NFL Thursday: Bears at Packers

Published on Sept. 12, 2012, at 2:03 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

One of the NFL’s most heated rivalries will be renewed Thursday night at Lambeau Field, where Green Bay (0-1 straight up, 0-1 against the spread) will try to get its first win against the Bears.

After winning the Super Bowl in 2010 and going 15-1 in the regular season last year, the Packers have now lost back-to-back games at home. The Giants sent Green Bay out of the playoffs in the NFC semifinals and then in last week’s opener, San Francisco won a 30-22 decision over the Pack as a six-point underdog.

The 52 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 46 ½-point total thanks to 22 points in the final stanza.

Aaron Rodgers completed 30-of-44 passes for 304 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Randall Cobb had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown and also hauled in a team-high nine receptions for 77 yards. Greg Jennings had five catches for 34 yards, but he suffered a strained groin that has him ‘doubtful’ against Chicago.

Veteran WR Donald Driver didn’t have any catches and barely touched the field due to the emergence of Cobb. However, if Jennings can’t go, look for Driver to be on the field more often.

We must point out that Green Bay had no semblance of a ground attack against the 49ers. Cedric Benson had nine rushes for only 18 yards, while Rodgers ran five times for 27 yards. That’s 14 rushes and 44 pass attempts and that’s not nearly the offensive balance that Mike McCarthy is striving to have.

Chicago (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) drilled Indianapolis by a 41-21 count as a 9 ½-point home ‘chalk’ in its opener at Soldier Field. Jay Cutler connected on 21-of-35 throws for 333 yards and a pair of TDs, overcoming a pick-six in the first quarter that gave the Colts a 7-0 advantage.

Just as we suggested over the summer, Cutler has the most talent around him than at any other point in his career. Brandon Marshall had nine receptions for 119 yards and one TD, while Alshon Jeffery had three catches for 80 yards, including a 42-yard TD grab.

Matt Forte rushed 16 times for 80 yards and a TD, while Michael Bush ran for a pair of scores.

Chicago CB Tim Jennings intercepted Colts’ rookie QB Andrew Luck twice and safety Chris Conte also had a pick. Henry Melton collected a pair of sacks.

When these teams met at Lambeau on Christmas Day last year, Green Bay captured a 35-21 win as a 13-point home favorite. Rodgers threw five TD passes, while Cutler was injured and in street clothes.

The Packers were also victorious on Sept. 25 in the Windy City when they beat the Bears, 27-17, as four-point road favorites. Rodgers threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Cutler had 302 passing yards with two TDs and a pair of interceptions.

We noted the injury to Jennings and the Packers may also be without RB James Starks, who is ‘questionable’ with a foot injury. The Bears appear injury free after LB Brian Urlacher was able to go last week and CB Charles Tillman is ‘probable.’

As of Wednesday afternoon, most books were listing Green Bay as a six-point favorite with a total of 51. Gamblers can take the Bears to win outright for a plus-225 return (risk $100 to win $225).

During Lovie Smith’s nine-year tenure with the Bears, they have compiled an 18-22-4 spread record as road underdogs. Chicago has lost four in a row at Green Bay with its last win coming in a 27-20 win as a three-point road ‘dog in 2007.

As for the Packers, they own a 23-14-1 spread record as a home favorite on McCarthy’s watch.

Kick-off is scheduled for Thursday night at 8:20 p.m. Eastern on the NFL Network.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert and Minnesota Christian Ponder struggled on bad teams as rookies in 2011, but both got off to solid starts in Week 1. The Vikings captured a 26-23 overtime win behind Ponder’s 270 passing yards. The FSU product completed 20-of-27 throws without an interceptions, although he did lose a fumble. Gabbert was turnover-free with a pair of touchdown passes, including a 39-yard scoring strike to Cecil Shorts for the go-ahead score with 20 ticks left. However, the Vikings got a 55-yard field goal on the last play of regulation and then won with a Blair Walsh FG in the extra session.

–Speaking of Walsh, he had a nightmare senior season at Georgia that was capped by multiple missed FGs in a triple-overtime loss to Michigan St. at the Outback Bowl. Consider those woes a thing of the past, however, as Walsh accurately buried all four of his FG attempts in his NFL debut.

–Matt Ryan sliced up a Kansas City defense that was decimated by injuries in a 40-24 Week 1 victory. Ryan connected on 23-of-31 throws for 299 yards and three TDs without an interception. Julio Jones had six catches for 108 yards and two scores.

–Did you see Tennessee RB Chris Johnson’s stats in the Titans’ blowout loss to New England? Johnson had 11 carries for four yards. That’s four, not forty-four.

–The ‘over’ went 9-7 in Week 1.

–Underdogs went 9-7 ATS in Week 1 with six outright wins, including nice money-line payouts for the Redskins (+260ish) and 49ers (+225ish).

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