Bears at Packers -- Week 2
: Lambeau Field, Green Bay (grass, outdoors)
: Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
: Packers by 6
: Showers, mid-50s
: Packers (Overall: 0-1, NFC North 0-0); Bears (Overall: 1-0, NFC North 0-0)
: Two most recent meetings -- Dec. 25, 2011: Packers 35, Bears 21; Sept. 25, 2011: Packers 27, Bears 17. Series record: Bears hold 92-86-6 edge. The Packers have won six of the last seven.
: For the Packers, what matters is finding out if last week's season-opening flop was an aberrant performance against a very good 49ers team or an ominous indication that this season will not be the 15-1 cakewalk of last year. Win, and much of the sour taste from Week 1 is rinsed. Lose, and a team many predicted was Super Bowl bound is 0-2 and looking up from the NFC North cellar. Green Bay hasn't started a season 0-2 since 2006, Mike McCarthy's first year as head coach. The defense was eviscerated by San Francisco's run game, allowing 186 rushing yards, the second-most of any team in Week 1. It doesn't get any easier against the Bears. Their running back tandem of Matt Forte and Michael Bush is more dangerous now that QB Jay Cutler has some legit receiving weapons in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The Packers' much-maligned defense of 2011 was supposed to be much-improved this season. It failed its first test; how will it fare in its second?
: RB Cedric Benson, who was supposed to restore balance to the Packers' pass-heavy offense by forcing opponents to respect the run, had a putrid performance last week. The veteran rushed nine times for a paltry 18 yards against the 49ers. After the game, McCarthy said, “We didn't run it very well. A 2.0 [average], that's not good enough.” McCarthy reiterated that stance during the week, saying, “We don't want to be running the ball for 2.0, that's not acceptable … We've just got to get the running part of it [down].” Benson, who was signed midway through training camp and has only had five padded practices in Green Bay, has to do a better job finding the right lanes and making good decisions, points that were raised by Packers offensive linemen during the week.
: QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Bears MLB Brian Urlacher. These two players are the key figures on their respective teams. Rodgers is 7-2 in his career against the Bears, including a sweep last season when he threw for eight touchdowns with just one interception. He was complimentary of Chicago's defense Tuesday, saying, “They've got a great defense, do a good job of stripping the ball, making plays, creating turnovers and forcing you into long-yardage situations.” Urlacher, still one of the best middle linebackers in the game and the leader of the Bears defense, has battled a knee injury throughout training camp but rested it in the second half of last week's blowout win over the Colts. Coach Lovie Smith said Urlacher will play. In 12 career games against the Packers, Urlacher has five interceptions -- a lot for an LB -- including one returned for a touchdown. He reads quarterbacks well and gets into lanes quickly. That could be a big problem for Rodgers, who threw an uncharacteristically ugly interception last week that was picked off by a 49ers inside linebacker.
Injuries of note
: WR Greg Jennings suffered a groin injury late in the loss to San Francisco and didn't practice at all during the short week. He's listed as doubtful, though McCarthy said Wednesday he wasn't ruled out. “They put him through everything," McCarthy said. "Testing is a number of different drills and then his endurance through the drill. I'll get the evaluation and then, frankly, tomorrow will be the deciding factor.” RB James Starks, who's been out with turf toe for more than a month, is also listed as doubtful. So is CB Davon House, who dislocated his shoulder in the preseason opener and has been wearing a restrictive brace. ILB Jamari Lattimore (ankle) and DE C.J. Wilson (groin) are questionable. ILB Terrell Manning (concussion) is out.
: Though he's unanimously considered the Packers' weakest offensive lineman, LT Marshall Newhouse had the best game of the entire unit against the 49ers. And he did it against arguably the toughest right-sided pass-rush tandem in the NFL, DE Justin Smith and OLB Aldon Smith. Newhouse held his own, even though Aldon Smith registered a sack. Justin Smith was completely neutralized. Against the Bears, Newhouse will have another big challenge, facing off against humongous DE Julius Peppers (6-7, 287 pounds), who had 11 sacks last season.
: Packers RB Cedric Benson was drafted by the Bears with the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft. He played three seasons in Chicago before being let go after legal problems. Benson has been diplomatic when asked about his time in Chicago, but no doubt he'd like to gash his former team. Conversely, veteran Bears defenders like Urlacher, LB Lance Briggs and CB Charles Tillman no doubt remember the younger, arrogant and aloof Benson, and will want to stick it to him.
Stat you should know
: Four touchdowns scored by TE Jermichael Finley against the Bears in two meetings last season. In the first game, a 27-17 Packers win in Chicago last September, Finley lit up S Major Wright and the Bears defense with seven catches for 85 yards and three scores. Finley wants to put to bed the topic of his drops, and a productive game against Chicago would help.
: The Packers have dominated the NFC North of late. They enter Thursday night's game having won seven consecutive regular-season divisional games. Rodgers has a 111.3 career passer rating against divisional opponents, which ranks No. 1 in NFL history. He also has all-time marks in completion percentage (69.7), average yards-per-attempt (8.39) and touchdown/interception ratio (4.17) against divisional foes.
Bulletin board quote
: "Good luck. We've got some dudes that if you're going to get up in our face, even our speed guys are going to get around them and our big guys are going to throw-and-go. We invite press coverage. We invite man. And if we get in that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us." -- Bears QB Jay Cutler on Green Bay playing press coverage against Chicago's receivers.
: After this short week, the Packers will have 10 days off before their next game, a Week 3 game at Seattle on Monday Night Football. Then, they'll conclude a tough first month at home against the dangerous Saints.