Bears @ Packers, 1-2-11
Lets begin with an injury report recap. The Bears all hand on deck at Friday’s practice, with only WR Earl Bennett (ankle) being limited. Bennett is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. For the Packers, S Atari Bigby (groin), FB Korey Hall (knee), DE Cullen Jenkins (calf), and LB Frank Zombo (knee) are all out for Sunday’s game; while OT Chad Clifton (knees), S Nick Collins (ribs), LB Clay Mathews (shin), and DL Ryan Pickett (ankle) were limited in practice on Friday and are listed as probable for Sunday. With the Packers needing a win to make the playoffs, I expected everyone on the roster to make a go of it—so I am a little surprised that Cullen Jenkins was already ruled out for Sunday—but otherwise, it looks like the Packers will pretty much be a full go. Now on to some observations for this game:
1) Who will play for the Bears? We have somewhat of a slight advantage by playing at 3:15 on Sunday. Atlanta (vs. Carolina) and New Orleans (vs. Tampa Bay) both host winnable games at 12:00; but should both of those teams lose, the Bears with a win over the Packers would clinch home-field throughout the playoffs. If one or both of those teams win, and lock the Bears into the #2 seed, then the Bears have an interesting dilemma: how long do you play your starters, if at all? On one hand, you can rest all your best players and go into the playoffs as probably the healthiest team in the NFL. But do you want to give the Packers an easier game to clinch a playoff spot, and risk having to play them THREE times in the same season? One of the interesting subplots to the Bears’ postseason is that we will host either the Eagles or Giants (who we have already played this year), or the Packers (who we will have already played twice).
2. If the starters do play, how will our secondary hold up versus the Packers’ passing attack? Our pass defense has looked shaky (to put it mildly) against the Patriots and Jets. Can we put pressure on Aaron Rodgers? Can we cover the Packers’ WR corps? With prospective games in the playoffs against the Eagles, Packers, Saints, or Falcons—we must get this in order.
3. If the core starters are rested, what young players will step up? If the starters are rested for the playoffs (which I expect if the Falcons and/Saints win), look for these guys to get alot of reps: RB Kahlil Bell, WR Devin Aromashodu, WR Juaquin Iglesias, OG Lance Louis, OL Herman Johnson, DE Corey Wootton, CB Joshua Moore, S Major Wright, and S Craig Steltz. The play of these younger players will offer a glimpse of what areas the Bears need to prepare to draft in 2011.