The longest-running rivalry in the NFL, Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers, figures to move back to the forefront of the nation’s attention this year as both teams came into the season with Super Bowl aspirations.
The Bears, who look vastly improved this season following a couple of big off-season acquisitions and key coaching changes, got off to a fast start with a comprehensive 41-21 victory over the visiting Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. The Bears easily covered the 10.5-point spread in their opener while almost single-handedly pushing the game over its total of 41.5. In fact, the 41 points put up by the Bears offense, which was led by the reunited tandem of quarterback Jay Cutler and Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall, is its highest point output since scoring 48 points against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 4, 2009.
Marshall, acquired in a blockbuster trade from the Miami Dolphins in the offseason, caught nine balls for 119 yards and a touchdown from his former Denver Broncos teammate on Sunday. Additionally, the Bears’ offense also received a lift from running back Michael Bush, who was another of the organization’s key off-season acquisitions. The former Oakland Raider split the running load with Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte against the Colts and he responded with 12 carries for 42 yards and two touchdowns.
Against Green Bay, the Bears will be facing a defense that remains a question mark. That unit ranked a middling 19th in total defense in 2011 and didn’t look a whole lot better in their Week 1 30-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers as 6-point home favorites. Given the Packers invested so heavily in its defense in the off-season the initial results have to be considered a disappointment and concern.
As for injuries to track this week, Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher continues to deal with a bad left knee. He played vs. the Colts but was quickly removed once the game started to get out of hand. Another Pro Bowler, cornerback Charles Tillman, limped off the field early in the first quarter and played just one more series before sitting the rest of the game.
The Chicago Bears are among the trendy NFL picks this season and a victory against the defending NFC North champions Sunday will go a long way toward validating that assessment. We’re predicting a straight-up victory by the Bears.