The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears roll into week 16 of the NFL season heading in opposite directions. Green Bay comes in looking to secure home field advantage as the NFC's #1 seed and Chicago is looking to just stay in the playoff picture. Both teams come in with major injury concerns and how they deal with those will go a long way to determining who wins.
The Green Bay Packers have assembled one of the best seasons in NFL history. Even though they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs last week, they are primed to finish the regular season with only one loss. Their steady quarterback Aaron Rodgers is poised to have one of the greatest seasons ever for a quarterback. His numbers are downright gaudy. Rodgers comes in having completed almost 70% of his passes, thrown 40 touchdowns versus only 6 interceptions, and over 4,000 yards. Rodgers, along with several other quarterbacks this season, has a legitimate chance of breaking Dan Marino's single season yardage record. However, all is not hunky dory with Green Bay. They come into week 16 with several key injuries, especially to the offensive line. Greg Jennings, their number 1 wide receiver has a sprained knee and is out until the playoffs at the earliest. This has put more pressure on Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, and Randall Cobb to run precise routes and give Rodgers the targets that he is used to. The offensive line injuries could be a big problem for the Pack. With a tough Bears front defensive line, Rodgers could find himself running for cover under a relentless pass rush.
The Bears come into Week 16 a mess on offense. When starting QB Jay Cutler was sidelined with a broken thumb, the Bears really had no one who was capable of stepping in. Caleb Hanie has filled in for Cutler and looked very bad doing it. Haine has thrown 3 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He has routinely looked lost, and the Bears have had to simplify their play calling to accommodate Hanie's lack of experience. Because of all of this, the Bears are now turning to QB Josh McCown to try and get them back into the win column. Last week, McCown was coaching high school football, and now this week he is starting an NFL game at Lambeau Field. It is hard to say how McCown will look facing a relentless Packers rush attack, but he is mobile and has NFL starting experience. Losing Cutler was bad enough, but when star RB Matt Forte went down with a regular season-ending knee injury, the offense was mortally wounded. Backup Marion Barber has filled in but Forte, who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage, was a huge loss for a team that had already lost its starting quarterback.
Even though the game looks like the Packers should be heavy favored, the stats do not matter. This is a bitter divisional rivalry game against two foes who do not like each other. The Bears are still mathematically alive for an NFC wild-card birth, and must win against the Packers to keep that dream alive. The Packers would have already clinched home field throughout the playoffs, but Kansas City detoured them last week. This sets up a hard-hitting and bitter game on the turf at Lambeau Field. The team that can pressure the quarterback is most likely going to win. Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji for the Packers and Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije for the Bears will look to chase the opposing quarterback all game long. Whichever team wins will most likely have forced the opposing quarterback into several mistakes, and that gives the Packers a definite advantage at home with Rodgers.