Okay, so we’ve covered the pretty boys on offense.
For part two, it’s time to look at the tough guys on defense (and those wimps on special teams…I kid, I kid).
Front seven - Yeah, that’s right. We’re going a different way on this one. It seems ridiculous to compare the respective defensive lines/linebacking corps for the teams because, really, they’re asked to do different things. So, instead, we’ll just give an overview of the two groups and then decide who’s got the edge.
The Green Bay Packers, obviously, run a 3-4 scheme. So far, so good for the front seven in that group. The run defense, while perhaps not operating at a No. 1-level, has been more than sound. The 5.3 yards per carry allowed is completely misleading, as most of those yards came from Michael Vick’s showing in week one (against a defense that had not prepared for him).
The linebackers have been quick to the ball, like last season, and the trio of Cullen Jenkins, B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett has been very good. That should continue, though Mike Neal’s presence will be required on the line at some point so those three can avoid hitting empty on the tank. He’s unlikely to play in this one, though, due to his rib injury.
The pass rush generated from this group has been outstanding, as Green Bay led the NFL in sacks coming into the weekend (10). Most of this stems from Clay Matthews hitting beast mode, of course, but it’s not just him. Raji and Jenkins have also been strong in this area. Matthews should have a field day with this weak Chicago line, but at some point, another linebacker is going to have to step it up.
For the Bears, it’s the same old Cover 2 scheme that they’ve always run. If you don’t know, in this scheme, most of the pressure is generated from the front four, while the linebackers are mainly asked to play the run and drop in coverage. The run defense has been, in a word, sterling. Chicago had the NFL’s top-ranked run defense through two games, allowing just 1.4 yards per carry (with a long of eight. Eight!). Brian Urlacher is healthy and playing near his old level, with running mate Lance Briggs continuing to be the league’s most underrated linebacker.
The Bears’ pass rush has not been as effective, recording just two sacks so far. Julius Peppers, the team’s big-name offseason acquisition, has just one, although he also knocked Detroit’s Matthew Stafford out in week one with a shoulder injury. Look for him to show up in a big way here, as it’s a nationally-televised night game (his specialty). Tommie Harris is a very good d-tackle and Mark Anderson is an end who knows how to get to the quarterback.
In the end, though, I think Green Bay is better in more front-seven facets than is Chicago. Edge: Packers
Secondary - Okay, I’m keeping this one real short. For Green Bay: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Nick Collins and Morgan Burnett.
For Chicago: Zackary Bowman, Danieal Manning, Chris Harris and Charles Tillman.
Who would you rather have? Edge: Packers
Special Teams - The biggest area of surprise for the 2010 Packers so far. The coverage units have been fantastic, as has kick returner Jordy Nelson and kicker Mason Crosby. Punter Tim Masthay has been just okay, but even he hasn’t been terrible. Williams hasn’t made any mistakes as a punt returner, but at some point, you’d like to see him break one.
The Bears have two really good returners in Johnny Knox and the always-fearsome Devin Hester. Kicker Robbie Gould has been his usual sturdy self and punter Brad Maynard is one of the best in the business. While I like what I’ve seen from Green Bay in this department, Chicago has been better for longer and could definitely take advantage of the Packers here. Edge: Bears
While the Packers take six out of eight categories overall, this game will still be close. The Bears are at home and desperately want to serve notice that they are a team you need to take seriously. Plus, Lovie Smith’s teams always battle Green Bay until the end. I said the Packers would win, 27-24, and I’m sticking to that, mainly because of their overall edge in talent.
But expect a nailbiter, folks. See you after the game.