Last updated December 22nd, 2013
This week we preview a pivotal NFC North showdown as the first place (5-2) Green Bay Packers welcome the rival (4-3) Chicago Bears to Lambeau Field in a Monday night matchup you won’t want to miss (8:30pm, ET on ESPN).
After starting the season 1-2 due in large part to a defense that gave up 88 points in the first three games, the Packers took advantage of an early bye. Since that week four bye, the Packers have charged out to a 4-0 record that includes wins against the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens. The stretch has seen Green Bay remain perfect at home this season (3-0) and perfect in the division (2-0).
This week’s matchup against the Bears will be a chance for the Packers to continue both of these streaks and it will also be a chance for the team to prove their improved play. The defense, with the exception of last week’s Minnesota game, has given up no more than 20 points in a single game during the winning streak.
No Cutler No… Problem?
The Bears will once again be without starting QB Jay Cutler as he continues to nurse a groin injury he suffered two weeks ago. For the Packers, this will be beneficial as Cutler had been enjoying a pretty good season and would have been poised to go off against Green Bay’s 20th ranked pass defense.
Cutler’s replacement is Josh McCown, a veteran journeyman who does not have nearly as much explosive possibility as Cutler. McCown’s abilities are limited although he did perform admirably in Chicago’s loss last week.
With McCown in as QB, Chicago’s run game becomes that much more important. Luckily for the Bears, Matt Forte is enjoying another solid season having collected 533 yards on the ground in seven games. Last week against Forte had the good fortune of facing the league’s 2nd worst run defense. He gained 91 yards on the ground and scored a season high three touchdowns in the loss.
Against Green Bay, Forte’s task will be a little more difficult. The Packers boast the league’s 4th best run defense and allow on average just 83.6 yards a game. On the season, the Green Bay run defense has also allowed just six rushing TDs compared to 12 passing TDs.
The obvious strength for the Packers is this run defense. It is a group that has held some of the league’s top running backs in Frank Gore (44 YDS), Reggie Bush (44 YDS) and Adrian Peterson (60 YDS) to minimal yardage and one that will look to do the same against Forte.
From Alabama to Green Bay Without Missing a Beat
In college Eddie Lacy broke onto the scene in the midst of his third year at Alabama. But in the NFL, the rookie didn’t need two years. Lacy was drafted by the Packers to shore up a running game that had holes and that lacked a bonafide starter. In fact, with how good Aaron Rodgers (pictured) and the passing game was, a reliable runner was the one thing that seemed to keep the Packers from winning another championship.
Lacy took over the running game and with the exception of a few weeks missed due to concussion symptoms, the 23-year old 230lb runningback has not missed a beat.
Lacy has accumulated 446 yards in parts of six games this year. With the exception of week two, in which Lacy managed just one 10 yard rush before being removed due to the concussion, the first year runningback has recorded at least 40 yards on the ground in each of his starts. He has gotten better as the season has gone along too, recorded no less than 82 yards in each of his last four games. Non-coincidentally, it is these four games in which Lacy has led the running game to be the 3rd best in the league, that the Packers have been on their winning streak.
No Defense Can Stop That Many Top QBs
For the Bears, the absence of their starting QB is noticeable but the worse problem is that last year’s formidable and nearly unbreakable defense has been just a shell of itself in 2013. In fact, Chicago’s defense which was best in the league in 2012, ranks just 27th against the pass and 25th against the run. They have allowed four 240+ yard passers including the game against the Steelers in which Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 400 yards.
It has not been easy for Chicago’s defense and it is quite fair to say that they have been forced with facing some of the league’s best quarterbacks. Even a great defense would have trouble limiting the QBs Chicago has faced, a group that reads as the who’s who of the best currently in the game.
Chicago started off its season by facing Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder, two signal callers that don’t exactly strike fear into a defense. But after those two, the attack has been relentless. The Bears’ D has had to focus on stopping Roethlisberger, then Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Robert Griffin III. Aaron Rodgers is up next.
Rodgers is quietly having yet another good season. He is completing 67.1% of his passes and has thrown for 2,191 yards. Rodgers has also thrown 15 TDs on the season. He has a rating of 108 and has committed six turnovers. Judged upon his past, the numbers aren’t spectacular but against the rest of the league, once again he is putting numbers of a top QB.
Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers Betting Picks
The Packers are nearly unbeatable at home both SU and ATS. Chicago meanwhile has only managed to cover the spread once in their last five games at Lambeau. Overall, the Bears are just 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight against the NFC North. The Packers on the other hand have been dominant, going 12-1 ATS in their last 13.
- The QB matchup favors Green Bay, the running game favors Green Bay, the defense favors Green Bay and the home field advantage of course, favors Green Bay. The spread is a lofty 11pts though in favor of the Packers so take the Bears +11pts to cover in this situation @ odds of -115 with Bovada. It is +10.5pts for the same odds with BetOnline.
- The Packers are the league’s second best offense and have scored 30 points four times this season. The Bears however, are second only to the Denver Broncos in points per game. For that reason, it is a no brainer to take the over on the total points at 50.5pts with either Bovada or BetOnline.
RESULT UPDATE: Bears won 27-20.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.