Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Monday, 8:40 p.m. ET, at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc. - TV: ESPN
*TV announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
*Keys to the game: The Bears claim the same playbook is open to QB Josh McCown, who starts in place of Jay Cutler (groin), and there is likely truth in that idea. Changing the launch point for McCown, to avoid creating a sitting target for Packer blitzes, will bring TE Martellus Bennett and RB Matt Forte for the forefront in the passing game on early downs. The Packers love to play two-man coverage on Brandon Marshall, bracketing him with a safety and cornerback. But Bennett is a factor the Bears haven't had as a counter in recent matchups. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is easing off the blitz button and the Bears have to get a better four-man pass rush. When they do blitz, it has to be from the inside with speedy rookie linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene. Downhill running backs tend to thrive against the cover-2 scheme, and RB Eddie Lacy is the kind of back the Bears don't stop. WR James Jones is hopeful of returning, and if so the Packers will be back to having a formidable trio at the receiver spots. They are positioning WR Jordy Nelson in the slot with frequency, a matchup the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers will try to win early and often.
*Matchup to watch - Packers P Tim Masthay and K Mason Crosby vs. Bears KR/PR Devin Hester - The 109-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson in Minnesota last week fresh in the Packers' mind, the challenge shifts to Hester. He ranks fifth in the league with an average of 29.3 yards on kickoffs, not far off Green Bay's league-worst average of 32.3 yards allowed. Hester has an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown this season and sits fourth in the league rankings with an average of 13.3 yards.
*Player spotlight - Bears WLB Khaseem Greene -- Making his first NFL start, Greene will be the linebacker in the crosshairs when Green Bay runs its weak-side lead play, a thorn in the side of the Bears for years. Nick Roach and Hunter Hillenmeyer, in the past, were victimized by lesser backs than Lacy, who averages 4.0 yards per carry and runs with power.
*Fast facts: McCown is 0-2 in a starting role against the Packers at Lambeau with four total interceptions in starts for the Bears and Raiders. ... The Packers lead the NFL with eight individual 100-yard receiving games this season.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
Precision passer Aaron Rodgers leans on RB Eddie Lacy to soften Chicago's injury-riddled defense before exposing its struggling safeties in coverage.
*Our pick: Packers 33-17