Sunday • 3 p.m. • Soldier Field, Chicago • TV » FOX • Radio » Sirius 124
1. Jay Cutler's mistakes » Cutler is undefeated in 21 career games where he’s finished with a passer rating of 100 or higher. The problem is, he often flirts with disaster — Seattle dropped two easy interceptions last week, one of which could have tied the game at 7. The guy to watch is Green Bay corner Charles Woodson, a big-time playmaker. If Woodson can get Cutler early, the tone of the game could be different. Here’s why: Cutler’s teams are 3-17 when he tosses two or more interceptions.
2. Which defense is better? » Green Bay ranked second in points allowed, fifth in yards and fifth against the pass during the regular season. Meanwhile, Chicago’s defense ranked fourth in points allowed, ninth in total yards, second in rushing yards and sixth in yards per carry. The Packers have a stud linebacker in Clay Matthews; the Bears have one in Brian Urlacher. In other words: Take your pick. Both teams have legitimate defensive playmakers. The Packers rush the passer better. Chicago and its cover-2 zone limits big plays and stops the run better
3. X factors » Nobody is more dangerous returning punts than Chicago’s Devin Hester, who averaged 17.1 yards per return this season with three touchdowns. He returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown in a September win and was held to 35 yards on two returns in a December loss. Green Bay is better with 40-yard punts vs. Hester rather than long ones. Meanwhile, the Packers need running back James Starks to be a consistent threat. A one-dimensional team will not beat this defense
RT J’Marcus Webb » A rookie seventh-round pick, he’s improved dramatically during the season. He will be tested.
|vs.||LB Clay Matthews » Relentless rusher has three postseason sacks after posting 13 1/2 during the regular season.|
|C Olin Kreutz » The six-time Pro Bowler is in his 13th season. His play has slipped, but he’s still good.||vs.||NT B.J. Raji » He’s a playmaker, with 6 ½ sacks in the regular season (and one in the playoffs).|
|CB Tim Jennings » Look for the Packers to attack him. Jennings intercepted one pass this season.||vs.||WR Greg Jennings » When the Packers beat the Bears, Jennings makes big plays. When they lose, he doesn’t.|
STATE OF THE TEAMS
PACKERS » Green Bay has won at Philadelphia and at Atlanta and did so convincingly in the latter victory. Looks like the Packers three losses in a four game stretch during December is long forgotten.
BEARS » Chicago has been living right lately, catching all sorts of breaks. Team of destiny? Or a team that’s about to run out of luck. With the Bears’ defense, though, good luck is always just around the corner.
EXAMINER PREDICTS ...
Cutler flirts too often with disaster to trust him against the Packers’ pass defense. And Rodgers is arguably the game’s best quarterback right now.
Packers 21, Bears 17