Jclombardi highlights Packers headlines.
Guest senior writer jclombardi @ http://lombardiave.com
Packers vs Bears Preview & Prediction: Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. C.S.T. TV: ESPN. Series History: 179th meeting. Bears lead regular-season series 90-82-6. Packers won both games last season, 21-15 at Lambeau Field and 21-14 at Soldier Field. In a Monday night game two years ago, the Bears won in overtime 20-17 at Soldier Field. Keys to Game: Bears QB Cutler has been consistently sliding within the pocket to buy time behind a shaky offensive line and RB Forte will again be an important outlet. Packers LB Matthews has 3.0 sacks in each of the first two games and the Bears get stuck in plenty of third-and-long situations due to their pedestrian ground game. Green Bay’s running game is also struggling minus Grant. The question is whether Chicago’s front seven can apply enough pressure to keep QB Rodgers from picking apart the secondary. Prediction: Packers 28, Bears 23.
Behind Enemy Lines 1–Packers QB Rodgers: In a conference call with the Chicago media, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers praised the Bears defense as well as quarterback Jay Cutler. On the Bears defense: “I think they are playing very well. The addition of Peppers has obviously helped. Having Urlacher and Tinoisamoa be healthy has solidified that front seven. The back end is doing a nice job as well. They’re playing very well together. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us. They seem to be running their stuff a little bit better. Lovie has been fairly consistent the last number of years he’s been coaching. They are always adding new wrinkles. They’ve always played us very tough on defense. It will be important for us to keep the chains moving and take the crowd out of it early.” On being hurt by Ryan Grant’s injury: “That’s media talk. We always have felt like when someone goes down with an injury, the next person has to step up and make the plays. We’re very confident in Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn being able to take the load that Ryan carried. Obviously losing Ryan is difficult, not only from a production standpoint, but from a leadership standpoint. It’s going to be important for us to stay the course, stay balanced and try to get our backs in space.” On how the Packers have started: “On our side we still need to find a little better rhythm. It wasn’t until the second half of the Buffalo game when we started clicking a little better. Hopefully we’ll be able to put our best product of the season on the field on Monday night.”
Packers need to limit DE Peppers: Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is as familiar to Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher as arthritis is to retired linemen. Peppers has been more of a pain to the veteran Green Bay Packers tackles in their latter years, but for the most part they have been able to protect their well-being, holding him to three sacks and a forced fumble in five meetings with his former team, the Carolina Panthers. Prior results aren’t always an indicator of future earnings, but in this case, the Packers can go into their Monday night showdown with the 2-0 Bears with some confidence Peppers won’t rampage through their backfield like Godzilla through telephone wire.
Special teams–headed in right Direction: So far this season, a lot has gone right on returns with Nelson, who came under some criticism last year for his returns – fire that may not have been all that fair. Among the Packers’ primary returners during their touchdown drought, only Rossum with a 25.8-yard average in 2000 had a higher per-return average than Nelson’s 25.4-yard mark last season. The difference this season with Nelson, who 51- and 40-yard returns at Philadelphia in the season opener and a 34-yarder against Buffalo last week, is that the coaches have altered their blocking schemes to better suit Nelson’s skill set. “Jordy’s best asset is his speed once he gets going,” Slocum, the team’s second-year special teams coordinator, explained. “He’s a big guy, and I think he looks relatively hard to tackle because his knees are high and he’s one of those big guys who just chews up grass. So the thing we have to do is get him started. So what we’re trying to do from a blocking standpoint is be square on blocks and give him options of where to run the ball.”