Here we go for the 185th time, Packers vs Bears. The Thursday night kickoff at Lambeau Field marks the premier of the expanded NFL Network nationally televised schedule and puts both rivals on the spot after opening the season 4 days earlier. The Packers suffered a 30-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers while the Bears rolled at Soldier Field over the Indianapolis Colts 41-21.
The final injury report is out after Wednesday's practices for both sides. The Bears list defensive back Charles Tillman as questionable with a shin injury, backup tight end Kyle Adams is questionable with a shoulder injury and Brian Urlacher was a full participant and is listed as probable after undergoing a knee scope early in the pre-season. The medical report is far more toubling for the Packers. Wide Reciever Greg Jennings pulled his groin on the final series of opening day and hasn't practiced all week. He's listed as doubtful. So are running back James Starks with his turf toe and Davon House with his shoulder injury although both practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. Rookie linebacker Terrell Manning is out with a concussion, fellow backer Jamari Lattimore is questionable with an ankle injury and C.J. Wilson, the starting defensive end in the base package, is questionable with his own groin injury.
If Jennings indeed misses the game, the Packers will miss a lot. Easily the best route runner among the receivers, he's caught 43 passes for 628 yards and five touchdowns in ten games against Chicago. Look for an expanded role for Randall Cobb who led the team last week with 9 receptiions and Donald Driver will also play more of a role. The offense will have a lot more to worry about with the vaunted Bears, "cover 2" defense under Lovie Smith. An excellent front four that can pressure without the blitz, allows linebackers to drop in zone coverages and the secondary to close hard on the ball wherever it is and try to create turnovers. An improved running game is a must and the unit will have to stay patient as the Bears force opponents to drive methodically. The Pack's defense will be tested by new, big play threats on the perimeter, namely, Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler's old Bronco teammate and top draft choice Alshon Jeffrey. Both are big, phsyical receivers. Throw in Matt Forte and a new running mate, Michael Bush, and Jay Cutler put up the most explosive plays in the league on opening day. Lest we forget the special teams and how special Devin Hester is, the NFL's all-time return touchdown king. The Packers will have their hands full in all three phases.
Chicago leads the all time series, 91-85-6 in the regular season while the playoffs are even at 1-1. Green Bay has won 6 of the past 7 meetings in the series, sweeping the Bears in 2009 and again last year. While not a must, this one's big for the Pack, hoping to get even in 2012 and pointed in the right direction before hitting the road for the first time a week from Monday night in Seattle. On the link below, quotes from Mike McCarthy and the guys about what's in store when the league's oldest, and I might add, still the best rivalry, resumes at Lambeau under the lights.