What with the Green Bay Packers’ injuries, it shouldn’t have been a shock that the Cincinnati Bengals pushed Green Bay to the brink.
The tried-and-true NFL formula for making the playoffs and perhaps securing a bye week too, is to win your home games and consistently beat up on the league’s lower-rung teams. Do this, and you can get away with losing four or five games to the top teams.
The Packers came close to breaking both rules on Sunday. They must be careful – and resolute – to dodge another such bullet on Thursday.
Few doubt anymore that the Packers’ injury plague has been an epidemic so far this season. That picture won’t be changed much against the Chicago Bears. But the Bears have no A.J. Green, and Mike Glennon is no Andy Dalton (who, by the way, considerably out-rated Aaron Rodgers, 124.1 to 102.6, on Sunday).
Rodgers succinctly and correctly termed Sunday’s close call a “character win.” I expect that the good vibes from that stirring comeback will carry over, and will also prevent the team from having one of those all-too-frequent first half breakdowns.
An Exploitable Mismatch
It’s a poorly-kept secret that the Bears have crummy receivers. The wideouts are Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, and Deonte Thompson – even though they’re in the Packers’ division, who’s even heard of these guys? Wright came over from the Titans this year, Bellamy is on his fourth team since going undrafted in 2012, and Thompson, who also went undrafted in 2012, is already on his third NFL team.
The best of the bunch is averaging only 34 receiving yards per game. Chicago ranks 27th in the league in passing yards per game.
Chicago’s tight end gang – Zach Miller, Deon Sims, and Adam Shaheen – same story. Okay you might have heard of Miller, but the 32-year old has under 1,500 career receiving yards.
Along with being short on talent, these receivers pose neither a credible deep threat nor any big-play prospects. The longest gains by a Bears’ tight end this season is a 22-yarder, and by a wideout it’s a 20-yarder.
The Packers’ receivers – even while Green Bay’s pass attack has yet to get fully in tune – have receptions of 72 yards (Allison), 51 (Kendricks), 41 (Adams), 33 (Adams), 32 (Nelson), 29 (Cobb), 26 (Bennett), 23 (Nelson), and 21 (Adams). The Pack has done it not by going deep, but by some impressive open-field moves after the catch.
It’s not all the Bears’ fault. Kevin White went on injured reserve with a broken shoulder blade, and Cameron Meredith is on IR due to an ACL tear. Additionally, Alshon Jeffery signed a one-year deal with the Eagles, for $14 million, in March.
This is a tantalizing opportunity for defensive coordinator Dom Capers and the Packers’ reconstituted pass defense. The rookies, Josh Jones and Kevin King, have hung in there against some of the league’s best receivers. They and their veteran teammates ought to feast on Chicago – providing they play tight, frequently jam receivers at the line, and generally attempt to smother the Bears’ passing attack. If the Bears’ receivers can’t separate from the Packers’ defenders, it will be a long night for a middling QB like Mike Glennon.
C’mon Capers, turn the dogs loose against this pedestrian group of receivers.