by Greg Talcott
Groundhog Day is hilarious when it stars Bill Murray. It is downright depressing when it stars Jay Cutler vs. the Packers. The Bears deserve “credit” for keeping this one much closer with the Packers than many people would have thought. In fact, Chicago stayed in the game right up until… a costly Jay Cutler turnover. Better yet, it was to Clay Matthews; a guy who could get into Canton solely on his career highlight reel vs. Jay Cutler. Clay Matthews vs. Jay Cutler is the football equivalent of Michael Jordan vs. Craig Ehlo. Cutler has now lost 9 straight games including the playoffs against Green Bay; that stat alone tells you this is not the guy to lead you to Super Bowl glory. Yes, the Bears kept it close and there were plenty of positive things about the game. However, Cutler’s 50% completion rate, costly turnover, and pathetic 67.5 rating will never, and I mean never, top Aaron Rodgers. Beating Aaron Rodgers is at least one of the Top 5 hardest things to do in the NFL; and when you watch Jay Cutler against the Packers he knows this and looks resigned to defeat the moment he steps on the field. Jay Cutler is not a winner.
On the bright side, despite giving up 31 points, the Bears beat the Packers in almost every statistical category. The Bears had more yards both rushing and passing. The Bears had more first downs, greater time of possession, fewer penalties; everything you need to do to beat Aaron Rodgers except the one turnover. This is a good sign on both sides of the ball for Chicago and is an indication of how competitive they will be this year vs. last year. John Fox clearly put in a game plan that gave the Bears the best chance to win by focusing on Matt Forte and 29 touches! Forte looked fantastic with 166 total yards, 141 of that on the ground and a TD. As someone who dropped Forte in a Dynasty League in favor of Adrian Peterson it is fair to say I am pretty upset with the results so far.
Alshon Jeffery played as well as can be expected coming off of an injury that cost him valuable time in the preseason. Jeffery was targeted a team-high 11 times resulting in 5 catches for 78 yards. His numbers will be hard earned in Week 2 when he goes up against Patrick Peterson and the Arizona Cardinals, but at least he is healthy enough to play. The other bright spot in the passing game was predictably Martellus Bennett who was targeted 7 times, for 5 receptions, 55 yards and a TD. As far as the hype around the chemistry and history between Cutler and Eddie Royal, it was just that; hype. The season is obviously young; but Jeffery, Forte, and Bennett are going to get the sweeping majority of what few passes Cutler actually completes. Eddie Royal is a spotty Flex play at best until proven otherwise.
Looking back at how the NFC North played this past week, I would rank them Packers, Bears, Lions, Vikings. The difference between the Lions and the Bears is minimal overall, and at quarterback is negligible; Matthew Stafford isn’t winning any Super Bowls either. The Vikings looked like the wrong combo of too much hype and a really lousy game plan. These rankings will likely flip next week as I have the Lions beating Minnesota on the road and Chicago losing at home to Arizona. Side note; Bruce Aryans should have been hired three years ago in Chicago, I said it then when we hired the Multi-level Marketer of Offensive Coordinators to be our head coach. How did the Ravens offense look last Sunday when coached by Marc Trestman? Worst offensive showing in the league…SHOCKER! But I digress… no need to dwell on the past, except to say Mark Trestman really, really sucks.
The Bears can beat the Cardinals this week IF they can limit the impact of Cutleritis; a disease that limits a group’s ability to succeed. A similar game plan of 25-30 touches for Matt Forte, fewer than 35 passes from Cutler and no turnovers, and the Bears will prove me wrong. The Cardinals have a tough defense and tremendous speed on offense which will be a major test for the Bears if they want to avoid being 0-2 at home to start the year.