Sunday, November 16, 2008

Onus on Rodgers' Arm to Beat Bears

As generalized as NFL rankings are, they are very useful in showing where the Packers have to be successful today in order to pull off a win.

Packers rushing offense (98 ypg, 23rd in NFL) vs. Bears Rushing defense (74.9 ypg, 4th in NFL)

I believe that our struggling run blocking is going to see Ryan Grant returning to early-season form and a non-factor in today's game. I may be wrong, but the Bears have been stout against the run, and the Packers have struggled to run against those kind of defenses. Big Edge: Bears

Bears rushing offense (110.6 ypg, 15th in NFL) vs. Packers rushing defense (154.6 ypg, 28th in NFL)

Again, the Bears appear to be able to control the ground game on both sides of the ball. With the Packers D-Line sporting injuries up and down and AJ Hawk making his first start at MLB, Matt Forte will likely have a strong game. Edge: Bears

Bears passing offense (213 ypg, 13th in NFL) vs. Packers passing defense (179 ypg, 3rd in NFL)

The Pack's secondary has asserted itself in a big way this year, but so has Kyle Orton at QB for the Bears. I do predict that the Packers will take away a lot of passing lanes for Orton, though, and the big plays against them will not come through the air. However, the Packers have relied on big turnovers this year, and while the Bears have 13 giveaways, only 5 have been interceptions. Small Edge: Packers

Packers passing offense (221 ypg, 11th in NFL) vs Bears passing defense (251 ypg, 30th in NFL)

By simply using the standings, one would say this is a huge edge for the Packers, and indeed, it is. If the Packers are going to beat the Bears, it is going to have to come through the air. However, the stats are somewhat skewed, much as it was for the Packers' 2005 defense: if you can't run on them, you must pass. The Bears lead the league in passing attempts against (350) and are 27th in rushing attempts against (216). The Bears are right in the middle of the pack for pass completions (15th) and 6th overall in yards per attempt (only 6.4). The Bears have only allowed opposing quarterbacks a overall rating of 76.6, nowhere near as incredible as the Packers' 58.8, but enough to realize that this isn't as much a weak pass defense, but a busy one.

However, it is highly likely that the Packers are not going to win this game on the ground. They've shown very little more than promise in making the run game a consistent threat this season, and the Bears don't appear to be a likely candidate for it to suddenly get well.

This means that Aaron Rodgers is going to have to bounce back from a poor week against another divisional opponent, overcome his spotty decision-making, and get back to the type of play that defined him the first five games or so.

With so much riding on this game (divisional hopes can be effectively squashed to day with a loss), it is time for our money players to deliver, and that man now happens to be #12. The matchups
are all in his favor to take over this game against a tough opponent at home, an opponent running a four-game win streak against the Pack in Lambeau field.

Look for the Packers to do everything they can to slow down the Bears and stay on the field on third down (the Bears defense is 5th in the league in 3rd down conversions allowed). More spread formations, max protects, and shotgun formations will be in store for Rodgers as he hopes to lead this offense, likely without the help of the threat of a running game.

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