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Packers' offense getting healthier as Bears' defense remains on the rise

Two units hitting their stride set to clash Sunday in Green Bay

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

GREEN BAY – The Packers' receiving corps appears to be getting healthier just as the Bears' defense looks to be peaking.

Talk about a whale of a matchup on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Regarding pass catchers, Green Bay's revolving door might finally be slowing down, as the unit creeps as close to full strength as it's been for more than a month heading into this win-to-get-in game.

Christian Watson has missed the last four games with another hamstring injury but was back on the practice field Wednesday and told reporters he's "in a really good spot" and optimistic about playing.

Jayden Reed, who caught six passes for 89 yards and two TDs in the first half last week in Minnesota before exiting with a chest injury, said everything checked out fine and he's taking it "day by day" with a similar tinge of optimism.

In addition, Dontayvion Wicks was back at practice after missing the last game and a half with a chest injury, and tight end Luke Musgrave continues to practice on his road back from a lacerated kidney.

There's no guarantee all, or even any, will be back in action Sunday afternoon. But their potential return "would be huge" to quarterback Jordan Love and the offense as a whole.

"All of us do something really well, but it's all different," Watson said. "Having all of us out there is going to help open up everybody else."

Watson's return would likely be the most game-changing, as he was on a scoring binge with four touchdowns in his last three games before getting hurt late in the victory over Kansas City in Week 13.

Reconnecting with the speedster as though he never left is Love's goal and belief.

"We have to," Love said. "With this being the possibility of the last game of the season, we can't have any lulls with that. We've got to be able to pick up right where we left off. I'm fully expecting that to happen."

Head Coach Matt LaFleur cautioned Watson might be available for the game only for a limited number of snaps but "he'll definitely bring a spark."

Added Reed: "He can change the look of a defense for us, so it's great to have him back. Love seeing him out there. He looks good."

On the flip side, so does Chicago's defense, which has allowed just 15.2 points per game over the last five weeks as the Bears have gone 4-1. That's a stark turnaround from the 34.3 points per game Chicago allowed in starting the season 0-4.

Head coach Matt Eberflus taking over the defensive play-calling duties a month into the season, and the addition of pass rusher Montez Sweat from Washington at the trade deadline – he has six sacks for the Bears since the start of November – both have made a difference.

But so has the natural chemistry that develops within a unit over time, as the Bears signed veteran inside linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards in the offseason, a dynamic pair LaFleur called "a problem" in the center of all the action. Those two were playing their first game in Chicago when the Packers put up 30-plus points against the Bears back in Week 1.

"I just think that it looks like a group that has played 16 games together," LaFleur said. "I mean, you look at their roster and for the most part most of those guys are healthy. They've played a lot of ball together and they've grown together. And you can see it. It's evident."

Their defense also has morphed into a turnover machine, as the Bears have gone plus-11 in turnover margin over their last six contests. They're now up to 22 interceptions on the season, tops in the league, with three players (cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Tyrique Stevenson, along with Edmunds) posting four each on the year.

All four of Stevenson's picks have come in the last five games, including two last Sunday vs. Atlanta that earned the rookie second-round pick from Miami the NFC Defensive Player of the Week honor.

LaFleur emphasized the Bears rarely bust a coverage and explained the key for Love, the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

"He's going to have to do a great job with his eyes, because these guys read the QB as good as anybody," LaFleur said. "There's just not a lot of holes in their defense. You have to earn everything you get."

The Packers have gotten hot on offense, topping 30 points each of the past two weeks after not doing so since Week 1, even with various players out or leaving the lineup.

The Bears have been impressively stout on defense, rising to No. 1 in the league against the run to go along with all those takeaways lately.

"I think they're pretty dangerous," Love said. "Obviously, they have the power to send us home.

"We just have to find some answers to take advantage of what they do."

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