Four Downs: Can Marshall back it up?
Brandon Marshall started the fireworks on Wednesday, saying this matchup is "personal" after he claims Packers defensive backs took too much credit for Marshall's quiet performance in their Week 2 game.
But now Marshall has raised the stakes with his comments. Will he come to regret them on Sunday? Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: Brandon Marshall will regret calling out the Packers secondary.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. What does Marshall have to lose? The Bears will no doubt be the underdogs on Sunday, partly because their season is slipping away with four losses in their last five games, but mainly due to the fact Green Bay has won seven of the past eight games in the series. If the Bears fall short on Sunday, well, it was bound to happen anyways. But imagine if the Bears win. Marshall will be praised for setting the tone during the week and taking all the pressure off his teammates so they could focus on the task at hand. It's really a no-lose situation for Marshall. It's not like the Green Bay secondary is going to play any harder because of what Marshall said.
Michael C. Wright: Fiction. Marshall plays a very emotional brand of football, and he's the type of guy that isn't shy about expressing how he feels. So regardless of how this one pans out, Marshall won't regret anything he said. The Packers pretty much bottled up Marshall in the first game, holding him to just two catches for 24 yards by utilizing quite a bit of two-man coverage, which the Bears struggled to adjust to. Marshall wasn't happy about his performance, and the Packers made the receiver even more mad by their remarks after the game. Obviously, the Bears will go into this one with an answer for the wrinkle the Packers used last time. But surely Green Bay will throw something new Sunday at Marshall and the Bears. Marshall has gained 150-plus yards receiving in each of his past two outings, so naturally he comes into this game confident. The back-and-forth between the players this week is just typical of what takes place in a rivalry like this. Marshall won't regret a word he said, whether he catches one pass or 10.
Scott Powers: Fiction. Marshall is going to get his whether he runs his mouth or not. He's just too good. He's proven that all season. If the Packers are smart, they'll brush off Marshall's comments and just play. They probably won't though, and will likely pick up some stupid pass interference calls and try to overplay him. In the end, it may work to Marshall's advantage and get him a few added yards. Either way, I see another big day for Marshall, but another Bears' loss.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Marshall has nothing to lose starting a war of words. He's, hands-down, the team MVP this year. Marshall has caught 20 passes for 325 yards over the last two games, both losses. He's on pace to break the three main single-season records for a Bears receiver. Whether or not he has an impact game is on Jay Cutler, Mike Tice and the offensive line. Marshall likely will drop a pass, but he will also get targeted 15-plus times if Cutler can perform as expected. One thing people tend to forget is that this is entertainment, not war. We need more guys willing to spice it up with some passion.
Fact or Fiction: Lovie Smith has to take the Bears to the playoffs to be back next season.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. There is absolutely no way an NFL team can justify retaining a coach who misses out on the playoffs five times in six years. Not in this day and age. Smith is a high-level coach with an 82-65 overall record. He will find another NFL head-coaching job if the Bears eventually let him go, but sometimes a regime change is necessary. Let's not push Smith out the door just yet. If the Bears win enough games to qualify for the playoffs, then anything is possible. But if the slide continues and the Bears don't get in, there is no way I can see the Bears allowing Smith to stick around for a 10th year in Chicago.
Scott Powers: Fact. The Bears' late-season collapse has been a result of a number of factors, but Smith likely will pay for it if they don't make the playoffs. Plus, the decision goes well beyond this season. While the Bears have made the playoffs and even gone to the Super Bowl under Smith, the goal has always been to win the Super Bowl, and that hasn't happened and doesn't appear it will happen with Smith as coach. It's time for a change if the Bears reach the playoffs and possibly even if they don't.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. I'll admit the backloaded schedule made the Bears look better than they really were, which makes an 8-5 record look less formidable after dropping four of five games. But Smith is in a tough position. If the Bears miss the playoffs, it's essentially two straight late-season collapses under his watch. It's certainly five of six seasons with no playoff appearances. With a new general manager and a veteran defense built for Smith's style, it would be an apropos time to get a new coach. Playoffs or bust is fair.
Fact or Fiction: The Bears will be able to handle Clay Matthews on Sunday.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Matthews could still be effective in his first game back from injury, but he's not going to put on the show he did Week 2 at Lambeau Field when he had 3.5 sacks. The Bears will not, and I repeat, will not allow J'Marcus Webb to go one-on-one with Matthews on the outside. Webb will get help. If not, Jay Cutler might get knocked out of the game. And if that happens, Webb might be on the receiving end of more than a bump from his Bears' teammates.
Michael C. Wright: Fiction. They couldn't handle him last game, and nothing the Bears have done up front since then suggests they'll neutralize Matthews when the teams meet again on Sunday. Matthews dropped Jay Cutler for 3.5 sacks in the Sept. 13 meeting, and he'll likely put up similar numbers in this game. The Bears will do all they can to protect left tackle Webb, but it's likely the Packers will bring Matthews from multiple areas. By chipping, keeping in tight ends, utilizing max protection and going with quick drops limits what the Bears can do offensively. They know that. So sometimes, they'll have to place the offensive linemen in one-on-one situations, and I'm betting they'll lose most of those battles.
Scott Powers: Fiction. The Bears offensive line has the same problems, maybe even more now, as they did when Matthews went for 3.5 sacks in Week 2. I don't expect Matthews to have as much of an impact as last time since he's missed the past four games with a hamstring injury, but don't be surprised if he's still causing trouble in the Bears' backfield come Sunday.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Matthews won't have 3.5 sacks again, right? Not with giving Webb some help, right? Who's to say Matthews, returning after a month's rest, doesn't beat the Bears' extra attention? I have no faith on the offensive game plan or the team's offensive line. I can't predict the future but since you're asking me for my prediction, I'll mimic Chicago native Mr. T: Pain.
Fact or Fiction: Aaron Rodgers will be the reason the Packers win on Sunday.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. When all else fails, the Packers can always turn to No. 12. Granted, the Bears have done a respectable job against Rodgers over the years, but if push comes to shove, he has the ability, and the talent around him, to make big plays to win a game. It's no coincidence that Green Bay started to dominate this rivalry around the same time Rodgers replaced Brett Favre. Rodgers knows how to beat the Bears. The Bears don't know how to beat Rodgers. That's why he's always the ultimate X-factor when these two teams square off.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. In my opinion, the reason the Packers have dominated the Bears in this series in recent years is they've had better play at the quarterback position. Rodgers took five sacks the last time the teams played, yet he still lit up the Bears for a couple of touchdown passes in addition to completing 69.7 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 98.8. So even though the Bears might be able to get to Rodgers, he's proven he can still make things happen in the most difficult situations. He'll be the difference maker in this one; especially when you consider how mediocre the defense has been in recent outings.
Scott Powers: Fiction. Rodgers will be one of the reasons. But there will be many reasons -- the Bears' offensive line, lack of offensive weapons, defensive injuries, etc. -- the Packers win, but not just Rodgers.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. The reason the Packers win is the Bears' offense not being able to protect Cutler or formulate a cogent early plan. Rodgers has had good and mediocre games against the Bears, but I'm confident the top passing defense in the league (according to Football Outsiders) can limit the Packers (even if Tim Jennings is out) to a reasonable degree and stop Rodgers from "going off." Rodgers won't lose the game for Green Bay, but the Bears are their own worst enemy.