NFL Game of the Day: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

The NFL’s oldest rivalry gets set for kick off during Week 3 of the 2011-12 NFL Football season, as last year’s Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers (2-0) make their way back to Soldier Field in Chicago to take on the Chicago Bears (1-1) for one of the top match-ups for online sports betting on NFL Football this week.

To no one’s surprise, the Green Bay Packers have jumped out of the gates once again this year, with an impressive offensive attack led by Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, and backed up by a stout rushing defense that has helped to offset their struggles in defending against the pass (dead last in the league at 400 yards per game through the first two contests). Green Bay certainly comes into this road match-up with some confidence, after earning their Super Bowl bid last year at Soldier Field in a 21-14 grudge match. A few things remain the same in this contest, but if one thing is for certain between these two teams it’s that anything can and likely will happen on Sunday in the 183rd meeting of this great sports rivalry.

Of initial concern for the Bears heading into today’s game, it’s been once again the inability of the offensive line to prevent serious pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler. He’s already been sacked 11 times in 2 games, to outpace last season’s league-leading 56 sacks by a hefty margin (they are currently on pace to allow 88 sacks during the year). Against the Pack’s 6th-ranked rushing defense, and the crew that has had 7 sacks in its first two games with a history of being able to get to Cutler, the Bears front line simply needs to step up in this game in order to exploit Green Bay’s one major area of weakness that has been exposed thus far.

That weakness for the Packers is stopping the pass, which has been awful through two weeks against New Orleans and Carolina. Allowing Drew Brees to throw for 419 yards can be admissible to an extent given Brees’ pedigree and receiving options, but giving up 432 yards to Cam Newton, a rookie starter for the Panthers? Totally unacceptable. Without Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins for this game, Chicago’s pass-heavy offense will need to be on point, and keep Green Bay uni’s out of Jay Cutler’s back pocket if they are to stand any chance of keeping pace with a balanced Packers attack (averaging 113 yards on the ground, 296 through the air while Chicago is at only 74 yards rushing and 237 passing).

Betting Lines for the Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers:

WagerWeb Sportsbook (<a href=””>read the review of WagerWeb Sportsbook</a>) has the Green Bay Packers at -220 odds to win, and favored by 4 1/2 points on the spread today. Chicago is a +180 underdog even at home against a pass-susceptible defense, but given their inability to protect their quarterback, it’s easy to see why Chicago doesn’t stack up so well in the betting lines against the more balanced Packers. The over/under on today’s game stands at 45 points, with -110 odds either which way you feel like wagering.

Our Pick to Win:

Green Bay has shown that while they have some issues to contend with in the defensive secondary, their talented offense led by Aaron Rodgers is as consistent as it gets in the NFL, and will be tough for the Chicago Bears to contend with. Chicago simply has to find a way to get more rushing going (11 rushes to a whopping 52 passes last week), but may find that tough if Green Bay chooses the same strategy of heavy blitzing like the New Orleans Saints brought to the Bears’ table last week. Look for lots of aerial offense in today’s game, but expect Green Bay to control the clock, and control the Bear’s run offense to make life on Jay Cutler once again difficult. Green Bay emerges victorious on the road today, 31-17.

Players to Watch, Green Bay:

James Starks, RB – Starks has had limited carries (21) through the first two games, but he’s made the most of them by averaging 6.8 yards per carry. With the Bears surprisingly allowing 114 yards a game against the run this year, the Packers could turn to Starks to help ease the pressure on Aaron Rodgers, and continue to use the Pack’s balanced offensive attack to win games and overcome defensive shortcomings.

Greg Jennings, WR – With just 9 receptions so far this year, I expect Jennings to see a lot more looks in this match-up, where he’s been very good over the past few years (23 catches for 407 yards and 2 TDs in the past 4 meetings). Expect Jennings to get into the end zone during the first half, as Green Bay works quickly on opening drives to set a precedent and control the game clock throughout the second half.

Players to Watch, Chicago:

Jay Cutler, QB – With so much dependent on the passing game in Chicago, it’s really up to Cutler to be mobile, make good passes, and try as best he can to avoid getting sacked. Expect a lot of looks to go Matt Forte’s way, with wide outs Roy Williams and Earl Bennett both questionable for today’s game, and hopefully Cutler can exploit a weak Packers’ secondary with a few downfield throws to Johnny Knox to help make a difference in the game.

Matt Forte, RB – The aforementioned running back is key to the Chicago offense getting on track in this game. If Chicago can’t establish a running game against Green Bay, the pressure will be too much for Cutler to take and the passing game will suffer greatly. Look for Forte to be in the flats for short, quick passes, and if you’re a Bears fan, hope he can generate some offense on the ground today to help balance out the Bear’s offense.

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