CHI-GB Matchup Report
Green Bay, WI - The quarterback position for the Chicago Bears has been a revolving door of mediocrity for decades.
After pulling off a blockbuster offseason trade for Pro Bowler Jay Cutler, the Bears believe they've found a quarterback that can solidify the position and lead them to a Super Bowl.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Packes -3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on the Packers -3.5 (View NFL bet percentages).
Cutler is set to play in his first regular season game for the Bears on Sunday night when they visit the rival Green Bay Packers, who also boast a top young quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.
Chicago has gone through an NFC-high 11 different starting quarterbacks since 2001, and hasn't boasted a true franchise player at the position since Sid Luckman in the 1940s.
After finishing 9-7 to miss the playoffs for a second straight year following their Super Bowl run in 2006, the Bears sent incumbent starter Kyle Orton, two first-round draft picks and a third-rounder to Denver for Cutler in April.
With Cutler now in charge, expectations in Chicago are high.
Last season with the Broncos, Cutler set franchise records with 384 completions, 616 attempts, 4,526 yards and eight games passing for 300 or more yards. By contrast, Orton passed for more than 300 yards just once last season with the Bears.
"He does some plays and does some things out there that I've never seen,'' said Chicago running back Matt Forte, who set a franchise record for a rookie by rushing for 1,238 yards last season. "I've never had a quarterback like that. I'm just glad he's here.''
Cutler, who grew up a Bears fan in Indiana, makes his first career start for Chicago against the franchise's fiercest adversary.
"It's great for the rivalry,'' Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers also have high hopes with Rodgers entering his second season as starter.
After serving for three years as Brett Favre's backup, Rodgers started all 16 games last season for Green Bay, which went 6-10.
Rodgers passed for 4,038 yards, 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, joining Kurt Warner in 1999 as the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards in the first season they started a game. He threw for 487 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in the two games against the Bears last season.
The Packers defeated Chicago 37-3 at Lambeau Field on Nov. 16, but in the rematch at Soldier Field on Dec. 22, the Bears won 20-17 in overtime.
Ryan Grant, who enters his third season as the Packers' primary running back, rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries in the win, but was limited to 61 yards on 25 attempts in the loss.
While Green Bay hopes Rodgers continues to develop, the Packers also need improvement from their defense in order to be successful.
Green Bay allowed an average of 28.5 points while losing five of its final six games. As a result, McCarthy fired nearly all of his defensive coaching staff and brought in veteran coordinator Dom Capers to install his version of the 3-4.
The Packers return almost all of last year's defensive players, but they'll all be adjusting to different roles - including cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson, man-to-man specialists who now will be playing more zone.
The biggest adjustment will be for Aaron Kampman, who will make the transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. A pass rush specialist who made the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2007, Kampman now will find himself standing up at the line of scrimmage and sometimes dropping back into pass coverage.
"This position requires you to rush, requires you to play the run hard and also drop into coverage,'' Kampman said. "I've tried to develop all three of those skills. Every game, I get more experience, find ways to tweak and learn and grow in it.''
There won't be much room for error against Chicago, which features one of the league's better tight end tandems in Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark.
Although Cutler has one of the strongest arms in the NFL, his primary targets will likely be Olsen, Clark and Forte, who caught a team-high 63 passes for 477 yards last season. The hope is Cutler will elevate an unproven group of wide receivers led by Devin Hester, who had 51 receptions for a team-high 665 yards in 2008.
A veteran defense led by linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs also needs to improve for the Bears to be considered a serious playoff contender.
Chicago, which ranked 30th in pass defense in 2008 (241.2 yards per game), will be tested often by Rodgers, especially if cornerback Charles Tillman is unable to go coming off back surgery in July.
"I've never been to the playoffs,'' Cutler said. "I've never been to the Super Bowl. But it all starts Sunday. There's that first one Sunday, and we'll just go back and regroup. We're looking forward to it. I think we have a great shot at it.''
Posted: 9/10/09 1:58AM ET