Found September 12, 2012 on Fox Sports Wisconsin:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The oldest rivalry in the NFL has become quite one-sided in recent seasons with the Packers winning four consecutive games, but a Week 2 matchup on Thursday night at Lambeau Field against the Bears could create early separation between the two teams in the NFC North.Green Bay lost at home to the 49ers in Week 1 while Chicago easily took care of the Colts, setting the stage for the Packers -- who were 15-1 last season -- to potentially fall to 0-2. History has not been kind to teams who lose their first two games, especially in Green Bay. Since the NFL's current playoff format began in 1990, not one of the five Packers teams that started 0-2 made it to the postseason.With Aaron Rodgers, the NFL's reigning Most Valuable Player, throwing the ball to one of the league's best collection of wide receivers, it seems inconceivable that the 2010 Super Bowl champions could even possibly be in danger of not qualifying for the playoffs this season. But if the Bears can put together another well-rounded performance like they did this past weekend, Chicago could, at the very least, take early control of the division with a win and force Green Bay to play catch-up in the standings.Considering that, just last year, it took 364 days for the Packers to lose (from Dec. 2010 through Dec. 2011), it was a noticeably different week than usual inside the team's locker room. But Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy both tried to keep it in perspective."We're going to let (the media) blow it out of proportion, and inside the locker room we're going to realize it's one game," Rodgers said.Though Green Bay has spent the past few days sitting alone in last place in the NFC North, the Bears aren't overreacting to one game either. Last season, no team had much of a chance to match the Packers' win total, so, at the moment, Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers still views Green Bay as the favorites to win the division."Until we beat them or until somebody else wins the division, I would have to say so," Peppers said this week in a conference call. "They won it last year, so until somebody else wins it, they are the team to beat."In Week 1, the Bears looked liked they have the talent to be a serious threat to the Packers this season. The running back duo of Matt Forte and new acquisition Michael Bush racked up 122 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Stopping the run was a significant problem for Green Bay in its first game of the season, allowing San Francisco to rush for 186 yards with a 5.8 yards-per-carry average.After that performance, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers faced a lot of questions about whether they'll have any chance at stopping Forte and Bush, especially on just 96 hours of rest between games."Since I've been here, I've had a lot of respect for Forte," Capers said. "I've always felt he's been the real threat of their offense not only as a runner, but as a receiver. He's a good all-around back. Now Bush gives them a big back to put in there. They had those two guys in the game together a little bit against the Colts."Chicago has also upgraded its passing game, trading for wide receiver Brandon Marshall this offseason to reunite him with his former Broncos teammate, quarterback Jay Cutler. Plus, the Bears used their second-round pick on receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had 80 yards and one touchdown in his NFL debut.Marshall, a three-time Pro-Bowl selection, is the first elite receiver that Cutler's had to work with since, well, since Cutler and Marshall last played together in 2008 in Denver.Cutler was feeling so confident in Chicago's passing game that he fired a bit of a verbal shot at the Packers this week. In an interview with the local media, Cutler reportedly wished Green Bay's secondary "good luck" if cornerbacks like Tramon Williams plan to play physical against Marshall. Williams, who's at his best in press coverage, was on the receiving end of one of Marshall's best-ever games in 2010, when the then-Dolphins receiver had 10 catches for 127 yards."We've got some dudes that, if you're gonna get up in their face, even our speed guys are gonna get around them, and our big guys are gonna throw and go," Cutler said, according to reports out of Chicago. "So we invite press coverage."If the Bears' new seemingly high-powered offense scores anywhere near the 41 points that they put up against Indianapolis, it does play somewhat into the type of game that the Packers typically win. Green Bay led the league in scoring last season in large part due to Rodgers setting the NFL's all-time passer rating record with 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions. This past weekend, the 49ers played at a slower pace and kept Rodgers off the field, which worked to their advantage. So if Cutler wants to try to light up the scoreboard, Rodgers prefers that style."I kind of welcome a team that doesn't hold onto the football as long as San Francisco does," Rodgers said. "We like an up-tempo game like that. If we have to play a high-scoring game, hopefully we'll be ready for that."Rodgers could be without one of his top receiving targets though, as two-time Pro-Bowler Greg Jennings is doubtful to play in the game due to a groin injury.It would certainly help the Packers if they're able to run the ball with any success. Midway through training camp, Green Bay signed veteran running back Cedric Benson, whose NFL career began in 2005 when the Bears drafted him fourth overall. Benson, in his Packers debut, carried the ball just nine times for 18 yards, an average of just 2.0 yards that McCarthy called "not acceptable."Benson said this week that his time in Chicago "was so long ago" and that he doesn't "have any personal grudge or anything like that against them," despite the Bears releasing him less than three seasons after drafting him.However, Benson did feel a lot of responsibility for Green Bay's ineffectiveness on the ground in Week 1 and wants to correct it against his former team."I'm a running back and I pride myself on running the football," Benson said. "We weren't very productive in the few attempts we did have. There's no magic word or one thing in particular, it just takes everybody working together. But I think there's success to be found."If the Bears are able to knock off Green Bay in this game, it would not only be their first win against their rival in nearly two years, it would also give the Packers a third consecutive loss at home. Rodgers and company had won 19 of their last 20 games at Lambeau Field prior to this past weekend, so it would be quite the losing streak by comparison. For Chicago, it would also be a nice early cushion atop the division and a great start to the Bears' season.Follow Paul Imig on Twitter
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