Yeah, I know it’s the middle of June, but August will be here before you know it and with it…football. The dog days of Summer serve to remind us that those crisp mornings and golden afternoons are quickly approaching and for those of you who, like me, favor the Fall above all seasons, you are probably thinking about that September 13th matchup against the Bears at Soldier Field too. There is one key to this game and one only. If the Packers do their job in this regard…easy win. If they fail, the Bears will have a chance to push the Packers to the brink of another 1-2 start to the season. The Packers have been slow starters since 2012, going 1-2 to start each of these seasons. To make matters worse, in each of those 1-2 starts, at least one of the losses was to a NFC West opponent namely the 49er’s or Seahawks and the Packers have to play the Seahawks right after the Bears. To me this year’s Packers will show their true colors early in the season. If they start strong I will be expecting very big things but if they go 1-2 again my enthusiasm will be be diminished, not that they won’t go to the playoffs, but I will be wondering if we are in for yet another major disappointment at season’s end. So without further ado, here is the key to the Bears game.
There has been one constant threat on the Bears for years. There has also been one player that I have respect for on the Bears and that player is Matt Forte. Forte was the only thing that went right for the Bears in 2014, amassing over 1,000 yards and over 100 catches (102). With the exit of Brandon Marshall Forte will be called upon even more in 2015 to be a difference maker.
The Packers defense, at the same time, may have question marks at the inside linebacker position. The Bears will be sure to matchup Forte with a linebacker coming out of the backfield as much as they can. So there is a real danger that Matt Forte will continue to be a thorn in the Packers flesh when they meet in September. Add to that the historical slow starting Packers and the youth at the ILB position and I think the Packers have to be careful that Matt Forte doesn’t shred the defense like he did in the first meeting against the Packers in 2014.
While I don’t think the Bears have enough weapons to beat the Packers, I do think that Matt Forte is a threat. He is top notch in yards after the catch and favorable matchups could be a problem for the Packers defense. One of the linebackers toughest challenges is making the decision to drive downhill to the quarterback or drop back to cover receivers that are coming out of the backfield. If a young linebacker (Clay Matthews was even guilty of this) drives forward too soon, he risks not seeing the back sneaking out into the flats. Matt Forte is a savvy vet and can exploit this.
To me, the formula for beating the Bears is simple…stop Matt Forte. Go ahead and put the game in Jay Cutler’s hands (so we can get a jump on the number of INT’s the defense gets) and let him throw rocket-balls. Without Marshall, the job of stopping the Bears passing attack got easier. And while I know we may also still have some question marks in the defensive backfield I think if we shut down Forte, we win big.