On Monday the Chicago Bears watched video of their Sunday win against the Colts, got treatment and went home with iPads loaded with the Green Bay game plan. Tuesday marks the only full day of practice and today it’s a walk-through and travel to Wisconsin. There isn't much time for the Bears to heal their bodies, digest a game plan or savor their first victory: The NFL schedule-makers wanted a huge match-up for a prime time game on Thursday and the Bears-Packers matchup will fill the bill.
There is a lot at stake in this match-up — for both teams. The Bears would love to put the Packers in a 0-2 hole to begin the season, and to do it at Lambeau Field would be ideal for the Bears. Last season, Green Bay was a perfect 8 and 0 at home, but they opened this year with a home loss; handing them another would be sweet. For the Packers, they want to maintain their elite status and their dominance over the Bears, in a year where both teams are expected to excel. So these divisional wins have so much significance now and specifically at the end to determine the standings.
It's only the second game of the season, but Thursday's game will be a great barometer of where this team is at: Green Bay has beaten the Bears the last four meetings. Chicago has been desperate for the kind of offensive output we saw from the Jay Cutler-to-Brandon Marshall connection not just for years, but for decades; but they were up against the Colts — not the Packers. Instead of rookie QB Andrew Luck they will face last year’s MVP QB, Aaron Rodgers. Not that Indianapolis was the NFL's doormat last year, but Green Bay went 15 and 1 and is just two years removed from their stint as Super Bowl champions.
But let's try and look on the bright side. What are some of the positives of playing the Packers right now?
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Familiarity: The Bears know Rodgers, the Packers offense and this 3-4 Green Bay defense. When you play a team twice a year that has most of the same personnel you have a good idea what you are up against. This is one of the most high-powered offenses in the league. The Bears defense may want to take a page from what the 49ers did in their win over the Packers by putting pressure on Rodgers, although that's easier said than done. Although the Bears faced a 3-4 defense last week this Packers unit is fueled by the likes of A.J. Hawk and Clay Mathews, Jr. What the Niners showed last week was the run defense was vulnerable; Bears running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush may be able to take advantage.
Timing: If you are going to play a condensed week it is better to do it the first week of the season and not in week seven or eight. The Bears admitted they did some game planning before this week, since it came on the heels of training camp and the pre-season.
Health: Except for Charles Tillman’s sore leg, the Bears are in pretty good shape. The coaching staff will have no problem pulling Brian Urlacher if he is still slowed by his knee and conditioning issues. They will know relatively quickly with the mobility of Rodgers how Urlacher will fare in the field. Against the Colts, Nick Roach slid into the middle linebacking spot without too much trouble. He's been there the whole pre-season and so moving spots during the game isn’t difficult. “Playing that position you flip a switch when you go from the job you were doing to making calls,” said Roach.
Modern technology: As mentioned before, the team is using iPads to watch game film, which allows the team to study up from the comforts of home. Since they will be traveling by bus today to Green Bay, Lovie Smith said his players will likely spend that time cramming. He calls this their “mobile office.”
We knew the check list from Lovie Smith's first press conference: beat Green Bay, win the division and win the Super Bowl. Even though it's early, a Bears victory here would be helpful to validate Smith's desired list.