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    NFL Preview - Chicago (4-3) at Green Bay (5-2)



    By John McMullen, NFL Editor

    (SportsNetwork.com) - Football's oldest rivalry resumes in Titletown for the 185th time on "Monday Night Football" when the Green Bay Packers aim for their seventh straight win over the Chicago Bears.

    Both teams come in banged-up but Green Bay has won four consecutive games and sits atop the NFC North after Aaron Rodgers completed 24-of-29 passes for 285 yards and connected with wide receiver Jordy Nelson for two touchdowns (11 and 76 yards) in an easy 44-31 win over hapless Minnesota back in Week 8.

    "Aaron and I were able to connect and make some big plays," said Nelson. "We're two guys that communicate a lot to one another. We're students of the game, we try to be detailed at what we do and make sure we're on the same page."

    The Bears have had extra time to prepare for this one and will be coming off a bye week but will be without starting QB Jay Cutler and star linebacker Lance Briggs.

    Veteran signal caller Josh McCown will make his first start this season after completing 14-of-20 passes for 204 yards with one touchdown and a 119.6 passer rating in relief of the injured Cutler during a 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins on Oct. 20.

    "Josh has been in the league for a long time," said Bears tackle Jermon Bushrod. "He's played a lot of games. He has a lot of experience. So we're excited about the opportunity."

    Perhaps they shouldn't be, however.

    Rodgers and the Packers converted on 13-of-18 third-down attempts and were two-for-two on fourth down against the Vikings as Green Bay never punted and scored on all seven drives that didn't end either the half or the game.

    And understand Green Bay did all of that without the services of receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones -- two of their top three outside the numbers threats who were lost to injury against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 13 -- and dynamic tight end Jermichael Finley, who suffered a scary neck injury during a win over Cleveland on Oct. 20.

    Cobb has a fractured fibula and may return near the end of the season, while Finley was released from the ICU last Monday after being diagnosed with a bruised spinal cord, something that will keep him on the sidelines indefinitely. Jones, who has a knee sprain, is expected back soon.

    Three of the seven Green Bay receivers who played against Minnesota appeared in their first game a week earlier. One of those players, Jarrett Boykin, who had eight catches for 103 yards and a score in his debut, registered five grabs for 89 yards versus the Vikes.

    "We've got a great team, very well-coached," Rodgers said. "Guys are ready to play."

    Running back Eddie Lacy, the NFC's Rookie of the Month for October, also contributed by carrying the ball 29 times for 94 yards and a score in the triumph.

    "Aaron's had a lot of challenges Monday through Saturday that don't show up on the stat sheet, just trying to get on the same page with younger players and trusting the game plan," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said.

    The extra week of rest couldn't help Cutler all that much. The strong-armed veteran is expected to miss a month of action with a torn muscle in his groin. The Bears' leader sustained the injury while being sacked in the second quarter of what turned out to be a very costly setback at Washington. In addition to Cutler, the seven-time Pro Bowler Briggs went down for six weeks with a shoulder injury.

    Cutler had been performing well in new head coach Marc Trestman's system, having completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 1,658 yards and 12 touchdowns through the first seven games while helping Chicago get off to a 4-2 start.

    And his unavailability comes at an inopportune time. After Monday's game against the Pack, Chicago has another important divisional game the subsequent week, when the team hosts Detroit.

    McCown, a journeyman, has his coach's confidence, though.

    "He's going to put us in position to win games," said Trestman.

    Briggs' injury further depletes a linebacker corps that saw fellow starter D.J. Williams go down with a season-ending pectoral tear in a win over the New York Giants earlier in October.

    The 32-year-old Briggs, who serves as Chicago's on-field signal-caller on defense, was in the midst of another strong campaign. The 11-year veteran had amassed 64 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and eight passes defensed over seven games.

    "We're losing a great leader in Lance," said Trestman. "We're going to have to work very hard to recover."

    The Bears hold a slim 91-87-6 edge in the all-time series but the Packers have dominated recently, winning six straight and eight of the last nine meetings (including playoffs). Green Bay also has swept the season series in three of the last four seasons (2009, 2011-12).

    WHAT TO WATCH FOR

    This is a matchup between two of the top three scoring teams in the NFL, with Chicago checking in at No. 2 (30.4) and Green Bay just a tick behind at No. 3 (30.3).

    The Bears, though, are behind the 8-ball without the underrated Cutler. Chicago has generally struggled against the Packers with its signal caller in the lineup while Rodgers is 9-2 as a starter against the Bears, upping his success in recent contests by completing 69.6 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns against two interceptions in his last four against Chicago.

    Trying to stop perhaps the game's best player without injured defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins, along with the more recent nicks to Williams and Briggs at linebacker seems like a long shot even with Green Bay's issues at the receiving positions.

    The Bears will certainly make things tougher for Rodgers than the Vikings and the fact that big-play cornerback Charles Tillman plans to play despite a balky knee helps but at the end of the day this is a defense that, while still opportunistic, is 27th in the NFL, allowing 391 yards per game.

    "We need to prepare and stay focused on our opponent and the changes they've made," McCarthy said. "At the end of the week, we want to make sure we're focused on winning and that our quality of play is as high as possible."

