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Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Bears


They say that you can throw out the records when the Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears.

Heading into Sunday's game at Lambeau Field, both teams probably would love nothing more. But even though the Packers (6-6) and the Bears (5-7) have so-so records to this point, believe it or not, both teams are still in the playoff hunt.

If December football, a playoff race, Lambeau Field and the Packers-Bears rivalry isn't the recipe for an outstanding football game, nothing is.

This week's game also includes a bit of gamesmanship.

The Bears have avoided naming their starting quarterback this week, although there are indications that it will be Kordell Stewart over Chris Chandler.

Both quarterbacks are experienced, but their playing styles are very different.

Stewart isn't Michael Vick, but he's a scrambling, roll-out type, while Chandler is more of the drop-back passer. The Packers have had to prepare in practice to face either of them this week, but they probably would have done so anyway.

With a guy like Chandler, you expect short drops and quick passes. With a guy like Vick, you have to expect busted plays and quarterback keepers.

When the Packers played the Bears in September, they had Stewart's number, sacking him five times and intercepting him twice. But Stewart is coming off a strong performance against the Arizona Cardinals, and it's clear he's gaining confidence as he continues to get comfortable with the Chicago offense.

Running back Anthony Thomas, better known as the A-Train, is coming back from illness but gives the Bears a weapon in the backfield. The Packers did a great job of containing Thomas in their first meeting this season.

A-Train finished the game with 110 yards, but 67 of those yards came on one play. This week, Packers middle linebacker Nick Barnett will be back on the field after missing the Detroit game with a sprained ankle, and he'll see that those kinds of defensive breakdowns don't happen again.

The Bears would love to run the ball and control the clock against the Packers, but I also expect them to come out with some trick plays: reverses, throwbacks and such.

Chicago's special teams are notorious for trying to block punts and field goal attempts, and they're not afraid to fake some punts and kicks themselves when they have the ball.

The Packers need to be aware of such trickery at all times. But the best defense against the trick play is to strike first with a trick play of your own.

In September, Marcus Wilkins blocked a punt and William Henderson narrowly missed picking up a first down on a fake field goal. That kind of aggressive play will benefit the Packers again this week.

Offensively, the Packers should expect an equally aggressive Bears defense.

All week long the Bears have been saying they'll do whatever it takes to win this ballgame. To me that translates to blitz, blitz, blitz.

Brett Favre is still the team's leader, but with Ahman Green on pace to set the Packers single-season rushing record, opposing teams would be stupid not to stack against the run.

Whether they come right out and say it, teams are daring Favre to throw. And although that might sound like an insult, Packers fans should just sit back and smile.

Sure, Favre's performance against the Detroit Lions was far from pretty, but he's still the best quarterback in the NFC North and he's still one of the best quarterbacks in the game.

Packers fans need to keep things in perspective. Don't compare Favre to your memories of him in the mid-90s, compare him to what other teams around the league are forced to play with now.

The best thing about Favre is that he refuses to quit. People said he couldn't win at Minnesota, but he had a great performance there. At Tampa, another house of horrors for him, he made several huge throws to lead the Packers over the defending Super Bowl champions.

Now the Packers have their backs against the wall again, and I'm sure Favre will help them answer the call.

Javon Walker has demonstrated that he's a big-play threat, and the Packers have to get him involved in the passing game. But the first order of business will be establishing the run.

The Packers offensive line has something to prove after the Lions game, and they'll look to dominate the Chicago D-line from the get-go. You can bet it's been eating away at Chad Clifton, Mike Flanagan, Marco Rivera, Mark Tauscher and Mike Wahle to have to wait a few extra days to get back on the field and seek revenge.

Under Dick Jauron, the Bears are 2-2 at Lambeau Field and all the games have been close. He'll have his players confident that they can beat the Packers on the Frozen Tundra and not only boost their own playoff hopes, but smash the Packers' post-season dreams.

But the motivation goes both ways in this game.

The Packers are out of wiggling room, so they have to come out angry and tough and take it to the Bears from the opening snap to the final whistle.

The Packers need to show what they're made of and give the division-leading Minnesota Vikings something to think about.

As tired as the expression sounds, the Packers really are at the stage where they have to look at each week as a one-game, must-win season.

I'm going to be at the game cheering the boys on, and I hope you'll be doing the same from your living room.

Great teams rise to the occasion and the stage is set for a memorable match-up.

This is why you love football!

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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