by Carlos Nazario
The time is here. This is the first real game of the year for the Chicago Bears. Yes, Bears fans can go along and say all games are important, but they would be lying. Aside from the Super Bowl, the 2 games against their bitter rivals, the Green Bay Packers, are the most important games of the year.
Both of these teams represent the evolution of the game. Sure, the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens rivalry is intense, but the Bears-Packers rivalry goes for generations. Is the AFC Conference championship trophy named after one of their coaches? The rivalry between the Bears-Packers is so intense, Packers fans heckle Bears fans because the NFL championship trophy is named after their coach, Vince Lombardi, while the Bears coach, Papa Bear Halas, only has his name on the NFC championship trophy. What other rivalry can claim that?
The Bears and Packers renew that rivalry Sunday at Soldier Field, in a game that is expected to be bruising and close. Well, some experts do not think it will be close, but they obviously are not aware of the rivalry.
Yes, the Bears were a mess on the offensive line last week against the New Orleans Saints. Cutler was running for his life and spent almost as much time on his back as on his feet. He was on his feet long enough, however, to throw for 244 yards. The Packers defense was lit up by the Saints and the Carolina Panthers in the first two weeks.
The Bears will need another big game from running back Matt Forte for them to pull out a victory. They need for him to get some yards on the ground, however, so the Packers do not just tee off on Cutler. Last week offensive coordinator Mike Martz went pass crazy, even when the Bears were without 2 linemen who were out due to injuries. They need to have a more balanced offense or the same thing may happen.
Marion Barber is expected to play Sunday, and that may be a key to the running game. He is a bruising type back who complements Forte’s style. He can especially help in short yardage situations and goal line plays, which have been a problem.
The Bears will also be with wide receiver Roy Williams. This is the reason the Bears went out and got him. They need him to come up big on the big stage. He is a tall receiver who can go get the ball if Cutler needs to throw it up in a rush. If he can get throws off, the Packers defense is last in the NFL against the pass, and their thin secondary is without one of their best players, safety Nick Collins, who is out for the season with an injury.
The Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, had a tremendous season last year leading his team to the title. He is rightfully considered one of the best players in the NFL. He threw 28 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions, and had a 101.2 passer rating. He played 3 games against the Bears last season, and he threw 2 touchdowns and had 4 interceptions. He had passer ratings of 92.5, 89.7, and 55.4.
The Bears defense has shown they can handle Rodgers. What they need to do is stop the Packers running game. James Starks is averaging an out of this world 6.7 yards per carry this young season. The Bears again are one of the top defenses versus the run, and look to keep that going. Starks also has a partner, Ryan Grant, who complements Starks and will test that tough Bears run defense.
It should be another entertaining chapter in the long and storied rivalry. Expect some big hits and great plays. In the end, however, the Bears will upset the Packers and the experts and pull out a 23-20 thrilling victory.