GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-4)
at CHICAGO BEARS (8-5)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Green Bay -3, Total: 42
Surging Green Bay looks to wrap up the NFC North with another win over struggling Chicago on Sunday at Soldier Field.
The Packers have beaten the Bears five in a row SU and four straight ATS. When these teams met in Week 2, the Packers held Chicago to just 168 yards of offense, intercepted Jay Cutler four times and sacked him seven times in a 23-10 win. Chicago will be without LB Brian Urlacher, but it appears that Cutler (neck) will be able to start. The Bears are 1-4 (SU and ATS) in their past five games having just gotten knocked off 21-14 at Minnesota. The Packers have had protection issues, but have managed to patch their line well enough to win seven of their past eight games, including two in a row. Although WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring) is out, star LB Clay Matthews Jr. (hamstring) is expected to return to the field for the first time since Week 9.
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Rodgers failed to throw a touchdown in last week's 27-20 win over Detroit, marking the first TD-less game he's had since Week 3. Rodgers did run for a score though. For the season, he has thrown for 3,297 yards (254 YPG), 29 TD and 8 INT. In the Week 2 win over Chicago, he completed 22-of-32 passes for 219 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, but he took five sacks. Although Rodgers won't have the services of Nelson, he still has three great receivers to throw to in Randall Cobb (team-high 777 rec. yds), James Jones (team-best 9 rec. TD) and Greg Jennings, who finally appears to be healthy. Jennings has been outstanding in his past three meetings versus Chicago (21 catches, 346 yards), which includes the 2011 NFC Championship at Soldier Field. The Bears do have an excellent pass defense though, allowing just 206 YPG, good for 6th-best in the NFL. Chicago's run defense has been suspect though, allowing more than 110 rushing yards in each of the past seven games (141 rush YPG) including back-to-back 170-yard games. This could be an area of trouble, as the Packers ground game has picked up the pace, averaging 136 rushing YPG in the past five contests. Although Chicago has the most takeaways in the NFL (35), the team has forced just five turnovers over the past four weeks, and Green Bay has only one multi-giveaway game in the past nine contests.
Cutler is not having a great year, posting an 80.9 passer rating with just 2,495 yards (208 per game), 16 TD and 13 INT. But his pass protection has been better in his past four games, where he's taken just three sacks, a huge improvement from the 28 sacks suffered in the first eight games of the year (3.5 per game). He continues to rely heavily on WR Brandon Marshall who already has 101 catches for 1,342 yards and 9 TD, piling up two straight 160-yard efforts. But Week 2 was the only game he failed to either score a touchdown or gain 70 yards, as the Packers held him to two catches for 24 yards. Chicago ranks a woeful 27th in passing offense (193 YPG), but has the ninth-best rushing offense in the league with 122 YPG and eight games of 110+ rushing yards. With Michael Bush (ribs) questionable, Matt Forte may have to take on a bigger workload than usual. Forte (834 rush yds) ran for 85 yards on just 13 carries (6.5 YPC) in Minnesota last week, but has not enjoyed facing Green Bay in his career, rushing for a mere 466 yards over nine games (52 YPG) with just 1 TD and 3.5 yards per carry. The Packers defense has been average this season, allowing 117 rushing YPG (15th in NFL) and 235 passing YPG (17th in league). The team had hoped S Charles Woodson (collarbone) would return for this showdown, but he is now expected to miss Sunday's game.