Well, it doesn’t get much better than this does it? Bears, Packers, Monday Night Football, and both teams sitting at 2-0 with first place in the NFC North on the line. The NFL’s oldest rivals meet for the 180th time Monday night for a primetime matchup in Chicago’s Soldier Field. The Bears lead the all time series 91-82-6, but the Packers have fared better as of late winning 3 of the last 4. Green Bay enters the game as a 3 point favorite in what figures to be the most electric atmosphere in Soldier Field since 2006. No one is more excited to get on the field than Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher’s season was nearly over before it started when he broke his wrist in the first half of a week 1 Sunday night game in Green Bay. The Bears went on to lose that game 21-15, due largely in part to Jay Cutler’s four interceptions, and their season never really seemed to get back on track the rest of the way as they finished with a disappointing 7-9 record. Fast forward to 2010, where a 2-0 start has Bears fans dreaming of a playoff berth for the first time in four years. Combine this with the opportunity to move to 3-0 while taking over sole possession of first place and you have quite the backdrop for this week’s Monday Night Football game.
So what is going to happen on Monday night? Well, if there’s one thing we know for certain, being a home underdog on MNF is almost always a good thing. It’s hard to explain this phenomenon but for whatever reason, home underdogs love the primetime spotlight and their play often reflects this desire to prove a point to everyone else in the country. It’s almost like a, “hey, we’re for real, WE know we’re for real and now we want to show all of you why.” This mantra definitely fits the 2010 Bears as they are one of the pleasant surprises in the NFL; now sitting at 2-0 after winning on the road in Dallas last week., a game in which they were heavy underdogs.
I don’t care what anyone says about the Cubs or the White Sox or the Bulls or the Blackhawks or whoever, the bottom line is, Chicago is a football town. It is a Bears town, always has been and always will be…ask ANYONE who lives there and they will tell you the same. That said, try to imagine how hungry these fans are to return to the postseason for the first time since their Super Bowl run in 2006. You think it will be loud in there on Monday Night? You think they may have a slight home field advantage working in their favor? Look, the Bears are going to need all the help they can get. Green Bay is the most popular pick (more popular than the Saints) to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl for a variety of reasons. None bigger than their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is on the same level as the big 3 (now the big 4), Manning, Brees, and Brady. The NFL is a quarterback’s league, and when you have an elite QB, you are automatically an elite team. Think about those 4 teams for a minute. Who played in the Super Bowl last year? Who seems to be a threat to play in the Super Bowl EVERY year? Seven total appearances in the last nine years for these three teams. People are putting the Packers on that same level. Most feel that they are ready to take that next step after losing to Arizona on a crazy play in overtime last year. Why do people feel this way about the Packers? #12. Not only is he the ideal size for an elite NFL QB, he is extremely mobile. He ran the ball 5 times for 20 yards and a touchdown last week. Not bad for a guy who routinely throws for 300 yards with 3 TD’s. There is a reason he was drafted ahead of every other quarterback in the majority of fantasy football drafts.
I would like to point out that the Packers are without All Pro running back Ryan Grant for the rest of the season. Don’t underestimate how big of a loss this really is. The guy is basically a lock for 1200 yds and 10 TD’s. Without him, the Packers become one dimensional and that is not going to work against the Bears number 1 ranked rush defense. Expect to see all pro linebackers Lance Briggs and Urlacher dropping back in coverage early and often making it very difficult for Rodgers to find an open receiver. Yes, the Bears secondary is average AT BEST. However, their front seven is very strong and when you are going to be one dimensional and throw the ball 40 times a game, it’s going to allow two of the most athletic linebackers in the league to cheat into pass coverage. Look for both Urlacher and Briggs to have huge nights, especially considering the motivation fueling Urlacher after what happened in Green Bay last season.
I think its safe to say, as usual, this game will come down to Jay Cutler and his ability to limit his mistakes. He has been incredible through the first two weeks of the season leading the league with a 121.2 QB rating. If he continues to play this way, not only are the Bears going to win on Monday, they are going to win a lot of games this season. It will be interesting to see if Devin Armoashodu gets back on the field this week after there were whispers amongst the coaching staff that he may not be comfortable going across the middle from the slot position. Martz likes to move his receivers around and if Aromashodu doesn’t like playing in the slot, he is going to find himself fourth on the depth chart behind Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, and Earl Bennett. Another big key for the Bears this week will be getting Matt Forte and the running game on track. The Bears rank 29th out of 32 teams in rushing yards per game and 28th in yards per carry. If the Bears are able to get the running game going, not only will it open things up for Cutler and company, it will hopefully prevent All Pro linebacker Clay Matthews from adding on to his league leading total of 6 sacks.
My prediction? How can you pick against the MNF home dog? Bears 27 Packers 24.
About the Author
Written by Tim Lewis