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Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers: Power Shift?

Separated by only 208 miles, the rivalry of the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers stems way back to 1921.  This won’t be a history lesson on the rivalry, but lets just say noses and arms have been broken in altercations between these teams.  The Bears even had the Packers suspended at one point for using players in a game that were still in college.  That’s beef.

George Halas. Earl Lambaeu. Vince Lombardi and Mike Ditka. The names in this rivalry are linked with football immortality.  The all-time record is nearly at a draw with the Bears holding the lead currently (93-89-6).  Since 1967 they have been in the same division and have seen it turn from the NFC Central to the NFC North.  Although the Minnesota Vikings (surprisingly) hold the most titles amongst the division rivals with 18 (mostly due to their dominant run in the 1970′s), it’s the Packers and Bears who are no doubt, the central focus of this division year in and year out.

For the last three years though, the Green Bay Packers have worn the crown of the NFC North.  They’ve done it in dominating fashion and they’ve limped their way to it as well.  With quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy the Packers offer one of the most deadliest offensive attacks in the NFL today.  Rodgers consistently has himself in MVP discussions and statistically performs near the top of most quarterback categories.  Last season Rodgers suffered a collarbone injury (due to the Chicago Bears’ Shea McClellin) and McCarthy provided the Packers franchise with a remarkable coaching job, always keeping his team in the hunt for the division championship.  When looking at the quarterback and head coach positions at Chicago, the resume is handed in with a lot of “promise” and an “incomplete.”

If the NFL ever had an enigma, it is quarterback Jay Cutler.  There is no gray area for the Chicago Bears QB, people either love him or hate him.  The truth is about Cutler, unlike Aaron Rodgers – Cutler’s stats never tell his story.  Cutler has put it all out there for the Bears’ franchise – even when they didn’t see it neccessary to provide him with an offensive line of professional standards.  He has been the best quarterback most (or any) Bears fan has seen, but what’s most frustrating about Cutler is that his injuries (and they do happen often) seem to derail the Bears’ seasons.  Head coach Marc Trestman is an interesting figure in the NFL.  From 1984 to 2003 Trestman was staffed primarily as a quarterback coach or offensive coordinator. He has seen success in the states and has won championships as a head coach in the Canadian Football League.  Last season marked his first as Bears’ head coach and his nick name of “the Quarterback Whisperer” seemed to be legit as Cutler played his most controlled football under Trestman’s guidance.

Depending how you look at things, the teams might be even at the running back position.  Matt Forte proved to be a versatile as he needed to be in Trestman’s offense while rookie, Eddie Lacy provided the Packers a much needed balance to their usually, pass heavy offense.  But when going further into how these teams match up with each other is it too far fetched to believe the Bears may have it in their favor to swing things back to the advantage being theirs?

During free agency, although the Packers were able to re-sign cornerback Sam Shields and defensive tackle BJ Raji – they didn’t re-sign center Evan Dietrich-Smith.  This surprised me considering that Aaron Rodgers, who is obviously the team’s most important player and the one who has to deal with Dietrich-Smith on every snap, wanted him back. The Packers also fell for the “player with something to prove, who has nothing left in the tank” trap set by Julius Peppers.  The Packers signed Peppers after he was cut by the Bears.  The Bears didn’t see the point in paying the price for a former superstar on the decline.

The Bears’ free agency has been a pleasure for those of the Chi-Town faithful.  The problem was defensive line and they addressed it immediately by signing former Oakland Raider Lamarr Houston.  Then the Bears decided to sign players from within their division by picking up Willie Young (former Detroit Lion), Isreal Idonije (former Lion)  and future hall of famer Jared Allen (former Minnesota Viking.)  The Bears defensive “remix” isn’t done yet though as they still need more line depth and help at the safety position, which will both most likely be addressed in the draft.

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The Bears under general manager Phil Emery have gone away from what they traditionally do in free agency, which was nothing.  The Packers stick with what’s brought them success and rely on the talent on their depth charts along with the draft, but this time it may be what impedes their success.  Head to head, the match up appears to be a lot more balanced than it has recently.  The Bears now have an offense, which is something Bears fans haven’t seen since that one good month of thinking Rex Grossman was the truth. The Bears saw how even the Lions had switched things up and gone into a high gear offense to keep up with Green Bay which in turn is why Trestman was called in.

Last year Green Bay cut it close.  Really close.  Late in the season they needed the Lions to completely implode.  They also needed the Bears to have a secondary so bad, I can’t even think of some clever insult for it, to win the NFC North.   That kind of luck runs short in a league where divisions can turn completely upside down at the start of a new season.  It’s just hard to not like the Bears chances of turning recent fortunes around.

 

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

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