The Packers and Bears are meeting for the 187th time Monday night, the longest rivalry in league history.
Packers-Bears: 5 things to watch
The teams: The Green Bay Packers (5-2) vs. the Chicago Bears (4-3).
The time: 7:40 p.m. CST Monday.
The place: Lambeau Field, Green Bay.
The TV coverage: ESPN. WISN (Ch. 12 in Milwaukee) and WBAY (Ch. 2 in Green Bay) will simulcast the ESPN broadcast on their over-the-air stations in accordance with NFL rules in home TV markets.
The announcers: Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 85-44 (including 6-4 in the postseason) in his eighth season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. Chicago’s Marc Trestman is 4-3 in his first season as coach of the Bears and as an NFL head coach.
The series: The Bears lead the all-time regular-season series, 91-87-6 but the Packers hold a 32-22 edge in games played in Green Bay. The Packers have won six straight and eight of the last nine meetings, including playoffs.
The rankings: The Packers’ second-ranked offense is No. 3 in rushing and No. 5 in passing. Their 11th-ranked defense is No. 4 against the run and No. 21 against the pass. The Bears’ 10th-ranked offense is No. 14 in rushing and No. 11 in passing. Their 27th-ranked defense is No. 25 against the run and No. 27 against the pass.
The line: The Packers are favored by 10 1/2 points.
The injury report: Packers – Out: TE Jermichael Finley (neck), OLB Clay Matthews (thumb). Doubtful: OLB Nick Perry (foot). Questionable: WR James Jones (knee). Probable: ILB Brad Jones (hamstring), TE Ryan Taylor (knee), CB Sam Shields (toes). Bears – Out: LB Lance Briggs (shoulder), QB Jay Cutler (groin). Questionable: WR Joe Anderson (abdomen). Probable: CB Charles Tillman (knee), S Major Wright (knee), LB Blake Costanzo (knee).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Peanut allergy: As the week was drawing to a close, Tillman was asked a series of questions about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. First, the Bears cornerback was asked about Rodgers’ ability to throw the back-shoulder pass and if it was his toughest throw to defend.
“Hell, every pass he throws is hard to defend, just because he’s that good,” Tillman replied. “He’s got a lot of precision in his arm.”
Then, Tillman was asked if Rodgers was the best at the back-shoulder, which Tillman worked on defending during practice throughout the week.
“(Expletive), he’s the best …” Tillman replied, then changing the cuss word before continuing. “Shoot, he’s the best at a lot of throws.”
Call it a mutual admiration society, because Rodgers raved about the man they call “Peanut” during his radio show last week, too. And the biggest concern for Rodgers and his receivers when it comes to Tillman is not just his ability to cover or intercept passes, but the way he forces fumbles, too. Even as he battles a knee injury, Tillman is as good as it gets at taking the football away. According to research done by ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, since his 2003 NFL debut, Tillman has forced 41 fumbles. Only Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis, with 43, has more during that stretch. And of the top 12 in that category, only Tillman isn’t a defensive end or outside linebacker, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That means that unlike Mathis and the others, Tillman doesn’t get the bulk of his fumbles by sacking an unsuspecting quarterback.
So far this season, James Jones is the only Packers receiver to lose a fumble, and he did it when he was reaching for the pylon on a would-be touchdown against Washington in Week 2. But with two relatively inexperienced wide receivers in second-year man Jarrett Boykin and rookie Myles White filling in for Jones and Randall Cobb, Tillman has new targets to go after. Even if Jones, who’s listed as questionable, plays, it’s unlikely he’ll play every offensive snap. That means the young guys better be wary.
“He’s a Pro Bowl corner, experienced veteran, savvy veteran, ball hawk. He’s an attention-to-detail type player,” wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said of Tillman: “You’ve got to always have some awareness about him certainly from a ball-security standpoint. He does an outstanding job – (he’s) one of the best in the business at causing turnovers, causing fumbles. So you’ve got to have some awareness about that.”
Center of attention: There was a time when Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith’s game was brute force and nastiness. Now, while he’s still got an edge and all kinds of strength, he’s become more of a thinking-man’s center. Watch him during the game Monday night and you’ll see him pointing out oncoming rushers and making crucial line adjustments in concert with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After starting the last two regular-season games and both playoff games last year in the wake of veteran Jeff Saturday’s benching, Dietrich-Smith has taken his game to new heights this season in the first seven games
“Evan’s done a hell of a job, man. He’s always been athletic and strong; he just wasn’t able to have the mental part of the game down four years ago or whatever it was,” Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton said. “And these past two years, he’s taken over mentally and taken over the whole mental part of the thing for the offensive line. I was just saying now when I have a question about another team, I go and ask Evan. It’s his job as a center to be right 100 percent of the time and always know what the other team is doing, and he’s done that. And like I said, he’s big and strong and fast and athletic, so I knew all he needed was the mental part. He’s playing real good football for us.”
But it’s not just what Dietrich-Smith has between the ears that’s given the line a lift. He also is a tone-setter with his style of play.
“He’s more of a physical presence in there (this year),” offensive line coach James Campen said. “He gets under people, plays with a good base, does a very good job with that. He’s a tempo guy. He’s a younger guy that can get to the line, set everything up, get us moving. So, I think he brings a lot of energy.”