GREEN BAY – Packers-Bears is here again, on Thursday Night Football, with color-rush uniforms.
Here are five things worth keeping an eye on:
1. Packers’ run defense: Whether or not the Packers can truly defend the run with their Nitro nickel package might be determined in this game. Chicago’s young RB tandem of second-year pro Jordan Howard and rookie Tarik Cohen has combined for 354 yards on 69 carries, a robust 5.1 average. Packers S Kentrell Brice likened them to a “thunder and lightning” combination with Howard’s power and Cohen’s slick shiftiness. If the Packers need more bulk in the defensive front to contain this duo, they’ll have to adjust from Nitro. Cohen is also the Bears’ leading receiver with 20 catches for 126 yards.
2. Packers’ offensive line: The injuries at tackle have decimated Green Bay’s depth, leaving a lot of uncertainty heading into Thursday night. David Bakhtiari is doubtful to return from his hamstring injury after a two-game absence, so who will step in at left tackle now that Kyle Murphy is on injured reserve? Justin McCray looks to start at right tackle again for Bryan Bulaga, who’s also doubtful with a recurring ankle problem. McCray, an interior player, was already a desperation move of sorts, and the Packers could need to make another. Down the stretch in 2015, the Packers used both guard Josh Sitton and guard/center JC Tretter at left tackle in a pinch. Stay tuned.
3. Defensive reinforcements: Two of the Packers’ mainstays on defense, lineman Mike Daniels and linebacker Nick Perry, have been limited in practice and could return to the field. They’re listed as questionable. Perry’s injured hand is wrapped in a club, which he’s played with before. The Packers have missed Daniels’ presence in the trenches since he exited in the first quarter in Atlanta in Week 2.
4. The top spot: The Packers can become the first team in the NFC North with three wins and stay in first place at the season’s quarter pole. Detroit is at Minnesota on Sunday, so the winner of that game will be 3-1 and in first. Either Green Bay will be tied with a win, or Chicago will create a three-way tie for second at 2-2.
5. History: The Packers haven’t led the all-time series with the Bears since the 1930s, and they have a chance to jump ahead now. Green Bay’s sweep of Chicago last year tied up the ledger at 94-94-6, capping a huge comeback over the last quarter century that has seen the Packers go 37-14 against the Bears in the Favre-Rodgers era.