Unfinished business: The Bears‘ 17-16 loss to the Jaguars was so painful because they missed several chances to put the game out of reach. Twice in the second half, the Bears settled for field goals from inside the 20-yard line. Offensive players have taken turns expressing their frustration. Alshon Jeffery dropped an F-bomb in the locker room after the game. Zach Miller was more understated but just as direct. “We have to find a way to capitalize,” he said. “Good football teams do that. We’re not at that point right now.” The causes vary. A missed block here, a wrong read there. There appears to be no easy fix.
Long way up: Losing at home to the Jaguars, a perennial NFL doormat, opened a new set of possibilities for this Bears season — and not in a good way. The Jaguars haven’t won more than five games in a season since 2010, but they left Soldier Field victorious after erasing a 13-0 fourth-quarter deficit. If the Bears can blow that lead to that team, 3-13 seems within their reach. Meanwhile, players have remained steadfast in their approach ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Packers, followed by a Halloween night showdown with the currently-undefeated Vikings. The Bears could easily be 1-7 on Nov. 1.
Painful turnaround: A short week was the last thing the banged-up Bears needed, especially with quarterback Aaron Rodgers coming up. Rodgers could face a secondary without starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter (knee) and Bryce Callahan. Factor in the Bears’ inconsistent pass rush and the Packers’ stout offensive line, and Rogers could turn his season around in a hurry. The Bears also will be without left guard Josh Sitton (right ankle). They had played the same five offensive linemen for every snap until Sitton was hurt on the penultimate play against the Jaguars. But the Packers are depleted too, particularly in the backfield and secondary.
Unpacked: Aaron Rodgers’ slow start is one of the biggest NFL storylines. His completion percentage (60.2) and passer rating (88.4) are lower than any of his single-season marks since he became a full-time starter in 2008. His interception rate of 2.2 percent is the highest it has been since 2010. “The preparation and the approach every week has been the same,” Rodgers said, “and I hope the guys would say my attitude and focus has been the same. I’m trying my best to be … a good teammate and realize, hey, we’re still 3-2. We’re in the mix here. We have some stuff to clean up, but we’re not far off.”
In the air
NFL rank: Bears offense 4th, Packers defense 21st
Quarterback Brian Hoyer must decipher the disguises, alignments and blitzes Packers coordinator Dom Capers deploys. Hoyer has proven he will be conservative. “I’m not about taking chances, risking the football,” he said Tuesday. “The No. 1 priority is taking care of the football.” But chances downfield could be plentiful as the Packers could be without their top three cornerbacks because of injuries. That would leave them with a pair of unheralded youngsters in LaDarius Gunter and Demetri Goodson. Hoyer targeted Alshon Jeffery a season-high 13 times last Sunday.
On the ground
NFL rank: Bears offense 23rd, Packers defense 2nd
The Packers had the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense until Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott racked up 157 yards on 28 carries behind a star-studded offensive line last Sunday. Three-technique Mike Daniels plays with good leverage, leading a line that consistently gets penetration. On the second level, Nick Perry and Clay Matthews are in a rotation of linebackers that flies to the ball. The Bears must overcome the loss of left guard Josh Sitton (right ankle). Rookie center Cody Whitehair was pushed back at times last game by the Jaguars’ powerful tackles.
Bears 7th in total offense, 31st in points scored
Packers 10th in total defense, 16th in points allowed
In the air
NFL rank: Packers offense 25th, Bears defense 10th
Aaron Rodgers’ statistical downturn is one of the biggest storylines of the NFL season. He’ll like what he sees, though, if Bears cornerbacks Tracy Porter (knee) and Bryce Callahan (hamstring) either aren’t at full strength or sit out. Expect the Bears to consistently drop seven in coverage to limit big plays and force Rodgers to maintain sharpness for prolonged drives. But the problem with that is the Bears’ inconsistent pass rush. The Packers rank 10th in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.
On the ground
NFL rank: Packers offense 16th, Bears defense 19th
The Packers are depleted in the backfield. Eddie Lacy (ankle) is unlikely to play, ESPN reported Tuesday, and James Starks (knee) is out. They traded for Chiefs veteran Knile Davis Tuesday, and he might start. Davis is fast and explosive, but his unfamiliarity with the offense could help the Bears. Receiver Ty Montgomery pitched in out of the backfield last Sunday. The Bears run defense has held the opponent to fewer than 4 yards per carry in four out of six games, including a season-best 2.7 average against the Jaguars.
Packers 25th in total offense, 17th in points scored
Bears 11th in total defense, 19th in points allowed
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (No. 12)
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 225 pounds
Assigned: Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio
Notable numbers: Fangio is 5-1 against Rodgers and the Packers as an opposing coordinator since 2012. … Rodgers’ 60.2 completion percentage and 88.4 rating this season are career lows since he became a full-time starter in 2008.
