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4 things to watch: Bears-Packers

The Bears will look to rebound from last Sunday's demoralizing loss to the Jaguars Thursday night when they visit the Packers. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:

(1) Will the Bears defense be able to contain Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

Rodgers owned the Bears, winning 10 straight games he had started and finished against them until the streak was broken in dramatic fashion last Thanksgiving night in Green Bay. In an impressive 17-13 victory at Lambeau Field, the Bears held the Packers star to a 62.4 passer rating that remains his lowest in 66 career home starts.

Another strong effort by an injury-depleted defense Thursday night could give the Bears back-to-back wins over Rodgers for the first time ever. So far this season Rodgers has not played up to his usual high level, posting a 60.2 completion percentage and 88.4 passer rating that would be the worst of his career since he replaced Brett Favre as Green Bay's starting quarterback in 2008.


Receiver Cameron Meredith has 26 catches for 295 yards and one touchdown so far in 2016.

Rodgers and the Packers were booed at Lambeau Field last Sunday during their 30-16 loss to the Cowboys, a development one writer compared to the Pope getting booed at the Vatican. Since throwing seven touchdown passes and one interception in the first three games this year, Rodgers has tossed three TDs and three interceptions the last two weeks against the Giants and Cowboys.

(2) Will the Bears do a better job of capitalizing on their scoring opportunities?

The Bears enter Thursday night's game ranked seventh in the NFL in total yards and 31st in scoring, a huge discrepancy that shows they've been able to move the ball up and down the field but have struggled getting into the end zone.

In losses to the Colts and Jaguars the past two weeks, the Bears compiled 911 total yards but scored only three touchdowns. They generated just two TDs on seven red-zone trips in those contests, settling for five field goals after reaching their opponents' 9, 6, 18, 6 and 9.

It was nice to see Connor Barth make all three of his field-goal attempts last Sunday against the Jaguars after missing three of his first eight tries this season. But the Bears would rather send him out on the field for an extra point than a field goal.

"We're leaving points on the board," offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said this week. "Every time you kick a field goal it's a four-point play. In the NFL, the games are so close, you can't have that point change."

(3) Which team will be more affected by injuries?

Bears fans know all about the injury epidemic that has thinned out their team's roster this season, but the Packers are also hurting. Green Bay will play Thursday night's game without its top two running backs and three best cornerbacks.

With running backs Eddie Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee) injured, the Packers traded a conditional late-round draft pick to the Chiefs this week in exchange for Knile Davis. At cornerback, Sam Shields (concussion) was placed on injured reserve, while Damarious Randall (groin) and Quinten Rollins (groin) won't play Thursday night because of injuries.

The Bears, meanwhile, are expected to line up without at least eight players they were counting on to be major contributors this season: Quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Jeremy Langford, receivers Kevin White and Eddie Royal, guard Josh Sitton, center Hroniss Grasu, nose tackle Eddie Goldman and outside linebacker Lamarr Houston.

(4) Will Pernell McPhee make his season debut, and if he does, how effective will he be?

The Bears can still activate outside linebacker Pernell McPhee from the physically unable to perform list before Thursday night's game. The veteran missed the first six games following offseason surgery to repair a knee injury that slowed him last November and December.

Prior to the injury, McPhee was everything the Bears envisioned when they signed him in free agency. He quickly became the heart and soul of the defense, bringing toughness, attitude and leadership to the unit while registering 32 tackles and five sacks in a five-game stretch. His production dipped late in the year after he injured his knee, however. He ended the season with 64 tackles, six sacks, 10 tackles-for-loss, one interception and one forced fumble in 14 games.

The Bears could use a productive McPhee back on the field, especially given that outside linebacker Willie Young has been the only consistent pass rusher on the team. Young has excelled the past two weeks, recording three sacks against the Colts and two versus the Jaguars.

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