In the span of a week, the pendulum swung on the Bears’ season from elation to dread.
The Bears looked worse than I expected in their 30-13 loss against the Saints in New Orleans last week. Silly me – I predicted victory.
Franchise quarterback Jay Cutler took a savage beating that included six sacks and a kick in the throat, the Bears’ offensive line seemed incapable of picking up a blitz, the Cover-2 defense gave up big plays down the middle ... you know the story. It was ugly.
Now the big question is whether it was just one of those games that most every team has during the course of the season, or whether the Bears were exposed.
Signs point to exposure. Their offensive line already is down a starter in right tackle Gabe Carimi, and guard Lance Louis is limited by an ankle injury.
The Bears say they’re going to try to run the ball more than the 12 attempts they made in New Orleans; who knows whether their front five will allow them to get any traction.
Face it: When offensive line coach Mike Tice is making jokes about suiting up himself, things are pretty bleak.
Safety Chris Harris says he’s not sure if he’ll be able to play on his strained hamstring Sunday, and safety Major Wright has missed practice with a head and neck injury that nobody’s calling a concussion, leaving the Bears soft in the secondary.
Who’s coming to town Sunday again? Oh, yeah, Green Bay and quarterback Aaron Rodgers (46 for 65, 620 yards, 5 TDs through two games).
Give the Packers’ offense about five plays before they try to stretch the field.
With that ugly loss to the Saints still fresh in mind, it’s tough to muster a lot of optimism, but there is some upside. For one, the Bears shouldn’t be short on motivation. They’re playing the Packers, who beat them at Soldier Field for the NFC title last season in a game the Bears could have won if, say, they didn’t lose Cutler to a (legitimate) injury.
What’s more, this group of Bears, starting with coach Lovie Smith, understand the importance of this rivalry. Their defense has played the Packers tougher than most – they held them to an average of 17 points in their three meetings last season, a touchdown less than their 24.2 points a game season average.
The Packers also have their own key injuries, including safety Nick Collins, who’s out for the season. Linebacker/scary pass rusher Clay Matthews also is questionable.
And the Bears’ fate the past two weeks has been as good an example as any that anything can happen week-to-week in the NFL. It wasn’t just the Bears who looked great in Week 1 and took a beating in Week 2 – the Baltimore Ravens did, too.
And yet: The Bears’ most recent performance planted some real doubts about their ability to compete against this Packers defense. A team can’t give up as many bad sacks as the Bears did Sunday and expect not to face more of the same.
The Bears might be able to better protect Cutler this week. Or they might be able to keep a lid on Rodgers and the Packers’ offense if they can get past Crystal Lake’s own Bryan Bulaga and his linemates often enough to pressure Rodgers.
Can they do both? Seems unlikely. It pains me, but I like the Packers, 24-12.
• Eric Olson is the Northwest Herald’s sports editor. Reach him at 815-526-4554, email email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @NWH_EricOlson.