Scouting report: Known for his pinpoint accuracy, Rodgers’ completion percentage this season (26th among those with 100 pass attempts) is alarming. In some circles, there’s a sense he’s frequently bolting the pocket prematurely and not seeing the field as well on the move. Most troubling from last week’s 30-16 home loss to Dallas, Rodgers threw one interception and fumbled twice. On the pick, the Packers quarterback never saw safety Barry Church undercutting a throw over the middle, an uncharacteristic blunder that thwarted a third-quarter drive. Still, the Bears defense might be the perfect tonic for Rodgers’ woes, particularly with the prospect that both starting cornerbacks — Tracy Porter (knee) and Bryce Callahan (hamstring) — are iffy to play. That could leave Fangio in scramble mode, perhaps forced to use Jacoby Glenn and De’Vante Bausby on the outside. Fangio insists there’s no secret for disrupting Rodgers. “You just have to play well,” he said. Which means winning one-on-one matchups in coverage, creating consistent pressure and staying alert when Rodgers is on the move.
Word from within: “I still see the great quarterback he is with the release and the scrambling and the mobility and the creativity and the accuracy. They have gotten beat by maybe the two best teams in the NFL currently in Dallas and Minnesota.” — Fangio
Mike Daniels, Packers DE
Information for this report was obtained from NFL scouts.
Mike Daniels is in his fifth season and third as a starter and the anchor of the interior line. A fourth-round pick from Iowa in 2012, the 6-foot, 310-pound Daniels led the line with 66 tackles and four sacks last season. He’s not the prototypical size you’re accustomed to in a standard 3-4 defense but so much of the game is nickel packages and more than Daniels’ athleticism makes him ideal.
The Packers secured Daniels for the future last December when he was signed to a $41 million, four-year extension with $12 million guaranteed. That looks like a club friendly deal at this point.
“The first thing is he is extremely strong in lower and upper body,” the scout said. “He’s uniquely strong at the point of attack. You can tell how much power he can generate with his hands, his leg drive and that is huge for their run defense. He can take on the double team, split them. When it comes to rushing the passer, he’s one of those interior guys who can drive an offensive lineman off the ball, get him back on his heels and then use those counter moves. He doesn’t have great numbers in terms of sacks, but when you watch him on film he really does impact the pocket because he gets up the field.
“He’s a great technician and when you think about him, he’s a self-made man. I like that about him. This guy wasn’t given anything and he has made his career and earned that big money. He plays really hard and you don’t see him taking off plays when you watch him. He’s a really good all-around player. He’s never going to have the numbers of other guys kind of built like him, Aaron Donald, Kawann Short, Geno Atkins. But, man, does he impact that defense. That would be a really different unit without him even though he’s never going to be a top-tier pass rusher. If Josh Sitton is out, that could be trouble for the Bears whoever they have at left guard. I would love to see him against Sitton all game, upper-level guard against Daniels. This is the kind of game where Mike Daniels can wear that dude down.”
Brad Biggs (3-3)
Bears listless pass rush and injuries in the secondary might be the cure for slumping Packers offense, one week anyway. Tracy Porter is far and away the Bears’ best cornerback and he has battled to make it to Sundays each week. On a short week, he could miss time and that could give Aaron Rodgers an even more decided advantage. But the Packers are expected to be without their top three cornerbacks and that should create opportunities for Brian Hoyer. Bears can stay in this game but they have proven inept in putting an opponent away. Packers 27, Bears 20
Rich Campbell (4-2)
Vic Fangio said Aaron Rodgers appears to be the same creative, mobile and dangerous quarterback he always has been. But the defensive coordinator surely recognizes Rodgers’ subpar completion percentage and interception rate and will have good ideas about how to exploit that, likely by dropping seven in coverage. The problem is the Bears don’t have a pass rush to disrupt Rodgers. Plus, the short week is problematic for their banged-up secondary. The Packers are depleted, too, at running back and in the secondary. But their terrific run defense will win the line of scrimmage, and Rodgers will exploit the Bears secondary. Packers 21, Bears 17
David Haugh (4-2)
Two years ago, the Packers embarrassed the Bears badly enough at Lambeau Field on national TV to convince Chairman George McCaskey it wasn’t working with Coach Marc Trestman. You have to wonder what will be going through McCaskey’s mind if things get out of hand Thursday night — as they easily could. Why hasn’t John Fox affected more change? The Bears are the ideal antidote for the struggling Packers; a non-threatening offense and a low-impact secondary. At least Chicagoans can watch the Cubs. Packers 31, Bears 20
Chris Kuc (3-3)
Given the Packers’ woes. everything is set up for a Bears’ victory … but they won’t. After Sunday’s fourth-quarter collapse, the Bears are reeling with no end in sight. Packers 31, Bears 17
Mike Mulligan (3-3)
The problem is the Bears’ injury list, especially in this short week, is ever growing and ever changing and the offense just can’t score, particularly in a hostile environment like Lambeau. Packers 24, Bears 16
Phil Thompson (3-3)
Packers run defense will stifle Bears. For the Packers offense, injuries at running back puts more on Aaron Rodgers’ shoulders, and that’s never good for the Bears. Packers 31, Bears 21
Dan Wiederer (4-2)
It’s impossible to forecast a Bears upset. Not after last week’s home meltdown against the Jaguars. Not with Aaron Rodgers awaiting in Green Bay. Not with a defense that may be without cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Bryce Callahan and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. The Bears would have to play a near-perfect game to steal a victory. And nothing in this team’s DNA to this point says “near perfect” is within reach. Remember that rousing upset of the Packers on Thanksgiving night last season? The Bears are 2-9 since then with few notable signs of improvement. Packers 27, Bears 17