By Danny Cox
It’s Week 7, and pretty much anyone following the 2016 NFL season has been surprised to see the Minnesota Vikings still undefeated. Even more shocking might be that their NFC North rivals are struggling. The Green Bay Packers are 3-2 and seemingly out of sync, while the Chicago Bears are in the cellar at 1-5.
The Bears and Packers both hoped for a better start to the season, and a win on Thursday Night Football this week is imperative for each of them.
Chicago’s Questionable QB Situation
The Bears picked up their lone win of the season in Week 4, when they narrowly beat the Detroit Lions, 17-14. They led for most of a couple other games, but simply couldn’t finish teams off when they had to. A win this week would help prevent — or at least delay — this season from being a complete bust.
Chicago’s quarterback situation certainly isn’t helping their cause. Will Brian Hoyer stay under center for the struggling Bears, or will Jay Cutler take over again? And given all the other question marks, does it even matter?
“This is going to be a very difficult trip for the Chicago Bears,” said CBS Sports’ Boomer Esiason. “When you talk about the Chicago Bears, everyone wants to know what they’re doing with Jay Cutler.
An injured thumb put Cutler on the bench weeks ago, and many have wondered if he would simply slip back into the lineup once healthy again. Even though the Bears trail the NFC North with a record of 1-5, it may not be such an easy decision to make for head coach John Fox.
“I want to say this,” continued Esiason, “Brian Hoyer is actually playing pretty well.”
Hoyer has passed for 1,396 yards and 6 touchdowns since replacing Cutler in the season’s opening game. He hasn’t thrown a single interception. But Hoyer will have to win if he wants to stay the starter. A strong case can be made for continuity going into Thursday night’s matchup with Green Bay. And an even stronger case will be made by coming out with a win.
Aaron Rodgers Feeling “Off”
The Packers are coming off a huge home loss to the surging Dallas Cowboys in which Green Bay simply didn’t seem like a true NFC contender. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has even admitted that he is “just a little bit off” and thinks it has a lot to do with the whole team’s struggles.
Through five games, Rodgers has passed for 1,170 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Despite Rodgers’ incredible production in years past, those are not terrible numbers. But he has also fumbled five times and been sacked nine times.
Eddie Lacy is doing a good job running the ball. And Packers receivers are doing well too, though Jordy Nelson hasn’t quite returned to field-stretching form yet. But this isn’t a Green Bay team that fans are used to seeing. Something is just not gelling, and it’s up to Rodgers to get everyone back on the same page.
“These two teams are going in two different directions.” said Bart Scott. “You’re talking about a rebuild in Chicago with a youth movement. Green Bay has to try and keep pace with the Minnesota Vikings if they have any hope of trying to win that division. Minnesota seems to be the best team in that division, and they’re going to be fighting for a wild card.”
Both the Bears and Packers are looking for a big win on Thursday Night Football, but Chicago may have already reached the point of giving up. The Packers have to stay in striking distance of the Vikings to have any hope of winning the NFC North. Look for Rodgers and Green Bay to come out fired up with an intensity they haven’t yet displayed this season.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers 31 – Chicago Bears 20
Danny Cox has been covering the NFL for the past decade and has been watching it for two more. From injury reports to playoff races, he follows every single team and longs for the months of July to February.