The Green Bay Packers head to Chicago this week as almost a touchdown favorite. If all goes right, they should be able to beat the 3-11 Bears, handily.
However, winning NFL games in December is never easy. Winning division games in December is even harder. Take that level of difficulty and multiple it when a team is on the road and suddenly, the Packers task Sunday in Chicago doesn’t seem so easy.
With three straight victories, the Packers have gotten back to playing their style of football. They have gotten early leads and the defense has been unleashed. They have taken care of the ball and forced turnovers. If they keep doing that another win is likely.
There is a reason why Green Bay is favored in this game, but there’s also a reason why they play the games.
Here are three keys for the Packers to beat the Bears:
1 — Aaron Rodgers has to keep rolling —
Aaron Rodgers is obviously the biggest key. He has said this week that he won’t be limited due to injury and as long as that means he won’t be limited throwing, the Packers should be fine. Expect to see more of the pistol formation.
The early-season criticism of Rodgers now looks silly. It’s hard to say what caused the turnaround, but mostly, for some reason he seemed to lack confidence. He doesn’t anymore.
The two-time MVP leads the league in touchdown passes (32) and has been on fire. In his last four games, two on the road, he has 10 touchdowns and no picks. He has four straight games with a passer rating of more than 108 and he’s been sacked just four times.
You get the feeling, he has total control again. But thanks to their 4-6 start and the Lions resilience, the Packers have no room for error and neither does Rodgers.
Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, who have all played well in recent weeks will make it easier on Rodgers, but he really is the key. If he comes out hot and gets Green Bay another early lead, that would be a good sign Green Bay is going to win.
2 — Contain Jordan Howard —
When the two teams met earlier in the season, Jordan Howard was not much of a factor for the Bears, carrying the ball just seven times for 22 yards. That shouldn’t be the case Sunday.
Howard, a rookie from Indiana, has had three 100-yard games in his last six outings and his worse game in the past six has been 77 yards. He’s almost to 1,000 yards for the season and on 194 carries, is averaging five yards an attempt.
Howard is the Bears best chance to stay in the game outside of turnovers. If Chicago can get him going, they can control the clock and get their young quarterback, Matt Barkley in some manageable situations.
If the Packers start fast, they may be able to limit Howard’s carries. But if he gets 20-25 touches and more than 100 yards, it could mean a close game.
3 — Turnover margin —
During their three-game win streak, the Packers have either won or tied the turnover margin in each game. They were plus six last week against Seattle. But overall, they are plus-7 in the last three games.
Outside of a fumble against Houston, Rodgers has been perfection in the turnover compartment. But Barkley hasn’t been bad either. He has zero interceptions in his last two starts, which includes a win over the 49ers and a close loss to Detroit last week.
The Green Bay secondary has been making big plays the last few weeks and another interception or two this week would be huge.
Flipping the turnover margin in their favor is the Bears’ best chance of winning. If they don’t and if Barkley throws a pick or two, it’s hard to see Green Bay losing this one.