It is week 10 of the NFL season and time for the second installment of the NFL’s longest standing rivalry, between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears (8:30pm EST, Sunday).
Earlier this year when the two teams met, (3-5) Chicago looked like the team to beat in the NFC North. They had won two of their first three games and were welcoming the Packers into the confines of the not-so friendly Soldier Field. (5-3) Green Bay on the other hand was just 1-2 as their tough early schedule featured games against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks and the current division-leading Detroit Lions. They were 0-2 on the road entering the matchup.
But there is a reason why they say that the games are played on the field and not on the paper. Green Bay came in with a strong performance behind their stars and defeated the Bears 38-17. This put the all-time rivalry record at 90 wins for the Packers and 93 for the Bears.
Since that game, the Packers have gone on to win three of their last four contests. The Bears meanwhile have lost three of their last four and look nowhere near what they did at the beginning of the season.
Could this game serve as a late season Bears turnaround as the first did for the Packers? Or will this just be another loss at Lambeau for the guys from the Windy City?
Aaron Rodgers’ MVP Case
There is one reason that the Packers are once again competing for a playoff spot in the NFC and his name is Aaron Rodgers (pictured).
Rodgers has been a QB-extraordinaire ever since his ascension to the role of starter in 2008. In five of those six seasons, Rodgers has recorded at least 3,900 yards and 28 touchdowns all but once. And to be fair, the one season Rodgers didn’t hit those numbers, he only played nine games.
With eight games already in the books this year, the former Super Bowl champ is on pace to put up some amazing numbers. His completion percentage in 2014 is just a shade off of his career best from 2011 and with 19 touchdowns he is on pace to score 40 for just the second time in his career.
As has recently been the case, when Rodgers is on so are the Packers. Rodgers has been one of the hottest quarterbacks over the Packers recent 4-1 run. He has done this in large part thanks to a passing game which features the wide receiver with the eighth most receptions and receiving yards in the league (Jordy Nelson) and another wide receiver who leads the league in touchdowns with nine (Randall Cobb).
The passing game of Green Bay has been about as good as it gets this year. Against the Bears, who rank 23rd against the pass, look for Rodgers and his offense to continue the prolific pace they have set.
Matt Forte’s MVP Case
The Packers aren’t the only ones with a bonafide MVP candidate. For the Bears, their man and someone who has emerged as a real double threat this year is Matt Forte.
Forte has always been a powerful runningback who is known for his ability to power past defenders with his strength. Since his first year in the league in 2008, Forte has put together seasons of at least 920 yards each year and has a career average of a solid 4.3 yards per rush.
But running the ball isn’t Forte’s only strength. In fact this year especially, Forte has been as much of a receiver as he has been a runner.
In just eight games, Forte has carried the ball 130 times. To put this into perspective, this is only the eighth most in the NFL this year. His 562 yards is only seventh best. Essentially put, Forte’s efforts are top 10 but don’t really challenge the best backs in the league.
In the passing game however, Forte has 58 receptions in eight games. His 58 receptions are better than all but one wide receiver, ranking him second in the NFL in this category. While his 490 yards only rank him 30th in the league, this is good enough for the best mark among runningbacks. Overall, Forte is behind just DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys for total all-purpose yards. His average of 131.5 yards a game is also second only to Murray for players whose position is not the quarterback.
The Packers have a staunch pass defense which could slow Jay Cutler and his weapons. Considering Forte is used almost exclusively in short yardage passing plays, he might be looked at in place of some of Cutler’s deeper threats as an answer to Green Bay’s corners. Additionally, the Packers are dead last in run defense, allowing over 153 yards on the ground per game. Long story short, expect a big day with some big numbers from Forte in this favorable matchup.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers Betting Picks
It’s Forte against Rodgers, Marc Trestman against Mike McCarthy, defense against offense. It’s Bears/Packers and it’s a rivalry for the ages. The teams have championship success, hall-of-fame pedigree and legendary games. They have played the most games of any two teams in the NFL and with just three wins separating the two, it is one of the best rivalries in not just the NFL but all of professional sports.
But as much as the rivalry is always going to impact these games, the current situation between the teams is the focus. Green Bay is hot, they are playing at home, are coming off the bye and are minus seven point favorites to win. They are 7-0-1 ATS coming off the bye and 10-3-1 in their last 14 at home.
Both teams are coming off nasty losses at the hands of the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots but only the Packers look ready to bounce back. Forte alone can’t carry the load and with Cutler’s six interceptions in the past five games, things don’t look promising for the preseason NFC North favorites.