Top 4 Things YOU Should Know About... Bears-Packers Week 2
It's known as the NFL's oldest rivalry, but in recent years, it's also been one of the best. Between the 2010 playoff game, a recent stretch of five regular-season games being decided by a touchdown or less, and either Green Bay or Chicago (or both) being in the playoffs in ten of the past 11 seasons, the rivalry has approached new heights. This is once again a big game for both teams, with the Bears wanting to establish division supremacy and the Packers looking avoid having more losses by week 2 than they did all last season. To find out exactly what numberFire projects to be the final score, and well as who we pick against the spread and our over/under picks, you'll need to sign up for the numberFire Premium Service. But we like to give you a little taste, so here are the four things I'm looking at for the game tonight.
Don't Make Me Angry, You Won't Like Me When I'm Angry
The Packers haven't lost much recently; the team has only 12 losses combined from 2009 through 2011. But when they are coming off that rare regular season loss, you don't want to be in their path. The Packers are 9-3 after losses the past three seasons, with one of those losses coming by 10 points (in 2009) and the other two losses (both in 2010) coming by less than a touchdown. The Packers have been spectacular normally against divisional opponents as well, going 14-4 over the same span. But even that jumps up after a loss: Green Bay is 4-0 facing divisional opponents after a loss since 2009, including a 14-point victory against these very same Bears after their one regular season loss last year. And even if the Packers do fall behind by a good chunk, don't count them out instantly: the Packers haven't lost by double-digits since week 9 in 2009, a 38-28 loss to Tampa Bay. There's something about adversity that just clicks with this team.
Shootout? You Can't Shoot When It's This Cold!
The current over/under on this Bears/Packers game is at 51.5 points, the highest over/under line in the league for week 2 (just head of Saints/Panthers and Falcons/Broncos). Here is a comprehensive, exhaustive list of the number of times these two teams have combined for 52 points or more in a game since 2003: last Christmas (35-21 GB). Well, that was a fun exercise, wasn't it? The line is that high because of the 41-point firepower the Bears showed off against the Colts in week 1, as well as the firepower Aaron Rodgers had endowed to him when he was forged on the top of Mount Olympus. But these two teams have only combined to put up even 40 points twice in the past six meetings, since the Cutler vs. Rodgers battles began. The key to reaching that line this week will likely be Cutler's play against the Packers defense. As I noted earlier today, he's in the bottom five among numberFire's QB projections this week, and we're not sure he'll even get one TD through the air (we have him projected at 0.98 passing scores).
Holding Down the Forte
After a solid 80 rushing yard, 40 receiving yard, one TD outing against the Colts in week 1, Matt Forte comes into week 2 as the #5 running back on our projections sheet. It's easy to see why - only four backs with at least ten carries (C.J. Spiller, Stevan Ridley, Frank Gore, and The Law Firm) had a higher Net Expected Points (NEP) per rush rating in week 1. Forte's +0.14 NEP per rush is much better than his -0.11 rate in 2011, but I don't expect it to go down to that level against the Packers. Remember Gore being in that high-NEP list up there? He did that against this same Green Bay defense, with his 7.0 yards per carry finishing second behind Spiller among qualified players in week 1. But it's not only rushing the ball that is his, excuse me, forte. Matt Forte received the second most Jay Cutler targets of any Bear in week 1 behind Brandon Marshall, and his 40 yards receiving finished fourth on the team. If there's one fantasy player I trust in this game, it's Forte.
Perhaps He Needs a New Insurance Policy
Once a week, I write a numberFire guest post for Bleacher Report. This week, it focused on the top five projected point totals at each position, based on the comprehensive numberFire projections. As I was expecting with the comment section, the most common three refrains were 1. "Tell me who to start!", 2. "Victor Cruz? Lolz." and 3. "Where is Aaron Rodgers in your top 5?" I'll tell you where Aaron Rodgers is: he's not there. Rodgers comes in as the #7 QB in our projections this week with what we expect to be his second-lowest fantasy output of the entire season. Now, if you have Rodgers on your fantasy team, you're not going to bench him for Josh Freeman or Andrew Luck. It's just that, historically, this isn't a great match-up for him: numberFire has the Bears defense ranked third in the league, it took Luck 45 passes to reach 300 yards against them last week, and Chicago picked Luck off three times. The Bears have only given up more than 21 points to Aaron Rodgers in three of his eight games against them, albeit two of those games came last season. Plus, if Greg Jennings does indeed sit (currently listed at doubtful), that takes away one of only five players Rodgers targeted in week 1. He'll be good as always, but not "I am the Fantasy Overlord" good.