    McCown will be starting for the first time since going 1-1 in Chicago's final two games of the 2011 season. His first start back then came in a 35-21 setback at Green Bay on Christmas Day, in which he threw for 242 yards with a touchdown but had two interceptions.

    "Josh is going to do the job," Cutler said. "We've got a good game plan coming in. Josh fared well against (the Redskins). He'll play well again this week."

    McCown will lean on a solid group of playmakers around him, including big- bodied receivers Brandon Marshall, who leads the Bears with 46 receptions for 540 yards and five TDs, and Alshon Jeffery, along with tight end Martellus Bennett and dual-threat running back Matt Forte.

    "We really have to play together more than ever now and I think that's something that we're capable of doing," Trestman said.

    OVERALL ANALYSIS

    The Bears can't let Green Bay run away from them in the NFC North but things don't exactly trend toward Chicago in this one. The Packers have also won 11 straight home games (including playoffs) and 23 of their last 24 at Lambeau Field. During the current run they have allowed just 14.7 points per game.

    Meanwhile, when they are playing division foes Green Bay only amps up the dominance, winning 14 of its last 15 regular-season games against NFC North opponents, a .933 winning percentage which ranks No. 1 in the entire NFL over that span.

    Dating back to 2006, Green Bay is 34-10 in NFC North games (No. 2 in the NFL) and 19-3 at home.

    Good luck with all that.

    Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 27, Bears 13

    11/01 14:31:34 ET

    Powered by The Sports Network.

    Welcome to Great38 Tampa Bay WTTA-TV/DT - WFLA News Channel 8

    Welcome to Great38 Tampa Bay WTTA-TV/DT - WFLA News Channel 8

      Great 38: Win tickets to Daytona 500

      Updated:

      Here's your chance to win tickets to the 2015 Daytona 500. Entering is easy, simply fill out the entry form included. More>>

      • Great Stuff

      News Now: Media General CEO talks about his career, future for company Video included

      Updated:

      In December, LIN Media and Media General merged to create the second largest broadcasting company in the country. The former CEO and President of LIN Media, Vince Sadusky, was placed at the helm of the new and improved Media General. More>>

      Bill Schifino, Jr talks about being President-Elect of the Florida Bar Video included

      Updated:

      Earlier this month, Bill Schifino, Jr. was announced as the 2015-16 President-Elect of the Florida Bar. Schifino comes to this position with a strong resume. More>>

      Trio sets off on 900 mile trek across Florida Video included

      Updated:

      Joe Guthrie, Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, and Carlton Ward Jr. are embarking on a journey of a lifetime. The trio are setting off on a 70-day, 900 mile trek across the state???without any automobiles.
      More>>

      How this guide dog helps one blind triathlete chase her Paralympic dream

      Updated:

      Every time Paralympic hopeful Amy Dixon makes it to the end of another grueling triathlon, she knows her trusty companion will be waiting for her at the finish line. Sixteen years after she lost vision in her right eye, which she says she viewed as "a death sentence" at the time,  More>>

      Legoland Florida hotel to open in spring; built for kids

      LEGOLAND Florida photo LEGOLAND Florida photo
      Updated:

      Legoland Florida Hotel will welcome its first guests a month earlier than previously expected.During an announcement Thursday, Legoland executives announced May 15 as the revised opening date.  More>>

      3 rhinos escape from safari zoo, return safely Video included

      Updated:

      Three rhinoceroses escaped from their site at a safari zoo in Israel this week, NBC reported.  More>>

      VIRAL VIDEO: Bossy 4-year-old girl feeds 6 pit bull dogs

      Little Girl Controls Pit Bull Dogs | Future Dog Trainer, Jukin Video on YouTube Little Girl Controls Pit Bull Dogs | Future Dog Trainer, Jukin Video on YouTube
      Updated:

      A video of a very authoritative 4-year-old girl feeding six very obedient pit pulls in the middle of a kitchen has gone viral on the web and is prompting a heated debate about the pit bull breed.
      More>>

      8 fun things to do in Tampa Bay this weekend | January 17-18 Video included

      Updated:

      See 8 fun things happening this weekend in Tampa Bay!
      More>>

      'Birdman,' 'Budapest' top Oscar nominations with 9 nods each

      Updated:

      Two extravagant comedies, "Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel," tied for the most Oscar nominations Thursday morning with nine nods each, including best picture. More>>

      109th Tarpon Springs Epiphany: Schedule of Events, Road Closures

      TARPON SPRINGS EPIPHANY CELEBRATION 2011 photo by Sue Thomas TARPON SPRINGS EPIPHANY CELEBRATION 2011 photo by Sue Thomas
      Updated:

      The 109th Epiphany celebration begins Monday, January 5 with the Arrival of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and the blessing of the fleet and continues on Tuesday, January 6 with Epiphany Services, Procession, Cross Dive and Glendi Celebration.  More>>

      Out and About
      Powered by WorldNow

      200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

      Telephone: 813.228.8888
      Fax: 813.225.2770
      Email: news@wfla.com

      Can???t find something?
      Powered by WorldNow
      All content © Copyright 2000 - 2015 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.