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Green Bay Packers Vs. Chicago Bears 12/25/2011: Fan’s Preview
The Green Bay Packers (13-1) return home to Lambeau Field and host the Chicago Bears (7-7) on Christmas night. It's just the second time the Packers have played on Christmas; the only other time was in 2005 and that game was also against the Bears at Lambeau Field. Chicago won that game 24-17.
The Packers' chance at an undefeated season ended at Kansas City on December 18th with a 19-14 loss to the Chiefs. The loss itself wasn't as disturbing as the way the game was lost. The Packers high octane offense was largely shut down by the Kansas City defense, and the Chiefs' offense maintained control of the ball with time consuming drives that kept Aaron Rodgers and company off the field. Green Bay's defense allowed 438 yards and had no sacks, and no answer for Chiefs' quarterback Kyle Orton. Injuries to the Packers' offensive line have reached a critical stage; Aaron Rodgers was under constant pressure and was sacked four times.
The Bears come into the game with injury problems of their own with quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, and wide receiver Johnny Knox out. After going 0-4 with Caleb Hanie filling in for Cutler, Bears coach Lovie Smith will start Josh McCown at quarterback. McCown replaced Hanie late in the Bears loss to the Seattle Seahawks on December 18th, but before that, he hadn't played in the NFL since 2009. Forte is the Bears leading rusher, and Knox is the leading receiver. With all this top talent out of action, it's no wonder the Bears have scored just 27 points in their last three games.
Green Bay's offense struggled last week against Kansas City's defense, but the Packers also hurt themselves by dropping passes and committing penalties. The Packer receivers will have to adjust to not having Greg Jennings until the playoffs. They still have plenty of receivers, but Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson in particular will need to step up. The makeshift offensive line will have to protect Rodgers better than it did against Kansas City. Although tackle Chad Clifton is nearing a return from his back and hamstring injuries, he may still not be ready. His replacement, Marshall Newhouse, has not been impressive and will be up against Bears' defensive end and team sack leader Julius Peppers.
With their offense struggling, the best and probably only shot the Bears have at winning is for their defense to keep the Packer's offense off the field as much as possible. The Bears still have an outside shot at the playoffs with a victory, and Green Bay will clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win so both teams are motivated. The Bears defense will hold down the Packers' scoring, but not enough for Chicago's depleted offense to overcome. The Packers should bounce back from their first defeat and win in a low scoring game.
Mark Hudziak is a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has been a fan of the Green Bay Packers since the Vince Lombardi Era.
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