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Thursday Night Football Preview: Bears at Packers

TNF Bears at Packers

When you get to this point in the regular season, you can get a better sense of what is fact and what is fiction. Maybe it’s that mindset that has the folks in Wisconsin losing sleep. They’ll need their rest on this short week because Brian Hoyer and the Bears are leaving their windy city for a Thursday night date in Lambeau with the Packers

Thursday Night Football: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Line: Packers -7.5 | Over/Under: 46
Venue: Lambeau Field

bears-at-packersWhen you get to this point in the regular season, you can get a better sense of what is fact and what is fiction. Maybe it’s that mindset that has the folks in Wisconsin losing sleep. They’ll need their rest on this short week because Brian Hoyer and the Bears are leaving their windy city for a Thursday night date in Lambeau with the Packers. This will be 193rd time that these NFC North foes will face off and as of this writing the Packers are favored by seven and a half for those betting NFL online, with an over under of forty-six.

While a 1-5 record is what most experts had in mind when assessing the monsters of the midway, not many of those experts would have guessed that they’d take the roads that they have to get there. It was a week two injury to Jay Cutler that opened the door for Brian Hoyer to run the Bears huddle but much to Chicagoans dismay it hasn’t helped in the win column. He is the only quarterback in the NFL to throw for 300 yards or more in weeks three through six. In that four-game span, he has thrown for six touchdowns with no interceptions.

[the_ad id=”63198″]The Bears don’t have much to show for Hoyer’s numbers as they have been able to win only one of those four games. As of this writing, it has not been determined if Jay Cutler will be available to play but even if he is it will just continue to muddy the waters in sweet home Chicago as John Fox has remained noncommittal about whom would start upon Cutler’s return. Another head scratcher within the Chicago Bears is whom Hoyer has been relying on lately. Cameron Meredith is the most targeted wide receiver in the NFL over the last two weeks with twenty-seven. To put that into perspective, Meredith’s last two weeks of targets trail Alshon Jeffery’s season long targets by just seventeen. So far this season, Jeffery is leading the Bears in both targets and receiving yards but hasn’t managed to reach the end zone. The man behind Jeffery in targets is the Bears tight end Zach Miller and he leads pass catchers in touchdowns with three. Miller has been dealing with a rib issue so that could limit his production and leave more targets out there for others.

jordan-howardThe game for the Bears offensively may just have to rely on the passing game as the Packers have given up ten touchdowns through the air but just one touchdown on the ground. This may make life difficult for running back Jordan Howard but that does not mean to say that the Bears will completely ignore him. In another twist to the Bears season, Jeremy Langford fell victim to a sprained ankle and isn’t returning anytime soon. Howard has filled in admirably for the Bears as he has 72% of his teams rushing attempts since he took over and is averaging five yards per carry. Weeks five and six saw Howard hit hundred rushing yards but was stifled this past week when he faced a Jaguars team who is responsible for giving up the fifth fewest rushing yards to running backs. The Packers whom Howard will go up against this Thursday have given up the third fewest.

[the_ad id=”66786″]The defense for the Bears may not be the worst that the league has to offer but they also don’t resemble the days of Mike Singletary or Brian Urlacher. The defense has given up the twelfth most points to opposing offenses. As a unit they also have thirteen sacks on the year and six of those are coming from defensive end Willie Young. The defense will need to put up its best effort in this one as Aaron Rodgers is one of the least hit quarterbacks this season. As mentioned previously, the experts had predicted a mediocre sort of season from the Bears and when evaluating a lot of their team numbers thus far that assessment is dead on. With the way, their Thursday opponent has been playing as of late that might be just enough to get the job done.

