Sunday, September 13, 2009

Preview of Week #1 of the 2009 NFL Season – Packers v. Bears

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears renew one of the oldest rivalries in professional sports this Sunday night on NBC. There are two subplots that jump-start the storied rivalry. First, the Bears made the blockbuster acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler in the off-season. That gives the Bears’ their first pro bowl quarterback since Jim McMahon in 1986. Second, the Packers made the transition from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers. That gives the Packers’ a new look on defense, which they sorely need after their poor defensive performance in 2008. Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the upcoming game:

- Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers v. Jay Cutler Round 1. They are two of the youngest, undeniably talented and most promising QBs in the NFL. Cutler is learning a new system but by mid-season he should know it like the back of his hand. Rodgers returns to the same system that he has worked in for the last four seasons, which gives him a leg up Cutler. The Packers have the advantage at quarterback.

- Running Back: the Bears hold the advantage here with promising 2nd year running back Matt Forte coming off a very successful rookie year edging out incumbent Packers’ starting running back Ryan Grant. The Bears have the advantage at running back.

- Wide Receivers: the Packers have much better top end WRs with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver over the Bears’ Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. Furthermore, the Packers have better depth with James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Brett Swain over Rashied Davis, Devin Aromashodu, Juaquin Iglesias and Jonny Knox. On both top end talent and quality depth the Packers have the advantage at wide receiver.

- Tight End: although this season might be Finley’s coming out party, he has to prove it on the field. The Bears’ have better TEs in Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark over the Packers’ Donald Lee and Jermichael Finley. As a result, the Bears have the advantage at tight end.

- Offensive Line: both the Packers and Bears have a revamped offensive line coming into the 2009 season. The Bears signed starting left guard Frank Omiyale and left tackle Orlando Pace as free agents in the off-season. 2008 1st round draft choice Chris Williams takes over at right tackle for the retired John Tait. Holdovers, right guard Roberto Garza and center Olin Kreutz return. The Packers return starting left tackle Chad Clifton and left guard Daryn Colledge. Jason Spitz started all over the offensive line last season for the Packers; this season he took the starting center job away from Scott Wells. The Packers tabbed promising young players Josh Sitton at right guard and Allen Barbre at right tackle. With both offensive lines in flux, it almost too early to tell. The offensive line is a wash.

- Defensive Line: the Bears have a veteran line with Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris, Anthony Adams and Alex Brown. As long as the Bear’s defensive line stays healthy, they have a very formidable front four on defense. The Packers are trying to see what players fit where in their new defensive scheme. NT Ryan Pickett and DE Johnny Jolly have excelled in the preseason but rookie defensive lineman B.J. Raji has been limited in the pre-season because of contract negotiations and an ankle injury. The Bears have the advantage at defensive line.

- Linebacker: although early reports are that Urlacher had one of his best training camps in years, the Bears’ linebackers got a year older with Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. The Packers’ transition to the 3-4 means they will utilize more linebackers (they kept ten on their 53-man roster). Aaron Kampman seems to have made a smooth transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. Nick Barnett has made a healthy return to middle linebacker along side A.J. Hawk. With all of their depth and talent, the Packers have the advantage at linebacker.

- Defensive Backs: the Packers’ have a better starting defensive backfield in Charles Woodson, All Harris, Atari Bigby and Nick Collins over Trumaine McBride, Nathan Vasher, Kevin Payne and Daniel Manning. The Packers have the advantage at defensive back.

- Special Teams: Devin Hester, Daniel Manning, punter Brad Maynard and place kicker Robbie Gould are much more accomplished then Will Blackmon, Jordy Nelson, punter Jason Kapinos and place kicker Mason Crosby. The Bears have an advantage at special teams.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Packers and Bears both won two positions and tied on one. As a result, the offensive side of the ball is a wash. On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers won two positions and the Bears won one position. As a result, the Packers won on the defensive side of the ball. For special teams, the Bears have the advantage on paper. Add that all up and it looks like there will be a great battle between the Packers and Bears at Lambeau Field tune into NBC Sunday night to see it unfold.

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