Fantasy Football

Two Packers could be key vs. Bears

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Michael Harmon

Mike is a fantasy contributor for FOXSports.com.MORE>>
 
   
 

It’s like we’re all lining up shoulder-to-shoulder and doing gassers. The new NFL schedule does not allow us to pause and catch our collective breath.

You haven’t even moved past the final game of Week 1. You’re still pondering the long-snapping issues that plagued the Raiders. You’re still wondering how Philip Rivers didn’t put forth a larger final point total given the advantageous field position.

Shake it off. Get back to the line and ready to suck it up. The whistle blows for Bears-Packers on Thursday night.

Let’s put this matchup of historic franchises under the microscope and ponder the fantasy impact on your Week 2 lineup.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks to shake off the season-opening home loss to San Francisco. He posted a strong fantasy day with 303 passing yards and two touchdowns, although a late interception squashed any comeback attempt. Rodgers rushed for 27 yards to offset the interception in terms of fantasy scoring, just in case you were wondering.

Anyway, Rodgers faces a familiar foe in a prime time tilt. He’s played well historically against Chicago, and I don’t suspect we see much different this time out. Rodgers will have to contend with Julius Peppers off of the edge, but Brian Urlacher looked like a player who missed virtually all of training camp against the Colts. If Rod Marinelli can’t get creative in bringing pressure against Rodgers, then it could be a long day for the Chicago secondary.

The Bears’ best cornerback, Charles “Peanut” Tillman, sustained a lower-leg injury against the Colts and did not return. Chicago coach Lovie Smith indicated that Tillman is expected to play on Thursday night, and he’ll face up against Jordy Nelson (five receptions for 64 yards in the opener). Look for Rodgers to test Tillman’s leg early.

Greg Jennings’ health was one of the early “breaking” news items on Wednesday. Prior to the game, Jennings was listed as inactive because of a groin injury, thereby solidifying Randall Cobb’s status as a strong WR3 play this week. Cobb was targeted nine times by Rodgers in the Week 1 loss to San Francisco. He finished with nine receptions and 77 receiving yards. Cobb will match up with Tim Jennings, who made several huge plays in the opener against Indianapolis.

Veteran Donald Driver is still on the roster and figures to see an increased snap count in the absence of Jennings. Driver only saw the field in Week 1 after Jennings departed.

Speedster James Jones also warrants a look-see against the Bears following his four-reception, 81-yard effort that included a long touchdown catch. He’s an enticing deep threat, but the presence of Cobb relegates him to WR4 status.

The Packers were unable to run the ball at San Francisco, as expected. Cedric Benson produced 18 yards on nine carries and, as expected, played no role in passing situations. He’s firmly affixed to your bench until the Packers demonstrate an ability (or want) to run the ball. Will we see some Alex Green?

Let’s flip to the other side of the matchup and throw.

Jay Cutler was sharp against the retooled Indianapolis secondary following an early gaffe that resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown. Cutler finished with 336 yards on 21-of-35 passing with two touchdowns and an interception. He’s set for a huge night against the Packers secondary that struggled to contain Alex Smith and lost track of receivers with some regularity.

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has undoubtedly worked up some innovative blitzes and stunts to get after Cutler and force the ball out quickly. The much-maligned Chicago offensive line, particularly third-year tackle J’Marcus Webb, will be tested early and often.

Of course, the key to getting Cutler such space and allowing him to find a rhythm is to attack the defensive front like San Francisco was able to do. The 49ers leaned on the Packers in the second half and Frank Gore got stronger and ate up chunks of turf as the game rolled forward. The Packers ceded 186 rushing yards overall.

Chicago’s dynamic duo of Matt Forte and Michael Bush stand to post big games as well. Forte owners groaned when Bush vultured two touchdown runs against Indianapolis, but breathed a sigh of relief when he recorded one of his own. The Bears produced 114 rushing yards altogether against the overmatched Indianapolis defense.

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While this is a decided step up in class overall for the Chicago offense, the ability of the Green Bay defense (4.7 yards per carry allowed in 2011) to slow the run is in question, particularly as B.J. Raji struggles with an ankle injury. I don’t contend that the Chicago offensive line rivals that of San Francisco at this point, but I’m curious to see what Mike Tice has designed for this contest.

Let’s get back to the position that set tongues wagging all preseason and on Sunday afternoon, the Chicago wide receivers.

Brandon Marshall tormented the Colts, registering nine receptions for 119 yards, including his first touchdown as a Bear. Marshall squares off against Tramon Williams, who will receive a ton of safety help from Charles Woodson.

Rookie Alshon Jeffery scored his first NFL touchdown in Sunday’s win as well. Jeffery caught three of his five targets for 80 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown reception.

I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re talking about a big Devin Hester play, but we’re not in need of going deep into the sleeper well just yet.

As you can guess from this long diatribe, I’m bullish on the both offenses for this contest. The Colts moved the ball well against the Bears in the opener, but Andrew Luck’s success was impeded by multiple dropped passes. Cutler has two big, capable receivers on the outside, backs who catch well and role players such as Hester and Earl Bennett to make contributions. Conversely, the 49ers effectively mixed their running game with well-timed, well-executed pass plays for Alex Smith.

Start Robbie Gould and Mason Crosby. I apologize for the forced nod to kickers.

Tagged: Bears, Packers, Colts, 49ers, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, Jay Cutler, Greg Jennings, Tim Jennings, Earl Bennett, Randall Cobb, Alex Green

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