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Sunday Night Football Preview: Maneuvering in the NFC North

The NFL's oldest rivalry writes another chapter in primetime.

The 188th meeting of the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers couldn't have much larger implications. The teams each limped into bye weeks having combined to lose their Week 7 games by 49 points. The Bears have a ton of question marks on the defensive side of the ball, and the state of Wisconsin has been worrying about the injured hamstring of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers ever since.

While Rodgers has appeared to recover and is practicing in full leading up to the latest prime time clash between the two longest-standing rivals in the NFL, the Bears haven't answered a lot of the questions they have on both sides of the ball. Chicago was thought to have one of the elite offensive units in the NFL, yet according to our Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which factors offensive efficiency on a per-play basis and is adjusted for strength of schedule, the Bears have been a middle of the pack unit, sitting 16th overall. They are a bottom-six defensive unit in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play. Their run defense is fifth-worst in the league, and their pass defense isn't much better at seventh-worst.

As a Bear, Team DGAF captain Jay Cutler has not beaten the Packers at Lambeau Field. He is struggling mightily despite inflated fantasy stats, ranking 21st in Passing NEP and 23rd in Passing NEP per play among the 34 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs. His inefficiency centers on turning the ball over, which he has done 12 times this year.

His wideouts, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, are struggling as well. Both finished in the top 8 among wide receivers in 2013 in Receiving NEP. Neither Marshall nor Jeffery is in the top 20 this year. Bears fans are thanking their lucky stars for all-world running back Matt Forte, who is carrying the offensive load on his back, ranking second among backs in Total NEP.

The stage is set for an important NFC North showdown, but can both teams deliver on the promise of a competitive game? Using our advanced metrics, let's see how this one plays out.

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