NFL Preview – Green Bay (1-2) at Chicago (2-1) (ET)

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

( – Relax.

That was the one-word message Aaron Rodgers sent to Green Bay Packers fans as
his struggling team gets ready to face its biggest rival, the Chicago Bears.

“Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packer-land: R-E-L-A-X,”
Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. “Relax. We’re going to
be OK.”

That remains to be seen but one thing is certain right now, the Green Bay
offense has been very un-Packerlike through three games, ranking 28th in a 32-
team league.

Rodgers also hasn’t been his accurate self, completing just 62.7 percent of
his passes, a standard well below his career mark. Meanwhile, the All-Pro has
failed to throw for 200 yards in two of his three starts this season.

Last weekend it was the Detroit Lions giving Rodgers and Co. fits en route
to a 19-7 win at Ford Field.

Rodgers never found a rhythm against the Lions and finished the game a paltry
16-for-27 for 162 yards, the second-lowest total in any game he’s finished.
Second-year running back Eddie Lacy also continued to struggle, gaining only
36 yards on 11 carries, while Jordy Nelson led the way for the receivers,
snaring five balls for 59 yards.

The offense also allowed a 40-yard fumble return for a score and a safety.

“Disappointing loss, especially because we knew how tough it was going to be
coming up here,” said Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. “The way I see it,
we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities on offense.”

The Bears, meanwhile, did take advantage of a little help from the officials
to edge the New York Jets on “Monday Night Football,” 27-19.

Jay Cutler completed 23-of-38 passes for 225 yards and the two scores to
Martellus Bennett for Chicago in that one. Alshon Jeffery, playing through a
hamstring injury, made eight catches for 105 yards, while Bennett became the
third player in the NFL this season with at least one receiving touchdown in
all three games. He trails only Denver tight end Julius Thomas for the league
lead in receiving scores with four.

The Bears failed to establish a running game for the second straight week,
however, as two-time Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte carried 13 times for 33
yards, and Chicago picked up just 60 yards on the ground as a whole one week
after gaining only 46 in a win over San Francisco.

“They’re just a tough defense to play,” Bears coach Marc Trestman admitted.
“They come at you from so many different ways and not only do they come after
you with scheme they come at you with excellent players.”

The Bears’ battered defense picked off Geno Smith twice, sacked him three
times and allowed just one touchdown in six trips to the red zone.

Smith had an opportunity to tie the game with a late scoring drive, but the
Bears D held up one last time, forcing a turnover on downs from the 9-yard
line with less than a minute left.

“Our defense stayed poised and knew that everything would work out for us,”
said rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller, who recorded his third interception on the
young season.

Chicago was also the recipient of a missed call by the officials in which Jets
linebacker Demario Davis scooped up a Cutler fumble and had a clear path to
the end zone but the play was whistled dead on the field.

The Bears lead their all-time series with Green Bay, which is the longest-
running rivalry in the sport, by a 92-88-6 margin but the Packers have won six
of the past seven.


The Packers are already 0-2 on the road this season and they haven’t started
0-for-3 away from Lambeau Field since the 2005 season. Meanwhile, they’ve won
four straight at Soldier Field, including the NFC Championship Game in January
of 2011.

There can be no more excuses for this Green Bay team. Rodgers is 10-2 against
the Bears, winning seven straight when he starts and finishes, including a
Week 17 win over Chicago last season which sent the Pack to the postseason and
the Bears into hibernation.

Meanwhile Lacy averaged 108 yards and has two TDs in two games against Chicago
in his rookie season, while Nelson had 10 catches for 161 yards in the last
meeting between the two clubs.

“We haven’t been a sharp offense. I haven’t been as sharp,” Rodgers said.
“We’ve all got to do better.”

The Bears’ Shea McClellin put Rodgers on the shelf for a good portion of the
2013 campaign by breaking the QB’s collarbone in a Week 9 matchup in Green Bay
but A-Rod returned to the lineup for the final game, converting a 4th-and-8
from the Chicago’s 48-yard line with 46 seconds left by extending the play and
finding Randall Cobb for a touchdown. The big play lifted Green Bay to a 33-28
victory and the NFC North title.

This time around Rodgers will be facing a Bears defense that isn’t all that
impressive when healthy and is currently very-banged up.

McClellin (broken hand) has already been ruled out for this game and defensive
tackle Jay Ratliff (concussion) and safeties Ryan Mundy (stinger) and Chris
Conte (shoulder) are all iffy. Meanwhile, veteran cornerback Charles Tillman
is already lost for the season with a torn right triceps.

“I’m feeling good right now and just doing the necessary things I need to do
to make sure I’m ready to play on Sunday,” Mundy said.

The health problems also reach over to the Chicago offense where center
Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson are expected to miss another contest
with ankle injuries, and fullback Tony Fiammetta could be down with a
hamstring problem.

Cutler, meanwhile, generally struggles against Green Bay, amassing an ugly 18
interceptions versus just 11 touchdowns in 10 career meetings with the

The contest will also mark the return of veteran Packers edge rusher Julius
Peppers to Chicago, where he had 37 1/2 sacks and earned three Pro-Bowl honors
from 2010-13.


It’s time for Cutler and the Bears to exorcise some demons here and it’s not
the time to “relax” just yet for Green Bay. Detroit solved Rodgers last week
and now it’s the Bears turn.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Bears 27, Packers 23