I desperately wanted to pick the Redskins in my last forecast. Honestly, I went back and forth with myself all week, but I went with the Bears. Clearly, I underestimated how bad the Bears’ defense really is. They were solid in the first half, but in the end, Josh McCown got them 31 points and they still lost. Had you told me when Jay Cutler went down with an injury that McCown would put up that many points, I would have said that the Bears would be 5-2 right now. Injuries have really hurt this team, literally and figuratively, but Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin are just unbelievably horrible right now. This leaves the secondary, which isn’t any good to begin with either, in a position where they have to cover opposing players for 5-8 seconds. The worst part of watching the game against Washington was knowing that had Cutler taken that sack and hopped back up normally like he usually does, they probably still would have lost, thanks to the defense.
Green Bay comes into this game as the class of the NFC North (yes, the class of the NFC North. Don’t start with Detroit, because those screwballs will find a way to mess it up like usual). Like in years past, the Packers are playing with a lot of injuries yet continue to put up points and knock around the opposing quarterback. An argument can be made that Aaron Rodgers is the second best quarterback in football right now. They now have a running game as well, making their offense that much better. They plug in weapons all over the field and they all make an impact. I watch these guys each and every week and get filled with rage/envy with how quickly and effectively they grow players. They may be the best organization in the sport. Tonight, the Bears face a huge challenge that, on paper, almost looks improbable.
College Football Recap
Florida State continues to roll. Even when the Heisman front runner only throws one touchdown, they still manage to beat the #7 overall team in the country by 27 points.
I think the Big-10 is boring and stupid, but Michigan State might be the best team in the country that nobody knows about. Their #1 overall defense in the country showed up once again yesterday. In case nobody heard, Michigan had -48 (yes, negative forty-eight) rushing yards against that defense. The Spartans even cut Devin Gardner’s day short, as they knocked him out of the game due to injury in the fourth quarter. It would be interesting to see Michigan State play Ohio State in the Big-10 Championship if both teams continue to win.
Two losses won’t help, but Johnny Manziel should get a lot of Heisman votes. He might be having a better season this year than the Heisman-winning season he had last year. Manziel and the rest of his team destroyed UTEP yesterday, and Manziel accounted for 340+ yards and 6 touchdowns. If Manziel keeps that up, he’s going to be invited to New York once again.
Typically, wind isn’t a factor in Green Bay, but it will be tonight with projected 10-15 mph gusts during the game. The temperatures should dip into the mid-40’s as well and there is a slight chance of showers.
The best news of the past 23 days for the Bears is that Jay Cutler’s injury is now looking like it is going to be a 2-3 week injury and so he will be back for the Lions or Ravens contest. However, the news didn’t get any better with Lance Briggs (shoulder), who is out for at least four weeks with a fracture. Charles Tillman (knee) is still not 100 percent but will give it a go tonight, as will Blake Costanzo (knee) and Major Wright (knee). Joe Anderson is questionable (chest). For the Packers, LB Clay Matthews (thumb) and WR Randall Cobb (knee) are both out as they are each still rehabbing their injuries. TE Jermichael Finley took a nasty hit on October 20 against Cleveland and remains severely injured (neck). I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t play again this season. WR James Jones (knee) is questionable but should play while OLB Nick Perry (foot) is doubtful. LB Brad Jones (hamstring), CB Sam Shields (toes), and TE Ryan Taylor (knee) will play.
Did you know?
The Bears have given up 206 points through seven games. That is a new franchise record.
N/A. (18-18 on the year)
Players to Watch
Eddie Lacy- No running back in football had a better October than Eddie Lacy. Lacy is an outstanding rookie out of Alabama, who I’m sure many will remember as the guy who run over and around Manti Te’o and his overrated Notre Dame defense repeatedly in January. Lacy somehow fell in the draft, and of course he has turned into a nice weapon for Green Bay. Lacy is a power back, but he has shiftiness and underrated speed to boot. Anytime you can take the pressure off of Aaron Rodgers with a running game, he becomes that much more dangerous, and judging from the last four weeks, Rodgers is just that. Look for Lacy to get the ball at least 25 times tonight. If the Bears horseshit defense can find a way to limit his production, they have a chance tonight.
A.J. Hawk- A.J. Hawk has always been an overrated linebacker. Whenever a player consistently get handed a starting job in the league, the general public gets the idea that the certain player is having a nice career. To this point, Hawk has not been a good player for the Packers since he was drafted, but this year, he’s been exceptional. He needs just a half of a sack to match his season high. He is making plays all over the field. For the first time in Hawk’s career, the Bears have to game plan for him and ensure that he doesn’t take the game over like he has done a few times this year already.
Matt Forte- Matt Forte is proving once again that he is one of the best players in the NFL. Last week, Forte went over 100 total yards in a game for the fifth time this season already. He topped his stellar individual game off with three touchdowns as well. The Packers are fourth in football in rushing defense, giving up only about 84 yards on the ground each week. Forte has to find a way to get close to that number and have a few impactful catches, because I don’t trust Josh McCown to play another game like he did in Washington, despite the Pack being 20th in pass defense.
The Packers have a guy named Micah Hyde who ran back a punt last week in Minnesota. Jamari Lattimore is a third year linebacker who is playing extremely well. Davon House is a cornerback who is having an unheralded season. Green Bay just finds these guys who all perform even in the most desperate of times. When another team does this, it seems like a miracle but for Green Bay, it’s just more of the same. Of the 53 players on the roster, only 3 have played with another team in their career. That is how you draft and pick up undrafted free agents, something Phil Emery and every general manager strives for. Unfortunately for Chicago, the Packers are the league’s best when it comes to it. At one time, Green Bay’s three biggest weaknesses was the kicking game, running game, and the offensive line, but all of them are now strengths. It’s hard to see the Bears actually winning this game, despite Aaron Rodgers’ shockingly bad career record on Monday Night Football. In primetime in Wisconsin with Josh McCown and a bad defense with two rookie linebackers, I’m taking the Pack. I wouldn’t be surprised though if this game is closer. Packers 37-23. (5-2 on the year)
-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)