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Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers: Key matchups, predictions and pick to win

By The Sports Xchange
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers: Key matchups, predictions and pick to win
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers enjoyed some Suntory time after his dismal performance in his last outing against the Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo

GAME SNAPSHOT: Everything you need to know about the Chicago Bears at the Green Bay Packers, including how to watch, key matchups, predictions and pick to win.

KICKOFF: Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, Lambeau Field. TV: CBS/NFLN, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson.

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SERIES HISTORY: 191st regular-season meeting. Bears lead series, 93-91-6. The NFL's oldest rivals are playing on Thursday night for the second straight year at Lambeau Field. The Bears came to Green Bay on Thanksgiving last season and won 17-13, snapping a four-game losing streak against the Packers. Chicago has won two of the last three meetings at Lambeau after the Packers had won five in a row there. The teams split their only two playoff games. Amazingly, in the previous 190 games played between the teams, the Bears have outscored Green Bay by three points, 3,247-3,244. From one of the team reports

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GAMEDATE: 10/20/16

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KEYS TO THE GAME: The Packers are reeling from their abysmal 30-16 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is staggering through one of the worst streaks in his career and resorted to some well-aged scotch Sunday night to help forget the game. The most sobering fact this week is that Chicago quarterback Brian Hoyer, a career backup, is seeking his fifth consecutive 300-yard passing game and is having a better season than Rodgers, the future Hall of Famer. Going into this game, Hoyer is completing 68.8 percent of his passes with 1,396 yards, six TDS, no interceptions and a passer rating of 100.8. Rodgers numbers are 60.2 percent, 1,170 yards, 10 TDs, four interceptions and a passer rating of 88.4, well off his career rating of 103.5.

Reaction to Rodgers' slump has been severe, with claims by current and past Packers that he just doesn't work hard enough on details to maintain sustained greatness. Former Packers WR Greg Jennings suggests some of the credit heaped on Rodgers should have been shared his receivers. Perhaps not coincidentally, Rodgers' slump began last season when WR Jordy Nelson was injured and continues now as Nelson is back, but not yet playing well enough to get open as in the past.

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In an uncharacteristic move, the Packers made their first trade since 2010 on Tuesday when they acquired RB Knile Davis from Kansas City.

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Despite Hoyer's success passing, the Bears aren't gloating. This is a team ranked seventh in offense and fourth in passing, but scoring only 16.8 points a game, 31st in the NFL.

"The yards are there, but we have to convert on some third downs, get in the red area and score touchdowns," Hoyer said. "It's really plain and simple." The Bears scored only two TDs in seven trips to the red zone last week.

"We're leaving points on the board," offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "Every time you kick a field goal it's a four-point play.

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Dallas showed how to control the Packers by just running at them, but the Bears don't have a RB like the Cowboys quick, strong, slasher Ezekiel Elliott (who does?), and Green Bay entered last week with the No. 1-ranked run defense in the NFL. Bears rookie Jordan Howard, a fifth-round draft pick, is promising as an injury replacement, rushing for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games before last week's 34 yards on 15 carries against Jacksonville.

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MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Packers secondary vs. Bears pass catchers. Both teams are banged up at critical positions. Green Bay answered one lingering question Tuesday by placing top cornerback Sam Shields on injured reserve (concussion). The Packers also could be without their next two best cornerbacks, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. Head coach Mike McCarthy already ruled out Rollins for a second straight game because (groin). That leaves only three healthy cornerbacks -- LaDarius Gunter, Demetri Goodson and Josh Hawkins. However, the Bears may not have No. 2 wideout Eddie Royal because of a toe injury and tight end Zach Miller, who has a team-best 31 receptions, is fighting through a ribs injury. Green Bay's biggest priority on defense will be to contain the dangerous Alshon Jeffery, who averaged five catches in six matchups with the Packers the last three years but hasn't had a 100-yard receiving game.

--Packers offensive line vs. Bears pass rushers. As bad as the Bears have been in the early going, they pose a threat to a Green Bay offense that is coming off a mistake-laden performance in the loss to Dallas. Chicago outside linebacker Willie Young is tied for the NFC lead with six sacks. Green Bay's offensive line, which has been solid in pass protection and can't be blamed for the woes plaguing quarterback Aaron Rodgers, also will have to contend with defensive end Akiem Hicks (two sacks) and promising rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd.

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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Packers WR Ty Montgomery. Green Bay's rare in-season trade with KC Tuesday for Davis does not fix the mess at running back, but may help short term. Expectations are minimal for Davis, especially on such a short week. His arrival makes up for the indefinite absence of lone backup halfback James Starks (surgery torn meniscus). Featured back Eddie Lacy is hobbled (ankle), so there is concern about his effectiveness on a short week. The versatility of Montgomery could be handy should head coach/play-caller Mike McCarthy opt to plug the speedy receiver in the backfield. Montgomery has at least one carry in each of the last three games, but he needs to be more effective if his dual role continues. His five rushing attempts totaled only six yards.

FAST FACTS: Bears rookie RB Jordan Howard had first career rushing TD last week to go with 100-plush rushing in two of last three games. . . . WR Alshon Jeffery had 7 receptions for 90 yards in last meeting and has TD catch in 3 of past 5 vs. NFC North teams. . . . Packers WR Randall Cobb made TD catch last week and has 6 TDs in past 5 vs. Chi. WR Ty Montgomery made career-high 10 receptions with 98 receiving yards last week. WR Jordy Nelson is averaging 140.3 yards per game in past 3 vs. Bears, with four TDS. He has 12 TD catches in last 11 games at home

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PREDICTION: Rodgers must rebound from his slump and respond to detractors who question his dedicated focus and even long-held beliefs about who was really responsible for his stats. Hoyer has done a great job, but a riled Rodgers and an intense game and fans at Lambeau may be too much to handle.

OUR PICK: Packers, 28-21.

--Frank Cooney.

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