Saturday, December 12, 2009

2009 Week #14 - Packers v. Bears

The Packers/Bears rivalry is one of the most historic rivalries in sports. The two have played 178 times (only once in the playoffs), the most games between two teams in NFL history. The Bears hold the upper hand in the all-time series: 90-81-6.

The Packers dominated the Bears in Chicago for more than a decade, winning 12 of the last 16 meetings. The tide of the rivalry shifted recently, the Packers lost their last two trips to Chicago. Both games were played in frigid conditions just like they will be on Sunday (weather report). Sunday's installment marks the sixth consecutive season the Packers played the Bears in Chicago after November 30th.

Although the Bears are already eliminated from the playoffs, a win would give the Bears the satisfaction of putting a big dent in the Packers' playoff hopes. The Bears don't have a draft pick until the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft so they have no reason to tank the rest of the season for a better draft pick.

Here is a quick look at the top 10 Bears that will face the Green Bay Packers:

#10 - Robbie Gould (K): after a subpar rookies season in 2005 (77.8% field goal accuracy) he has turned into one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL over the last four seasons. Gould routinely has a field goal percentage in the high 80's (all-time statistics). Recently Gould has sputtered, two field goal attempts have been blocked in the last five games.

#9 - Tommie Harris (DT): made this list on reputation more than production this season. Harris's most notable play so far this season is getting ejected from the Cardinals/Bears game for punching Arizona Cardinal offensive guard Deuce Lutui: video. Quick question for all NFL players, why punch a guy wearing a helmet? Besides being a bone headed play and getting ejected what damage does it really do? Baseball and basketball fights are so much better:

Exhibit #1 - Nolan Ryan beat Robin Ventura (video): It makes sense that his first name is Robin. Why charge the mound on a living legend only to get your brain beaten in by a guy almost twice your age?

Exhibit #2 - David Stern's Worst Nightmare (here): When Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson go into the stands anything is possible. Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson are lucky to be collecting a pay check in the NBA after going Kermit Washington on the entire crowd in Detroit.

#8 - Johnny Knox (WR/KR): not too sure why he shares return duties with Danieal Manning (Devin Hester occasionally contributes as well). With Hester, Manning and Knox the Bears have one of the most potent groups of return men in the NFL. By the way, why did Manning's parents name him Danieal? I am not trying to be sexist but it seems like a female spelling right? Back to Johnny Knox, the Bears selected Knox with the 4th pick in the 5th round of the 2009 NFL Draft (a pick they got back from Denver in the blockbuster Jay Cuter trade that is discussed later). A raw prospect coming out of college, Knox ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds. In the Packers/Bears first meeting this season Knox beat the Packers' defense for his longest catch of the season, 68 yards.

#7 - Chris Williams (LT): at 6'6" and 315 lbs, Williams has the ideal combination of size and weight to excel as an offensive tackle in the NFL. One of the three members of the Vanderbilt Bears offense (along with WR - Earl Bennett and QB - Jay Cutler). After an injury riddled rookie season Williams has had a much better sophomore campaign. Since Orlando "Less than Half of His Hall of Fame Self" Pace got injured again, Williams moved to left tackle where he should be a staple for the Bears for the next decade.

#6 - Charles Tillman (CB): he plays much bigger then his nickname ("Peanut") leading the Bears with 6 forced fumbles. Similar to Charles Woodson, Tillman is a sure tackler that always looks to strip the ball from a player when he is within arms reach. In an otherwise underwhelming Bears secondary, especially after parting ways with the oft-injured Mike Brown, Tillman is the clear standout.

#5 - Olin Kreutz (C): the rock of the Bears offensive line has started at center for the Bears for more than a decade. This week Kreutz had to go on the defensive when Packers rookie B.J. Raji questioned Kreutz's strength. This is stupid rookie move #2 by Raji, stupid rookie move #1 was holding out and missing most of training camp for what amounted to a few extra dollars. With Packers DT Ryan Pickett doubtful for the game, Raji and Kreutz will get their chance to settle it on the field Sunday.

#4 - Jay Cutler (QB): the honeymoon is over. The Bears sent two first-round picks in 2009 (18th overall, LB Robert Ayers on Denver) and 2010 (TBD, most likely a top 10 pick), a third-round pick in 2009 (84th overall, WR Mike Wallace on the Pittsburgh Steelers) and under appreciated Kyle Orton for Jay Cutler and a fifth-round pick (140th overall, WR Johnny Knox on Chicago). The Bears thought they were getting their best quarterback since Sid Luckman, who played for the Bears before the invention of electricity. Here is a look at the 2009 production of just the quarterbacks involved in the trade:
- Kyle Orton: 229 for 369 for 2627 yards, 14 TDs and 7 INTs, 18 sacks, 88.2 QB Rating and 8-4 record.
- Jay Cutler: 261 for 421 for 2814 yards, 17 TDs and 20 INTs, 26 sacks, 75.3 QB Rating and and 5-7 record.

Is Cutler's poor play really his fault? Clearly the Denver Broncos are a better team then the Chicago Bears so that factors into the equation for comparing Orton and Cutler. TO quote Bill Parcells (and Sugawitz), you are your record. Orton has 29 wins (21 as a Bear and 8 as a Bronco) and 16 losses (12 as a Bear and 4 as a Bronco) while Cutler has 22 wins (17 as a Bronco and 5 as a Bear) and 27 losses (20 as a Bronco and 7 as a Bear). For a quick tail of the tape the Broncos have Kyle Orton, Robert Ayers and an extra 1st round pick in the deep 2010 NFL Draft while the Bears have Jay Cutler and Johnny Knox. A little less than a year after the trade the Broncos looked to have gotten a better end of the deal. This also doesn't factor in that Cutler looks to be a prima donna that complained his way out of Denver...sorry Bears fans those are the facts.

#3 - Greg Olsen (TE): is a huge target at 6'5" and 255 lbs that creates a real mismatch in the red zone. Olsen is among the team leader in almost offensive receiving category: 49 receptions (2nd), 449 yards (3rd) and 6 touchdowns (1st). The Packers will need to key on Olsen because he creates match-up problems (similar to Jermichael Finely) when facing undersized safeties.

#2 - Matt Forte (RB): holds the distinction of being the biggest first round fantasy bust this season (taken on average 7.3 overall in ESPN Fantasy Drafts). Forte is more of a threat in receiving then rushing for the Bears. Forte has 47 receptions (3rd on the team) and 438 yards (4th on the team). In terms of rushing, Forte has 189 rushing attempts (11th in the NFL), 634 rushing yards (22nd in the NFL), 3.4 yards per rush (42nd in the NFL), 4 touchdowns (tied for 23rd in the NFL), 3 fumbles (tied for 9th in the NFL) and 2 fumbles lost. Some argue that Forte's lack of production has to do with the problems the Bears have on their offensive line (sound familiar Packer fans?) but Forte was expected to have a much bigger season after his impressive rookie campaign.

#1 - Lance Briggs (OLB): Tiger's recent one car crash made me think of Briggs' one car crash: quick refresher. Obviously the crashes are different circumstances (a million women have yet to come out ans say they slept with Briggs to the best of my knowledge) but anytime there is a single car crash at 3 AM it is never a good thing. What makes Briggs even more culpable is that he ditched the car and gave sketchy details to the police.

Enough bashing Briggs, on the positive side he has taken over as the heart and soul of the Bears defense since they lost Brian Urlacher to a wrist injury Week 1 in Green Bay. Briggs leads the Bears in tackles (83) and paces the Bears defense.

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