While the Bears overcame sloppy play against Pittsburgh — five fumbles, one interception, 10 penalties — they weren’t able to do the same on the road against Tampa Bay in Week 2. It’s hard to go on the road and win without playing clean football, so that’s where this best-case starts: Mike Glennon cannot afford another a turnover deep in Bears territory and needs to make a few plays to ease the pressure on Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.
The Packers probably will load the box with eight or more defenders more than the Steelers did, which will force Glennon to take more shots downfield than he has all year. Green Bay’s defense has been shaky, though, so this could be a good opportunity for Markus Wheaton get behind the secondary and make his first big play in a Bears uniform.
On special teams, the Bears will need Connor Barth — who missed a 47-yard field goal last week — to connect on every opportunity he gets. And if Sherrick McManis makes more plays that could change the course of the game, the Bears can’t afford another Marcus Cooper-level mental error (though here’s guessing that won’t happen again).
Defensively, the best-case scenario looks like what Aaron Rodgers’ line was in that Thanksgiving game in 2015: 22/43, 202 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 62.4 QB rating. Green Bay will likely be without starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, so look for Vic Fangio to dial up an “even rush” to try to contain Rodgers while hitting home on opportunities to sack him (the hope here is that Akiem Hicks, a late addition to the injury report who's listed as questionable with a foot issue, plays). Even without safety Quintin Demps and having to dig deep into their depth at inside linebacker, the Bears’ defense has been solid against some fairly stiff competition early in the year. That trend very well could continue tonight in Green Bay.
Green Bay loads up the box and stuffs Howard — who’s still dealing with that banged-up shoulder — and Cohen, forcing Glennon to throw with poor results. The Bears effectively lost in Tampa by halftime with those four ugly turnovers, and a similar showing Thursday night against their longtime rivals would ratchet up the calls for Mitchell Trubisky and turn up the temperature on John Fox’s hot seat. The Bears at least have to be competitive — as they were against Atlanta and Pittsburgh — but the Tampa game showed they’ll struggle to hang on the road if they’re sloppy.
Mistakes on offense and special teams are tough to overcome even for the best defense. The Bears may get pressure on the quarterback and shut down Ty Montgomery and the Packers’ running game, but if Green Bay gets short fields, expect Rodgers to get into the end zone. This is a recipe for a long, ugly night in Wisconsin.
Prediction: Packers 21, Bears 17. The Bears’ defense holds its own, but the offense makes too many mistakes and not enough plays to overcome in a narrow defeat.