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Bears-Packers preview and prediction

I’m a Nebraska Cornhusker fan.

Unfortunately, we just came off our most embarrassing performance in a long time, a  17-6 Holiday Bowl stinker to a 6-6 Washington Huskie squad we dismantled by 35 points on their home field earlier in the year. From the opening gun, it was obvious the Huskies were hungrier than the Huskers. They forced a quick turnover, got a touchdown and never looked back against the 14-point favorite, Huskers.

I hope Nebraska’s struggles serve as a wake-up call to the Bears as they head to Lambeau on Sunday. With practically nothing to play for as far as playoff positioning, the Bears could face a similarly awkward loss to a desperate and hungry Packer team.

The Packers need a win to get in the playoffs. Lose, and their offseason begins Monday. If the Bears aren’t careful how they mentally approach this game, they could get ambushed.

The answers to the following 5 questions will determine the outcome of Sunday’s 181st meeting of Chicago and Green Bay.

  1. How long will the Bears starters play? My guess is about a half. And if it’s close at halftime, this one could still go down to the wire.
  2. Can Devin Hester make a game-changing special teams play? The Packers allowed a Patriots offensive lineman to return a kickoff 70 yards against them a few weeks back. The greatest returner in NFL history is salivating right about now.
  3. Which Aaron Rodgers will show up? Rodgers has a history of coming up short in close games. If this one goes down to the wire, it’ll be interesting to see how #12 handles the pressure of a do-or-die situation.
  4. Can Julius Peppers duplicate his dominating performance from the Bears early-season victory over Green Bay? Peppers controlled the line of scrimmage without recording a sack in their 20-17 win over the Packers early in Week 3, helping to induce the Pack o-line into about a third of their team-record 18 penalties. Facing a rookie tackle (Bulaga), look for #90 to show up big…regardless of how long he plays.
  5. Can Green Bay muster enough of a running game to keep the Bears D honest? If Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn, Dimitri Nance and James Starks don’t chew up chunks of yards early – none of them average more than 3.7 yards per carry – will the pass-happy Mike McCarthy put his team’s playoff fate exclusively on the arms of Aaron Rodgers? Sorry, I know I just answered a question with a question.

Prediction:

The Packers are playing for everything. The Bears aren’t playing for much. The ‘experts’ have the Bears as 10-point underdogs, and considering the second half will probably feature the names of players only their mothers and die-hard Bears fans will recognize, this one should set up nicely for the Pack.

But I just can’t go there:  Bears 23, Packers 21.


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