The Green Bay Packers have a great chance to lock up the NFC North title on Sunday as they visit the second-place Chicago Bears. Fittingly for the Black-and-Blue Division in December, both teams come in with an abundance of injury concerns for key personnel.
Here are the three biggest factors that will determine whether Chicago can upset the division leaders and stay in prime wild-card position:
1. Will Jay Cutler last four quarters?
Whether or not Jay Cutler has a knee problem, there’s no dispute about the neck injury he suffered a week ago in Minnesota. The Bears’ quarterback is a warrior, but he’s taken his lumps this season—especially against Green Bay.
The Packer pass rush may not put up the same otherworldly sack numbers it did at Lambeau Field in Week 2, but Cutler’s still going to take his share of hits. Without him on the field, Chicago’s chances would drop from slim to none.
2. How much can Green Bay expect from Clay Matthews?
Clay Matthews’ penetration is the starting point for everything Green Bay’s defense does. With him out of action with a hamstring injury, the Pack got eviscerated by Eli Manning and the Giants a few weeks ago.
Matthews is listed as probable for Sunday’s game, but he’s expected to play only limited snaps. If Cutler can make hay while Matthews is off the field, it may not matter what the Pro Bowl linebacker does when he’s on it.
3. Can the Bears’ secondary survive without Tim Jennings?
Tim Jennings still leads the NFL in interceptions, but he won’t be adding to his total this week. A dislocated shoulder has Jennings out of commission for the second game in a row.
Even with Donald Driver questionable and Jordy Nelson out, the Packer receiving corps is a dangerous group. Replacement corner Kelvin Hayden will be tested early and often, as will a banged-up Charles Tillman on the other side.
Prediction: Green Bay 24, Chicago 17
With Matthews less than 100 percent, Chicago will make a few plays on offense, but not enough to keep up with Aaron Rodgers. The Packer QB will add to his total of 29 touchdown passes and avoid the crippling turnovers that have cost so many opponents against the Bear defense.
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