Unlike the Bears, the Packers were undoubtedly looked at as having larger aspirations headed into this season. Like most situations, the naysayers will point fingers at the Quarterback, but it could have more to do with the conservative play calling of Mike McCarthy. The running back depth chart is depleted enough that the Packers ended up making a Tuesday morning trade with the Chiefs for Knile Davis. Eddie Lacy is hampered with a bad ankle that is now expected to keep him out of action this Thursday. James Starks will be missing the next few weeks following surgery to fix a meniscus injury. The medical bills are piling up for the running backs yet the Packers have attempted 128 run plays and just 181 pass attempts. Those passing attempts currently ranks 27th in the NFL and are forty-six fewer attempts than the Houston Texans have given to Brock Osweiler. Regardless, all eyes on will be on two-time league MVP to help the Packers break out of their offensive rut. As if pressure isn’t hot enough, the Packers are coming off of their worst home loss since November of 2013. The Packers only have three pass catchers at this point with over one hundred yards receiving on the year. One of those three receivers is Jordy Nelson who has answered his critics this season in the form of five receiving touchdowns which are tied for first in the league. Nelson will be looking to get back into the end zone as last week against the Cowboys was his first game in 2016 without a score.

Wide receivers like Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery may be doing double duty this Thursday when considering the injury-riddled backfield. Both Cobb and Montgomery have five rushing attempts each on the season, and those numbers are expected to increase now that starting running back Eddie Lacy is expected to miss this Thursday’s game. Knile Davis will need to be a fast learner in regards to this Packer offense or we could end up seeing a heavy dose of pass attempts from Aaron Rodgers. Under defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers have a history of missing tackles but it that hasn’t been the case against the rush in 2016. As said earlier, The Packers have allowed only one touchdown on the ground so far this season as well as surrendering the fewest yards on the ground. They have been able to maintain that top spot against the rush despite being torched by Ezekiel Elliot for 157 yards last week. I like the Packers to go back to their dominating ways against the rush as they won’t mind putting the game in Brian Hoyer’s hands. The pressure is mounting in Green Bay and the way to measure a good team is to determine if they can overcome that pressure. I think the Packers are just late bloomers in 2016 and will eventually get back to being an NFC powerhouse. Brian Hoyer will continue to put up serviceable fantasy football numbers, but unless those games start ending in wins, then the calls for Cutler will only get louder. The Bears are a middle of the road team, and the two Packer losses this season have come against The Vikings and Cowboys. The Packers will take another week or so to break their offensive rut, but I think this is an ideal matchup for them to work through it under fire. I like the Packers to win and as always barely miss the spread.

My Prediction: Packers 20 Bears 13


Fantasy Thoughts & Tips:

aaron-rodgersIf you own Aaron Rodgers, then you are obviously starting him this Thursday night. He has yet to hit the 300-yard mark this season, but I think this will be the game he hits the 275-300 yard range. In sixteen starts verse the Bears, Rodgers is averaging two passing touchdowns a start. I like him to get a score through the air but don’t be shocked if he runs one in. Brian Hoyer will continue to be a decent start in fantasy and considering all of the teams on bye he may just be the fill in start that you’re looking for.

This is not an ideal matchup for Howard and I think he will fail to hit a hundred yards on the ground. You might want to look for a better matchup on your roster this week. Given the lack of playing time for guys on the depth chart and the short week, you shouldn’t be starting any Packer running backs. While you may not look to start a Packer running back it may be worth it to start a Packers wideout like Cobb who could be asked to take on some the backfield duties. Montgomery is available in large part of leagues and much like Cobb will continue to see extra work. Last week was a big week for Montgomery as he may be gaining some separation between him and Devante Adams. Both Alshon Jeffery and Cameron Meredith should be starting this week as the Packers have given up eight touchdowns to wide receivers. Hoyer has an undeniable connection with Meredith and I would look to capitalize off of that before the well runs dry. This could be the week that Jeffery finally reaches the end zone.

Scoring could be at a premium in this game so I would stay away from both tight ends. Zach Miller’s availability is unknown, and even when he plays, he has only passed 50 yards receiving in a game twice. It is that sort of yard output that makes a player touchdown dependent. I would look for better defensive match-ups for the weekend, but I do like Mason Crosby in this game. An inability to run in towards the goal line could lead to some extra action for the kicker.

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