Thursday Night Preview: Will the Packers Run Roughshod Over the Bears?
The NFC North is jumbled up, and two of those teams will meet Thursday night to provide a little bit of clarity to the picture.
Both the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears won last week, and both teams will look to build on that momentum in Week 4. Those wins boosted up both teams in our team rankings, with the Packers checking in at 10th and the Bears 30th.
Can the Packers hold serve at home? Or can the Bears steal a road win and move up to 2-2? Let's dig in and find out.
This battle will feature two quarterbacks who are still trying to find their rhythm so far in 2017. Aaron Rodgers has been a bit off to start the year. Of the 32 quarterbacks with 50 or more drop backs, Rodgers ranks 19th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.07). In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which result in a positive NEP -- his 46.94% mark checks in 14th. Not terrible numbers; just not typical Rodgers numbers.
On the other side, Mike Glennon is looking to build his Bears resume, but it has not gone so well to start the year. Glennon ranks 28th in Passing NEP per drop back (-0.10), but he is a bit better in terms of Passing Success Rate, ranking 15th (46.49%).
Even though Rodgers is off to a slower start, the Packers clearly have the edge at the quarterback position.
Running Back Play
This tilt will feature two teams with very different backfield situations, so let's start with the Packers, who have one runner with the distinct edge in work load.
Ty Montgomery is the workhorse here, and he doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. Last week, the Packers ran 70 offensive plays, and TyMont saw the field for 65 of them, with Jamaal Williams playing 5 snaps and fullback Aaron Ripkowski garnering 3 snaps. It's a one-man wrecking crew.
Among the 28 running backs with at least 30 rushes, Montgomery is 12th in Rushing NEP per carry (-0.04). He has also been very active in the passing game -- among that same group, he leads all running backs with 23 targets.
The Bears running situation features two very talented members of the backfield. Jordan Howard appears to be the man the Bears want to lean on in the run game, and he ranks eighth in Rushing NEP per play (0.01) on 45 rushing attempts. Tarik Cohen has seen far less work, carrying the ball only 24 times, but his efficiency is fantastic with a Rushing NEP per attempt mark of 0.19. He is also a beast in the passing game. The rookie has 20 receptions on 25 targets, and he leads all running backs in targets.
Both teams have very strong options at running back, so which team has a better chance at stopping those guys cold in their tracks?
Through three weeks, this game would appear to be a little bit of a mismatch defensively. The Packers have been in the middle of the pack, checking in 15th, while the Bears defense comes in 27th, per our schedule-adjusted per-play metrics.
The Packers have been average against both the pass (17th) and run (21st). The Bears, meanwhile, are a bit worse in both respects. They rank 23rd versus the pass and 24th against the run.
In looking at Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, which displays sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent, the Packers have been fantastic, ranking third with nine sacks and an 11.2% adjusted sack rate. The Bears, meanwhile, are fairly average, sitting 15th in adjusted sack rate with only seven sacks on the year.
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