields most of the evening.
- We’ve never seen Marc Trestman coach off a bye week but he’s been pretty damn impressive without one thus far. Should we expect something great Monday night? He may need it.
- I expect Mel Tucker and the Bears defensive coaches to let the corners play. Peanut, barring health, and Tim Jennings are now the two best players on the defensive side of the ball and sitting them in the zone minimizes their ability to impact the action. Let these guys get up on the line of scrimmage, put their hands on receivers and attempt to control the game physically.
- I’m going to say something crazy. I think the Bears get a performance out of their defensive ends Monday night. Julius Peppers has been written off as finished and Shea McClellin has been written off as never to get started. If hearing those cries for two weeks doesn’t light a fire and pull something out of an athlete, what will?
- This is the least intimidating collection of skill players for the Packers in modern memory.
- Concern #1: For the first time in the Aaron Rodgers era, the Bears enter a Packers game with their running game as the biggest concern. The absence of weapons on the outside and the lack of a dominant tight end means the Bears should be able to keep the game manageable. But they MUST contain the run. Not stop it – they are not going to stop it. Contain it. If Rodgers is facing consistent third-and-shorts the Bears may need 45 to come up with a win.
- Concern #2: The stage may simply be too large for Josh McCown. The backup quarterback thrived in the second half against the Washington Redskins but the Washington Redskins don’t know how to tackle humans. McCown must not try and do too much, must stay within the system and must understand that despite an early deficit punting the football is not necessarily a bad thing. If he refrains from turning the ball over he can give the Bears a shot.
- Concern #3: Charles Tillman doesn’t play/finish another game. I don’t care who Rodgers’ weapons are if they’re being covered by Jennings/Bowman/Frey. Tillman is not only the best active player on the defense (with Briggs down) he is their best third-level tackler. He keeps a six-yard slant from becoming a sixty-yard touchdown. Without him the Bears will be relying on proper angles and tackling from a pair of struggling safeties.
MATCH-UP OF REMARKABLE IMPORTANCE
- Bears head coach Marc Trestman v. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Since Capers arrived in 2009 he has done a masterful job of confusing the Bears offensive coaching staff and putting on a coaching clinic. Trestman was hired by Phil Emery to put an end to that. Now the new Bears HC must take on the organization’s nemesis short-handed at the most important position in professional sports. (And in fairness, Capers is without his favorite toys, Clay Matthews and Bears killer Charles Woodson.) How Trestman handles this assignment will tell Bears fans a great deal about this rivalry moving forward.
Jermichael Finley describes his sustaining a certainly year-ending injury in a remarkable piece for Peter King’s TheMMQB:
It all happened very quickly. I remember seeing the defender out of the corner of my eye, and I intentionally lowered my head and shoulders to protect my knees. After I got hit, in the fourth quarter of our win against the Browns last week, my eyes were wide open. I was very conscious, but I could not move. I looked my teammate Andrew Quarless directly in the eye and whispered, “Help me, Q. I can’t move; I can’t breathe.” The scariest moment was seeing the fear in Q’s eyes. I knew something was wrong, but his reaction verified it. That really shook me up.
I think the absence of Finley Monday night is the most significant injury outside Cutler. The Bears would have had no chance to defend him. But it feels so irrelevant after reading his piece.
THE MOST INTERESTING PLAYER ON THE FIELD
- Bears RB Matt Forte. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Forte deliver a season-defining performance? Wouldn’t it be nice to see Forte create runs where there seem to be none and dominate in the passing attack? Wouldn’t it be nice to see Forte understand the circumstances, understand the situation at quarterback, and put the offense on his back? Wouldn’t it be nice to see Forte continually move the chains and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field? Forte is capable of being a great player. The Bears need it Monday night.
THIS VIDEO HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FOOTBALL
I once gave up my seat at the premier of Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls to Lou Reed. He wrote my friend a Thank You note on the back of a receipt. This is my favorite live performance from Reed, with Elvis Costello.
Thank you, Lou.
BEST TRADE COMMENT
Goes to our pal Trac. For a trade proposal that showed uniquely inspired realism:
I think that a low level trade is probably the only kind of movement we’ll see, if any. For instance, a DT like Colin Cole of the Panthers who’s long in the tooth but good enough for the Panthers to keep him around for a player like Sherrick McManis that is 3rd on our CB depth chart. Maybe there’s a team out there that wants to save some cap space for next year but I just don’t see many viable possibilities.
A SINGLE STAT PREDICTION (3-4)
- Aaron Rodgers completes 75% of his passes. I can just see one of those games where Rodgers takes everything underneath and forces the Bears to make a series of open field tackles – something they’ve struggled to do thus far.
WRAPPING IT UP IN A FEW SENTENCES
Bears should be able to move the ball and score but they’ll struggle all night stopping Aaron Rodgers and the suddenly potent Green Bay rushing attack. Bears create a turnover at the right moment and make a few big plays on specials to shock the Lambeau faithful. (I’m trying.)
Chicago Bears 30 1/2, Green Bay Packers 30
Note: This is the smallest margin of victory ever predicted on DBB.