The Chicago Bears are going into Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers looking to jump start their season following a bye week, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Win and they push their record to 4-5 ahead of some winnable games. Lose and they’ll drop to 3-6, falling almost completely out of the NFC North race and likely out of the wild card race as well.
No pressure or anything.
With that in mind, here are the five most important players not named Jay Cutler as the Bears head up to Lambeau Field.
Allen spent the bye week looking at film and trying to figure out where he’s lost “a half step” this season, and that film study is going to have to pay off in a big way for this game. Especially with Lamarr Houston out of the lineup for the rest of the year, Allen’s play on the edge will set the tone as they try to get Aaron Rodgers out of his comfort zone in the game. Willie Young has proven he can get to the quarterback. Allen has to do the same.
The Bears have started to run the ball the last few weeks against some weak rushing defenses, but they abandoned it way too early. Marc Trestman has talked the talk all week about balancing things out and running the ball more aggressively, and that means Forte will have to get ready to take on a boatload of carries and receptions. Coming out of the bye week, Forte should be well rested and ready for the burden, and he will need to be at his best for the Bears’ offense to really thrive.
Dealing with a hip issue and a broken hand, Fuller isn’t going to be at 100% against the Packers, but the Bears will still need him to put forward a huge effort. He’ll likely be lining up against Jordy Nelson like he did in Week 4, and he’ll have to do a better job this time. Fuller did show some great progress when he limited Julio Jones to just four catches on 12 targets when the Bears beat the Atlanta Falcons, and a similar performance against Nelson would give Chicago a huge boost.
Marshall has been dealing with an ankle injury all season, whether he wants to admit it or not, but after a week off to rest it, he needs to be in top form against the Packers’ secondary. Cutler is going to be looking to reverse his trend of struggling against the Packers in his career, and having a receiver with Marshall’s vertical ability and strength to get through one-on-one coverage will be key. If we get the Marshall performance we saw against the 49’ers in Week 2, the Bears will be in good shape. If we get the Marshall performance we saw against the Dolphins in Week 7, the Bears are doomed.
There was some talk that Mills could shift to left guard to fill in for the injured Matt Slauson, but it appears as though he’ll be shifting back to right tackle against the Packers. With the variety of looks that Green Bay provides at the line of scrimmage (including throwing Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers in on blitzes), Mills is going to have to not only prove that his foot isn’t an issue, but he’ll also have to demonstrate why the Bears should continue to start him over Michael Ola at the position. This is a must-win battle for Mills if he wants to stay in the starting lineup, and Cutler’s well-being depends on him being able to get the job done.