In their first game without Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs, all the Bears have to do is go into Lambeau Field and face the Packers on Monday Night Football. For a special segment of "Take 2," Packers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) joins Kevin Fishbain to help preview Bears vs. Packers.
Fishbain: Tyler, as you can imagine, there are a lot of frustrated Bears fans with all the injuries and a struggling defense, and to make matters worse, they look north to Green Bay and all seems well. No James Jones, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley or Bryan Bulaga on offense, but Aaron Rodgers makes that locomotive go seemingly without a hitch. This isn't the first time the Packers have played well despite injuries. Is it as simple as Rodgers is that good? How much credit goes to Mike McCarthy's system or Ted Thompson's personnel moves? How do they do it?
Dunne: It's definitely a combination of both, but it starts with Thompson's personnel moves. The G.M. was criticized heavily by fans for doing nothing in free agency after the Packers were shellacked by San Francisco in the playoffs. He counted on the draft and young players developing. It paid off. David Bakhtiari is a keeper at left tackle and Eddie Lacy has carried the load at running back. In Year 2, Mike Daniels has been the inside rusher the Packers have sorely lacked. Jarrett Boykin couldn't even get out of Jacksonville's rookie camp a year ago and now he's a starter in Green Bay's offense as an undrafted guy in 2012. They're getting contributions out of young players across the board. And, you're right, Aaron Rodgers sure makes a lot of problems disappear. The question here is if Josh McCown can do what Caleb Hanie couldn't do.
Fishbain: The Bears definitely haven't had similar success finding gems, but they might finally have an offense (30.4 points per game) that can try to go toe-to-toe with Rodgers. The hope is that a better system with Marc Trestman, plus weapons like Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, Alshon Jeffery — who is having a breakout year — and Matt Forte will make it easier for McCown. This Packers defense, though, has been pretty stout, even without Clay Matthews. Twenty-three sacks and 83.6 rushing yards allowed per game — doesn't seem like an ideal defense for McCown's first start. What will he see on Monday night?
Dunne: Right, the defense keeps humming right along with Matthews. The opponents help. They haven't been facing very good offenses. The Lions were without Calvin Johnson. Brandon Weeden was the quarterback in Cleveland. Christian Ponder in Minnesota. So the timing of Matthews' broken thumb certainly was on Green Bay's side. But they do deserve credit. Young players have been stepping up. Tramon Williams told me this week that this is the deepest the CB group has been since he arrived --- and he played with Charles Woodson and Al Harris. Any production for opposing offenses of late has been coming in garbage time. What's up with the Bears' defense? Any insight on the young linebackers?
Fishbain: One thing to remember about the Bears' defense — it wasn't playing very well even with Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams, and a big part of that is the complete lack of a pass rush. Now with Briggs out — and he was by far the best play of the unit — it's anyone's guess how they stop Eddie Lacy, let alone Aaron Rodgers. We've seen some flashes from Jon Bostic, he certainly has the movement skills and can lay the lumber, but can he play in coverage? Khaseeem Greene is a much bigger question mark on the weak side, considering he has played one play on defense all season but he'll likely be on the sideline in the nickel. They need Julius Peppers to finally step up to take pressure off the rooks. With that in mind, Tyler, it could be a shootout in Lambeau. What's your prediction for Monday night?
Dunne: Green Bay is getting a lot healthier on both sides of the ball. James Jones said Saturday he's "50/50" to play, but he practiced more and more throughout the week. The thinking here is that he'll be a go. The run game has come to life and could do some damage against a young Bears' linebacker corps. Maybe the Bears are able to score some points, but the Packers have won 23 of 24 at home. Can't see Aaron Rodgers losing to Josh McCown. We'll go 34-17 Green Bay here.
Fishbain: That type of result seems like a common one — Packers by 2-3 scores — but I’m a little more confident in Chicago pulling off a big special-teams play or two and maybe a turnover. Still, it won’t be enough against Rodgers and Eddie Lacy. Packers 41, Bears 33.