FOX 25/48 Football Insider
By Marty Hendricks
Sept. 12, 2012
First the 49ers, now the Bears.
The NFL schedule does not get any easier for the Green Bay Packers, which host their arch-rival Chicago Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
The Bears are brimming with confidence, fresh off a 41-21 rout of the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field. The Packers come off a physical battle with San Francisco, which lived up to its billing with a suffocating defense and punishing ground game to soundly defeat their hosts, 30-22.
Let's take a time out for a reality check.
No. 1 – It's the first game of the season. No reason to panic; but there is cause for concern. But NFL seasons are long, grueling 16-game affairs. It's not how you start but how you finish. That being said, it's always nice to win the season-opener. Losing it has only happened one other time under Mike McCarthy.
No. 2 – The 49ers are a championship-caliber team and well-coached. They are the better team at this point of the season. Green Bay and San Francisco could well meet in the playoffs when the Packers' revamped defense has jelled and running back Cedric Benson has settled into the offense.
No. 3 – The Colts are nowhere near the caliber of opponent of the 49ers. The Bears dominated Indy after a slow start. Jay Cutler played well and the Chicago offense rolled against an inferior opponent with a rookie quarterback.
Green Bay's top priority for achieving success against Chicago involves the run game: stopping the Bears' rushing attack and improving their own with a former Chicago star, who averaged just 2 yards per carry against the 49ers.
For the Packers offense, a fast start and getting into a rhythm with Rodgers and the passing game is vital. Look for Greg Jennings to fight through his groin injury to play tonight. McCarthy will attack the defense to get his team out to an early lead and then run a motivated Cedric Benson against his old team in the second half.
The Green Bay defense, which again had assignment breakdowns, miscommunications, and tackled poorly at times Sunday, will be tested by Cutler and Brandon Marshall. Tramon Williams draws the assignment of matching up with the physical receiver.
Stopping the run is job one, but Cutler must be pressured in passing downs.
Emotion and motivation will be high against rival Chicago as the Packers fight to avoid a 0-2 start in the NFC North Division. Remember the main focus: stop the run, stop the run, and stop the run on defense. Fast start for Rodgers and the offense.
Let the game begin.
Prediction: Packers 27, Bears 24
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