CHICAGO BEARS (4-3) at GREEN BAY PACKERS (5-2)
The Jay Cutler-less Bears head to Lambeau Field on Monday night for a matchup with the streaking Packers.
Chicago is coming off a bye week in which Josh McCown prepared for his new role as the starting quarterback where he will replace Cutler (groin) for the next month. The Packers also have injury concerns being minus three key receivers in WR Randall Cobb (fibula), WR James Jones (shin) and TE Jermichael Finley (neck). However, that didn't stop Green Bay from defeating the Vikings 44-31 on the road to give the team four straight SU victories (3-0-1 ATS). The Bears have failed to cover in four straight games, dropping three of those contests outright. In the past six meetings between these teams, the Packers are 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS. They are on a five-game ATS winning streak against the Bears and have won their past five home games (4-1 ATS) against Chicago as well. As the coach of Green Bay, Mike McCarthy is 33-13 ATS (72percent) versus division opponents, including 8-1 ATS over the past two seasons. Chicago, however, is 12-4 ATS (75percent) after allowing 200 or more rushing yards in its previous game since 1992.
The Bears got off to a 3-0 start this season, but have slowed down since and will now be without QB Jay Cutler (groin) for another three weeks at least. Josh McCown takes over as the starter in this offense, and last game in relief he completed 14-of-20 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions while rushing four times for 33 yards in a 45-41 loss in Washington. The offense will now rely even more heavily on the shoulders of RB Matt Forte, who has rushed for 533 yards (4.6 YPC) and six touchdowns this year. The running back has also caught 35 passes for 262 yards and provides a nice safety valve for McCown. Although he's gained 817 total yards in nine career meetings with Green Bay, Forte has not found the end zone in any of the past seven meetings. But this is still a pass-heavy offense with 255 passing YPG (11th in NFL) and 7.3 yards per attempt (9th in league) thanks to a dynamic receiving duo of WRs Brandon Marshall (540 rec. yards, 5 TD) and Alshon Jeffery (561 rec. yards, 2 TD). The Packers did a great job limiting both players last year, as Marshall had only eight catches and 80 yards over the two defeats, while Jeffery caught only one of his six targets against Green Bay. With Jay Cutler out, the Chicago defense is going to need to step it up as a unit. The Bears have been struggling mightily this season, allowing 29.4 points per game (29th in NFL) and 391 total YPG (27th in league). This includes surrendering 273.7 YPG through the air (T-27th in NFL) and 117.3 YPG on the ground (25th in NFL). This defense thrives on turnovers with five games of 3+ takeaways, but has generated just one turnover in the past two defeats.
The Packers may have a depleted roster, but they continue to win games. Last week they won in Minnesota behind 285 yards and two touchdowns from QB Aaron Rodgers. The star signal caller has dominated the Bears in his career, going 8-2 with 249 passing YPG, 19 TD and just 6 INT in 10 meetings. Second-year WR Jarrett Boykin has stepped up in the absence of injured WRs James Jones and Randall Cobb, catching 13 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown over the past two weeks for Green Bay. RB Eddie Lacy has also been a monster on the ground for the Packers averaging 98.8 rushing YPG on 4.1 YPC over the past four weeks with two touchdowns in that span. He has really opened up the passing game for Rodgers as he is adding a running threat the team hasnt had in years. Not to be overlooked is a Green Bay defense that continues to be outstanding, specifically on the ground. The defense has allowed just 83.6 rushing YPG (4th in NFL) and limited Vikings star RB Adrian Peterson to 60 yards on the ground last week. Although top pass rusher, OLB Clay Matthews, remains out with a thumb injury, the Packers have still generated 20 sacks over the past five games. But not all has been positive for Green Bay, as its defense has forced just two turnovers during its four-game win streak, and ranks last in the NFL in red zone defense (71.4percent).