|Mike Daniels makes the Lambeau Leap|
After getting back Sam Shields last week, it looks like the Packers will finally get Clay Matthews back on Sunday. Unfortunately, Jordy Nelson, James Starks, C.J. Wilson, and Charles Woodson are still out. My thought has been that the only upside to this year's raft of injuries was that the Packers would start to get back some of those players not on Injured Reserve at just the right time to close out the year strong and go into the playoffs. There is still room for that to happen, but it is not happening as fast as I would have liked. The return of Greg Jennings was offset almost immediately by the loss of Jordy Nelson, so the Packers continue to be slightly short-handed at receiver. That said, the return of Matthews should be an enormous benefit to the Packers this week. Maybe the brightest spot for the Bears' offense this season is the Jay Cutler - Brandon Marshall connection (32 catches in his last three games). While the burden for defending against Marshall will fall primarily on the defensive backs, more pressure on Cutler will definitely contribute to holding Marshall in check.
Meanwhile, the Bears have given up 170 or more rushing yards in each of the last two games (against the Vikings and Seahawks). If only the Packers had a rushing game. Oh, wait! The Packers, all of a sudden, have one, having gained 140 or more against the Lions and Vikings. Ryan Grant, who I assume will get more than one carry on Sunday, has a history, both of performing well against the Bears, and of performing well when the weather turns sloppy. So I look forward to seeing what he can do against the Bears. Plus I like the three-headed monster of a running back group of Ryan Grant, DuJuan Harris, and Alex Green. They each have different styles, they each have shown that they can be effective (assuming, in Ryan Grant's case, that there is gas left in the tank) and they all are healthy and should have fresh legs at this time of the season. If the Packers can keep a semblance of a running game going, they will be hard to stop.
The Bears always seem to play a tough game against the Packers, but I don't see the Bears actually winning the game on Sunday, especially missing Brian Urlacher, Tim Jennings, and a couple of other defensive players. Full disclosure: I always think the Packers will beat the Bears, so I am not necessarily a good judge of this game. But there are lots of stats that tend to back me up on this one. I see big days for the Packers' running backs, and big days for at least a couple of the receivers, most likely Jermichael Finley (believe it or not) and Greg Jennings. The Packers have started off the last two games very slowly, and dug themselves considerable holes before turning things around. If they can avoid that fate this time, the game may not be close.