The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears both enter this Thursday night showdown looking to take control of the NFC North. If the latter squad can hand Aaron Rodgers and Co. a second consecutive loss, they’ll give themselves a lot of breathing room from here on out. Along the same lines, if the Packers can pick up a win here and go 1-1 through two games, they’ll right the ship and get their year back on track.
Early season games tend to not be especially meaningful, but this is an exception. This game matters. A lot.
Here are three things from each team to watch for tonight:
Green Bay Packers
1. Can Cedric Benson be a difference-maker?
Realizing that they had a non-existant running game, Packers brass went out and brought Cedric Benson on board this summer. There was a fair amount of skepticism about the move because of the on and off the field concerns that come standard with Benson, but everyone agreed that if he was right, he’d be able to contribute. He wasn’t right last week versus the Niners. Eighteen yards on nine carries isn’t going to cut it today.
2. How much does Aaron Rodgers have to throw?
Because he got very little help last week, Rodgers essentially had to do it all versus a very tough San Francisco defensive unit. When it was all said and done, he finished with 303 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 30-of-44 passing. It wasn’t the perfect Aaron Rodgers-esque effort we’ve seen out of him in the past, but when you have to be your team’s leading passer and rusher, your efficiency tends to take a hit. Keep an eye on how much Rodgers throws tonight. If he feels like he can’t count on his run attack, he could get a little hasty and throw the ball away to a Bears defense that will be waiting for him to mess up.
3. Can they win?
Climbing out of an 0-2 hole is tough. The fact that the Bears are a divisional foe makes it all the tougher. If the Packers lose this one, it could end up being difficult for them to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the NFC North.
1. Can Jay Cutler get off to a good start?
He may have finished the day with 333 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 21-of-35 passing, but when last week’s outing versus the Colts began, it looked like Cutler was poised for a 1-of-35 day. You can afford to get off to a slow start versus Indianapolis – you can’t do it versus the Packers. Cutler will need get hot early in this one and, honestly, given the weapons at his disposal, he doesn’t really have an excuse not to.
2. Can Matt Forte and Michael Bush continue to handle business?
Last week, Matt Forte and Michael Bush combined for 122 yards on 28 carries. Bush is the ideal partner in crime for Forte and, if everyone stays healthy, the Bears could end up boasting one of the better running attacks in the entire league. How this tandem performs versus the Packers defense will be very telling in terms of what we can expect for the rest of the year.
3. Can the defense bottle up Jermichael Finley?
In his last two showings against the Bears Jermichael Finley lit them up for four touchdowns. (Kudos CBS Sports for that fact.) With Green Bay having no run attack, don’t be surprised if the defense pays a lot of attention to the Packers’ tight end in this one.