After Sunday’s 19-7 defeat at the hands of the Lions, the Packers find themselves in familiar territory with a 1-2 record through the first 3 games of the season. This is the 3rd year in a row that the Packers have started the year 1-2. Despite a slow start, the last two seasons, the Packers managed to come back and win the NFC North. After starting 1-2 in 2012 and 2013, the Packers went on to win the 4th game to get back to .500, which is what they will try to do this week as they travel to Chicago for another NFC North showdown.
Chicago has won back-to-back road games on their way to a 2-1 record, which has them in a first place tie with the Lions in the division. While it is hard to classify a Week 4 game as a must win, this game is important for both teams in their quests for a Division Championship. For the Bears, a win keeps them at the top of the division along with putting a early gap between themselves and the Packers. For the Packers, a win prevents them from falling to 0-2 in the division and keeps them only one game back in the division.
The Packers have played well in Chicago in the past. You don’t have to look any further back than last year in week 17, when the Packers won the game, and the division, 33-28 on a late touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb. Overall, the Packers are 9-2 in the past 11 meetings against the Bears and have won 5 of the past 6 in Chicago (including 4 in a row).
With the Packers and Bears game only a few days away, here are 5 key points that can help lead to a Packers Victory:
- Start Quicker on Offense– In each of the past two games, the Packers have opened with a turnover on their first offensive drive. Each of those turnovers resulted in a touchdown by the recovering team. Now, in each game the Packers ended up coming back and tying or taking the lead, but the fact remains that they were in a early hole that was avoidable. In addition to avoiding early turnovers, the offense has to start faster. The issues on offense have been talked about at length this week and no matter what is causing the issues, the Packers have to put them aside early this week if they want to come away with a victory. Whether it be on the ground or through the air, or some combination of both, getting the offense back on track is a huge key to success this weekend.
- Get Eddie Lacy Going– This was a key point last week as well and we all saw how well that went. This week is different though, as the Bears are home to one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. Through the first 3 games of the season, the Bears are 26th in rush yards, allowing 144.7 yards a game and are also allowing 5.0 yards per attempt, which ranks them 25th in the NFL. Needless to say, if Lacy and the Packers running game can’t get going this week, I’m not sure when it will. Additionally, getting Lacy going this week could be a springboard for the rest of the season. Last year in Lacy’s rookie season, he only had 150 yards in the first 3 games (he did miss most of his second game due to a concussion) before he had a big game against the Ravens in his 4th game. The offense as a whole, could use Lacy having a big game as well as Lacy himself, if for no other reason than for his confidence. If the Packers want to get back into the win column, getting Eddie Lacy and the running game going, needs to happen.
- Strong showing out of the Secondary– While all the talk this week has been on the poor offensive performance from last week, it should be mentioned again that the Packers would probably get blown out if not for the defense. If the Packers hope to win this week, they will need another strong showing from the defense, specifically the secondary. Last week, the secondary collected 2 interceptions and held Calvin Johnson to only 82 yards on 6 catches. This week, the Packers go from Calvin Johnson, the best wide receiver in the NFL, to arguably the best wide receiver duo in Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall. Add in Martellus Bennett, and the Chicago Bears receiver corps is down-right scary! Between Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sam Sheilds, Micah Hyde, Tramon Williams and the rest of the secondary, playing tough, limiting the big plays and creating turnovers will be crucial to them being successful this week. Jay Cutler has had his share of struggles this week and while his play has improved, he still has his moments. When these moments arise, the Packers have to take advantage if they want to come away victorious.
- Rattle Jay Cutler– Getting to Jay Cutler is crucial if the Packers want to win this game. While sacks are nice, getting pressure and making Cutler move in the pocket will be vital to the Packers success. With the news that Clay Matthews plans to play this week, he along with Mike Daniels and Julius Peppers will be looked at to create pressure and force bad decisions. Cutler has been playing much better this year but he still is capable of making bad throws when pressured, so not letting him just sit and survey the field will be an important key if the Packers want to come away with a win.
- A WR/TE besides Jordy Nelson has to Step Up– One of the few offensive bright spots to this point in the season, has been the Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson connection. However, if the Packers want the offense to go to the next level, they need someone else to step up. Rodgers has done a good job of finding Randall Cobb in redzone situations, to the tune of 3 TD’s. Besides that, it has been mixed results. Someone out of the group of Andrew Quarless, rookie Richard Rodgers, Jarrett Boykin, or rookies Davante Adams or Jeff Janis needs to give Rodgers another offensive weapon he can look towards. To put the current production into perspective, through 3 games this season, Jordy Nelson has 351 receivings yards, which is 50.4% of the total receiving yards (697 yards total). The next closest receiver is Randall Cobb with 126 yards. Needless to say, opposing defenses are going to do what they can to take Nelson out of the equation. The Packers could put defenses in a bind if another receiver can step up. The Packers offense needs to get back on track for both this week and the season in general and one key piece for that to happen is for another weapon to step up alongside Nelson. The sooner that happens, the sooner you’ll see improvements on the offensive side of the ball.
Another loss this week puts the Packers in a tough spot in the standings for the division and playoffs. Additionally, another offensive performance like last week is going to put a lot of doubt on both this team and with the fans, that they can turn it around. A win, especially against the rival Bears, can help right a ship that is steering wrong and will help “RELAX” the fan base, as Aaron Rodgers mentioned early this week.
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