Bears eager to snap their four-game losing streak against the NFC North-leading Packers in primetime
The NFL's oldest rivalry takes center stage during our Thanksgiving weekend feast of football. The Week 12 edition of "Sunday Night Football" once again gives the spotlight to the "Black and Blue" division as the Green Bay Packers (7-3) host the Chicago Bears (5-5) at Lambeau Field. This will be the seventh Sunday night showdown between these two teams since 2006, and both franchises are aching for a win.
The Bears were on their bye last week, which should allow them to get healthy and patch some holes. But the Packers fell to the Colts in overtime, while the Vikings (4-6) lost to Dallas, and the Lions (4-7) have since lost two straight. So the Bears have a little bit of breathing room in the standings, even if the Packers hold a two-game lead. But make no mistake that the Bears have some issues to correct before they take the field for this game.
The Packers are in the driver's seat in the division while the Bears are fighting for their slim playoff hopes. Let us be thankful for the 201st meeting between these charter franchises.
Sunday Night Football: Chicago at Green Bay
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 29 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Spread: Green Bay -9.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Offense gets the glory
This side of the ball continues to be the Achilles heel for the Bears in 2020, and it's a major part of why they're in the midst of a four-game losing streak. They haven't reached the 20-point mark since Week 8 against New Orleans and have only reached that point in four games this season. One of the most glaring stats for the Bears this year is that they've only scored 14 total third-quarter points.
Overall, the Bears have the second-worst total offense in the league (300.9 ypg), eighth-worst passing offense (222.7 ypg), fifth-worst scoring offense (19.1 ppg), and worst rushing offense (78.2 ypg). The Bears are averaging just 6.0 yards per pass attempt and 3.6 yards per rushing attempt, and they're just 45-for-135 on third-down conversions. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was given the play-calling duties against Minnesota two weeks ago, but it didn't seem to make much of a difference. Injuries and poor offensive line play continue to limit this offense.
The offensive line can't get enough push on run blocks and can't hold off pass rushers long enough for Nick Foles to get a proper throw off, all while dealing with a bevy of injuries. Foles has taken 14 sacks during this losing streak, and he suffered a hip pointer during the final possession of the Vikings' game. Tyler Bray wound up finishing the game. Foles is doubtful for Sunday night as he hasn't practiced this week, which means that Mitchell Trubisky will return to the starting lineup.
Trubisky, who has been out the past couple of games with a shoulder injury, returned to practice and will see his first action since injuring the shoulder on a running play against New Orleans in Week 8. This will be his start since being benched and replaced by Foles in Week 3. Running back David Montgomery also is expected to play after recovering from a concussion over these last two weeks. Cordarrelle Patterson started in place of Montgomery against Minnesota, and the results were very less than stellar (12 carries, 30 yards, 2.5 ypa). Bottom line, the Bears need to get this offense moving.
Offense is the least of the Packers' worries this season. Aaron Rodgers continues to be lights-out on a weekly basis; he ranks fifth in passing yards (2,889), trails only Russell Wilson in touchdown passes (29), and ranks fourth in yards per attempt (8.2). He's also 10th in completion rate (68.2 percent) and leads the league in passer rating (115.8). Offensive line play is another problem that the Packers don't have, as Rodgers has only been sacked once in each of the team's last two games. Pressuring Rodgers will be crucial for the Bears defense, especially if the Bears want to neutralize Rodgers' favorite pass catchers in Davante Adams (questionable with an ankle injury, 68 rec., 847 yds., 10 TDs), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (limited in practice, 25, 518, 4), and Robert Tonyan (limited in practice, 32, 391, 6).
Green Bay continues to take the by-committee approach with its rushing attack. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have combined for 870 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The Packers rank in the top 10 in total offense (7th, 392.9 ypg), passing offense (8th, 277.0 ypg), and scoring offense (3rd, 30.8 ppg). They rank 12th in rushing offense (115.9 ypg), but will present a formidable challenge for the Chicago defense.
2. Defense wins the game
This is what will ultimately decide this game. And both teams are very capable on this side of the ball. The Bears and Packers rank ninth (340.1 ypg) and 12th (344.3 ypg), respectively, in total defense. Both teams are tied for ninth (21) in sacks, while the Bears are ninth (6) in interceptions while the Packers are 10th (5).
However, each team has seen their weaknesses exposed recently. Against Minnesota two weeks ago, the Bears gave up five plays that went for 20 yards or more. Meanwhile, the Packers blew an 11-point third-quarter lead against the Colts last week. Both teams also have injury concerns heading into this game.
The Packers have numerous members of their secondary: Kevin King, Jaire Alexander, Will Redmond, Josh Jackson, Chandon Sullivan, and Ka'dar Hollman are listed as questionable. For the Bears, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks is still dealing with the hamstring injury he sustained against the Vikings. He has not practiced as a result.
3. This rivalry gets the national spotlight
Since 2006, the Bears and Packers have played each other 14 times on the league's signature national broadcasts. They've matched up eight times on NBC (Sunday night, Thursday night), three times on ESPN (Monday night), and three times on the various Thursday night combo broadcasts (NFL Network, FOX, CBS). And during this stretch, this rivalry has been featured once on Thanksgiving Day, once on Christmas Day, and once on New Year's Eve. This week's game will mark the first time during this span that the Bears and Packers are going against one another on the Sunday night after Thanksgiving.
The Packers lead this all-time series 99-95-6 and have won 11 of the last 14 games overall, including both of last year's meetings. Chicago last defeated Green Bay in Week 15 of the '16 season and hasn't won at Lambeau Field since Thanksgiving Day of the '15 campaign. Unless the Bears can get healthy and get this offense in gear, the Packers will win their third consecutive game against their archrivals.
Prediction: Packers 28, Bears 14
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.