1. The Packers vs. The Cold
It’s going to be cold at Soldier Field with the current forecast calling for a high of 3 degrees in Chicago on Sunday. If that holds, it would rank among the coldest games in franchise history. The cold temperatures in Green Bay this week gave the Packers a chance to practice in the cold. Along with going outside for a few periods, the Packers also opened the doors of the Hutson Center on Thursday to get the players acclimated to the cold conditions. Receiver Davante Adams called the conditions “brutal,” but everyone agreed it serves a purpose. Many players said they already have a good idea of what type of equipment they’ll use to battle the elements. For most, it’ll be mind over matter on the shore of Lake Michigan.
2. Aaron Rodgers vs. Leonard Floyd
The Packers quarterback spent the week rehabbing the calf injury he sustained on the third offensive play of Sunday’s 38-10 win over Seattle. While Rodgers didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he isn’t concerned about his quarterback’s preparation. Pass protection has been vital for Rodgers since he first injured his hamstring in Philadelphia and again will be an important factor against the Bears, who are tied for fifth in the NFL with 33 sacks this season. Floyd, their first-round pick, sustained a scary neck injury last month but recorded two sacks in his first game back against San Francisco. He’s one of three Chicago pass-rushers with at least seven sacks this year. Rodgers has been effective operating in the pocket over the Packers’ three-game winning streak with veteran tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga playing some of the best football of their careers.
3. Jordy Nelson vs. Tracy Porter
The Bears had the veteran Porter match Nelson in the team’s first game at Lambeau Field. Although Nelson was held to one catch, Adams (13 catches for 132 yards, 2 TDs), Randall Cobb (11-95-1), and Ty Montgomery (10-66) each had breakout performances. Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will have to decide whether it’s worth locking down Nelson again or trying something else. Nelson is making a legitimate bid for comeback player of the year with 75 catches for 913 yards and 12 TDs this season. He’s had at least one touchdown in six of the Packers’ last seven games and at least 90 receiving yards in five of those seven. For as much pressure as Chicago’s defensive front is generating, the Bears’ secondary has struggled to generate takeaways. Porter, the ninth-year pro, is the only Chicago defensive player with more than one interception.
4. Ty Montgomery vs. Jordan Howard
The cold conditions likely will have both teams trying to run the ball early. Howard, the rookie fifth-round pick out of Indiana, was shut down in the first meeting with the Packers (seven carries for 22 yards) but is averaging 102.8 yards per game over the Bears’ last six contests. Chicago is 3-0 this year when he’s carried the ball at least 20 times, including his career night against Minnesota (26 carries for 153 yards and a TD) on Halloween. Montgomery could get a lion’s share of the snaps Sunday with James Starks in the concussion protocol and Christine Michael coming off an illness. The second-year running back had nine carries for 41 yards and three catches for 45 yards against the Seahawks. He had a season-high 19 touches in the last meeting with the Bears.
5. Damarious Randall vs. Alshon Jeffery
Sunday marks Jeffery’s first game back after serving a four-game suspension. He returns to a much different Bears’ offense with third-string quarterback Matt Barkley now under center. The two worked together after practice this week in an effort to get on the same page. Jeffery was held to a season-low 33 receiving yards in Chicago’s previous meeting with Green Bay. The Packers’ secondary rides a wave of momentum in the rematch with the Bears after picking off Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson five times. Randall recorded his first two-interception game in the win and appears to be settling back in as a boundary cornerback after missing six games with a groin injury. He’s tied for the team lead in interceptions with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with three.