Green Bay got a chance to refocus after ending a four-game win streak and Aaron Rodgers had an opportunity to heal an ailing hamstring, but the Packers might be missing a pair of offensive lineman in their return from the bye week.
The rival Chicago Bears also got a week off but it remains to be seen if that was enough time to solve their woes.
While hoping to have guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang available, the Packers try to extend their dominance over the Bears while sending them to a fifth loss in six games Sunday night.
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Rodgers threw for a season-high 418 yards while playing with his injury in a 44-23 loss in New Orleans on Oct. 26 but had two interceptions. He hadn’t been picked off since a season-opening loss in Seattle.
Sitton said he might have torn a ligament in his left big toe in the second half but played through it. Lang was taken off the field with a left ankle injury, and his status is also unclear for Sunday.
"The best offensive lines in my opinion are the ones that play week in and week out. The timing, the communication, particularly the non-verbal communication, happens so fast at the line of scrimmage, so it’s definitely a big part of the flow of your offense,” said coach Mike McCarthy, who recently signed a multiyear contract extension.
Helping keep McCarthy with Green Bay (5-3) is an 8-1 record in the last nine meetings with Chicago, which includes the NFC championship game following the 2010 season. The Packers scored 24 unanswered points for a 38-17 road win over the Bears on Sept. 28, with Rodgers throwing three of his season-high four touchdowns passes during that spurt. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb each had 100-yard receiving days with two touchdowns apiece.
Rodgers has 18 TDs and four interceptions in his last seven matchups but only got to throw two passes in the most recent visit from Chicago, a 27-20 loss Nov. 4, 2013. He broke his left collarbone on a sack from Shea McClellin and didn’t return until leading the Packers to a 33-28 victory at Chicago on Dec. 29 that gave them the NFC North title over the Bears.
He’ll face a Bears team that so far looks like it won’t even challenge for a playoff berth this year.
Chicago (3-5) was blasted 51-23 in New England before the bye week to continue a slump that began with the loss to Green Bay. Jay Cutler connected on three touchdowns against the Patriots – two after the Bears trailed 45-7 – but committed another two turnovers. He has 12 of the Bears’ 15 turnovers, including nine of their 11 during the 1-4 stretch.
Cutler had two interceptions in the loss to Green Bay, both of which led to second-half touchdowns. Cutler is 1-9 all-time against the Packers in the regular season with 19 interceptions and 13 TDs.
His 11 interceptions against Minnesota are his second-most versus any opponent.
Cutler’s turnovers are just one of the issues for Chicago second-year coach Marc Trestman. The Bears have given up a league-worst 32.0 points per game in their last five contests and are tied with Atlanta for the highest passing yards allowed per attempt at 8.71.
"We will not quit on the season. We will not quit on ourselves. We’re not going to quit on each other," general manager Phil Emery said. "We feel, without question, we built a work ethic, a system of doing things in this building is in place to have the consistency we need to win. We’re disappointed because we haven’t done that."
Chicago is expected to get some help from veteran linebacker Lance Briggs, who’s set to return from a three-game absence because of a rib injury. Cornerback and first-round draft pick Kyle Fuller, who is dealing with three injuries including a broken hand, practiced this week, and Chris Conte could be available after dealing with a concussion and shoulder sprains.
The Bears won’t have defensive end Lamarr Houston for the rest of the season after he ruptured a knee ligament while celebrating a sack of Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. However, Jared Allen is expected to play after missing the prior one with an illness. Starting guard Matt Slauson is also done for 2014 with a torn pectoral muscle.
Facing a Green Bay defense that is allowing a league-worst 153.5 rushing yards a game, the Bears will try establish a running attack.
Matt Forte, who has 562 rushing yards and is second in the league with 58 receptions for 490 yards, had a season-high 122 yards on 23 carries and five catches for 49 against Green Bay in September.
Forte has averaged 119.0 rushing yards in his last three matchups with the Packers and 169.0 total yards.
Chicago could be missing tight end Martellus Bennett, who is questionable with a rib injury. Bennett, who hurt himself in practice, was a limited participant Thursday and sat out Friday. Coach Marc Trestman says the Bears are ”hopeful he’ll play.”
He ranks second in the league among tight ends in catches with 47 and is fourth in receiving yards with 517.