Jclombardi highlights Packers headlines.
Guest senior writer jclombardi @ http://lombardiave.com
Packers vs Bears Previews–5 Things to Watch: BASICS—teams: The Green Bay Packers (2-0) vs. the Chicago Bears (2-0). Time: Monday, 7:30 p.m. Wisconsin time. Place: Soldier Field, Chicago. TV coverage: ESPN. The ESPN broadcast will also be simulcast on WISN (Ch. 12) in Milwaukee. BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH. Laying it on the line--Game could very well be decided by which team’s offensive line handles its opponent’s best pass-rusher most effectively. Shielded so far: In Packers’ first two games, neither the Philadelphia Eagles nor the Buffalo Bills found a way to exploit No. 3 cornerback Sam Shields, an undrafted rookie free agent who won the spot in the nickel defense in training camp. One would think the Bears’ Jay Cutler will be looking for that matchup. Looking good: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler looks like a changed man now. Gaining yards his Forte: Although his productivity in the run game hasn’t been much (27 carries, 79 yards), RB Forte has been terrific catching passes out of the backfield with his 188 receiving yards and three TD catches lead the Bears. Many happy returns: The coverage units have been solid, new punter Masthay has been an upgrade and kicker Crosby is back on track. The biggest improvement has come on returns where kick returner Nelson has emerged as a significant weapon in the battle for field position. PREDICTION: Packers’ 2-0 record is significantly less surprising than the Bears’ 2-0 start. After sweeping Chicago last year, this is one of those games where a Packers team with Super Bowl aspirations needs to play like a contender in a marquee prime-time game against a motivated division rival. The guess here is that, after some up-and-down performances in the passing game, Rodgers & Co. exploit the Bears’ secondary and claim sole possession of first place in the NFC North. Packers 31, Bears 21.
Notes: Starting left tackle Chad Clifton and starting left guard Daryn Colledge were the No. 1 duo at Saturday’s practice and both are listed as probable for the Packers’ Week 3 showdown at Chicago. Packers injury report: Questionable: LB Brad Jones (knee), DE Mike Neal (side/rib), S Charlie Peprah(quad), DE Ryan Pickett (hamstring). Probable: LB Desmond Bishop (hamstring), LT Chad Clifton (knees), G Daryn Colledge (knee), TE Tom Crabtree (arch), FB Korey Hall (hip), DE Cullen Jenkins (hand), S Derrick Martin (ankle), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring), LB Brady Poppinga (knee), CB Brandon Underwood (shoulder), CBCharles Woodson (toe). McCarthy said he’s being “smart” with Pickett but was much more pessimistic about Neal, who figures to miss a third consecutive game. Neal, Peprah and Martin were the only players who were held out of practice. Clifton, Jones and Pickett were limited. Everyone else was a full participant.
Spreading the Wealth: As unselfish as the Green Bay Packers’ top four wide receivers (Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson) and budding star tight end Jermichael Finley claim to be, Jennings knows it isn’t easy for Rodgers to spread the ball around enough to keep all five players happy. “I’ve said this before: I would hate to be in his shoes. Because you have five guys over here that all want the ball,” Jennings said as the Packers prepared for Monday night’s NFC North showdown with the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. “They’re unselfish – to a certain extent. Until they go a game without getting a ball – then everything kind of flips.
Notes: Playing time fading away for Packers Lee. Packers are expected to start Clifton at left tackle and Colledge at left guard after both worked with the No. 1 offense Saturday. Linebacker Jones (knee) worked on a limited basis all week and was listed as questionable. Poppinga or Zombo would replace him. Cornerback Underwood practiced all week, said he would be active, and play on special teams. It’s probable Underwood will replace Lee as the No. 5 cornerback.
Packers Green Bay Press Gazette headlines: Demovsky lists factors determining the final number of Matthews’ sack record and Bulaga may start at left tackle or left guard. Copeland writes CB Underwood should add more depth to pass defense and Shields faces test against Bears.
Behind Enemy Lines Headlines: Bears rule out Williams, Wright—Bears have ruled out starting left tackle Chris Williams and backup safety Major Wright for their game Monday night against Green Bay because of hamstring injuries. Five Things To Watch For–Bears-Packers: Five things to watch for when Bears host the Green Bay Packers on Monday night. Performance on third down. It’s vitally important on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Bears could make the contest easier for themselves by keeping the ball away from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The best way to do that is to convert on third down.