On Thursday night, the Green Bay Packers whipped the Chicago Bears 23-10. I can’t tell you how many pundits picked the Bears to win with ease.
After whipping the rebuilding Indianapolis Colts 41-21 in Week 1, it was as if the Bears were the next coming of the… ah, well… Green Bay Packers. From Bleacher Report to Mike Greenberg on ESPN’s Mike & Mike Show, from CBC Sports to Yardbarker.com, it seems everyone thought (a) the Bears would beat the Packers and (b) the Bears would eventually win the NFC North title.
Wow! Always keep this in mind: Preseason is practice and you don’t ever pay a whole lot of attention – outside of major injuries — to what happens in Week 1.
Sure, there was reason to believe that the Bears would go into Green Bay and beat the Packers. Not a lot of reasons, but a couple. After all, the Bears looked great at home beating a team with no defense while the Packers were whipped 30-22 at home by the San Francisco 49ers. At that point, the pundits believed Jay Cutler was the dream and the Green Bay defense was a nightmare.
Let us review: The 49ers have one of the best all-around teams in football while the Colts will be lucky to finish 4-12 this season – even with Andrew Luck. Much of the American media is so convinced that Alex Smith is not a legitimate NFL starter that they allow it to cloud their thinking every time he lines up under centre. Smith isn’t Tom Brady, but he’s not bad. Last year he went 273-for-445 (61.3 per cent) for 3,144 yards, 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions. His 16-game passer rating was 90.7. That might not give him a huge fantasy ranking, but when you can hand the ball to Frank Gore from time-to-time, Smith’s numbers win football games.
He also plays for Jim Harbaugh and I often wonder if Jim and John Harbaugh might be the two best coaches in the NFL. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two of them meet in the 2013 Super Bowl.
This all means, of course, that in Week 1 the Packers were beaten by an extremely good football team that was ready to play at mid-season form. The Bears beat a rookie quarterback playing for a team that was 2-14 last year.
So on Thursday night, the Packers defense, playing against an offensive line that isn’t even in the 49ers league, ate up Jay Cutler like he was Jay Cutlet.
The Packers sacked Cutler seven times, 3 1/2 of them by Clay Mathews, while Tramon Williams had two of four interceptions. The Packers D (read: Tramon Williams) held Brandon Marshall to two catches for 24 yards. The Packers defense ain’t the Indianapolis Colts defense.
Through it all, the Bears defense looked better than it did against Indy, only it faced a superior opposition. You can’t knock the Bears D. Julius Peppers was still awesome, Izzy Idonije often beat a double-team, Tim Jennings was superb and despite a shin injury, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with Charles (Peanut) Tillman.
Aaron Rodgers was held to 22 completions on 32 attempts for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Those are not All-Pro numbers.
Trouble was, the Green Bay defense is NOT as bad as it was portrayed against San Francisco. And that’s because, despite the big time U.S. media’s love of Cutler (and they do this every year), he’s not that good. It’s why fantasy football is s-o-o-o-o much different than reality football. After Week 1, the nfl.com fantasy experts had Cutler ranked fifth among NFL quarterbacks and Smith ranked 19th. Even in a loss to San Francisco, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers was still ranked third while Smith was 19th and Smith won the football game.
Even Cam Newton, who lost 16-10 to Tampa, was ranked ninth. I repeat: Do not pay too much attention to what happens in Week 1 and do not let your fantasy team influence how you wager on NFL games. Winning fantasy and winning on the field are two different worlds.
More than anything else, here’s what we learned on Thursday night:
(1) The Chicago Bears defense is terrific but the offence is still questionable.
(2) Not many teams will make the Green Bay defense look as bad as San Francisco did for a significant number of reasons.
(3) If I’m forced to wager, I will bet on Aaron Rodgers every single time before I bet on Jay Cutler.
(4) Chicago is not going to win the NFC North and I’m still not sure the Bears will beat Detroit twice this season.
(5) Fantasy is NOT reality.
This was the most telling comment that came out of Thursday’s game in Green Bay:
“Clay Matthews was incredible,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told reporters after the game. “Defense causing turnovers, if they play like this we’re going to be hard to beat.”
As the kids say, “True dat.”