Favorite things: Oddsmakers have the Bears as five-point favorites for Sunday's game at Soldier Field. And, yes, this is unusual territory. For one thing, it's the first time this season the Bears have been favored. Even more astounding: it's the first time since December 2008 the Bears are favored over the Packers. In short, this is exactly the kind of should-win game the Bears must capitalize on if they hope to escape the NFC North basement before season's end. It's worth noting, though, that the Bears' last victory over the Packers in Chicago was a Greg Olsen-sparked 20-17 triumph in Week 3 of 2010.
Ouch! It's no secret the Packers are a different team with Aaron Rodgers out of the lineup. Since Rodgers broke his collarbone in the first quarter against the Vikings in October, the Packers' offense has had 29 possessions over 11-plus quarters and has scored just 44 points. In the five games Rodgers started and finished this season, the Packers averaged 27.4 points and 337 yards per game. In Brett Hundley's two starts: 17 points and 286 yards per game. That should open the door for a resurgent Bears defense to be aggressive for much of Sunday afternoon.
The breakthrough: There's little question that the improvement of the Bears' defense has been the most encouraging sign of the season. Heading into Week 10, the Bears rank eighth in total yards allowed (312.0) and 10th in yards allowed per play (5.0). With eight takeaways over the last three games, they also have crept up to 17th in that category with 11 overall. There's a vibe around Halas Hall that the defense has been in sync on all three levels and will continue to grow. "All of us are locked in," Pernell McPhee said. "We're creating this brotherhood. We have to keep the chemistry going."
Throwing out options: The Bears are making a push to give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky more support. And that may start Sunday with the inclusion of receivers Dontrelle Inman and Markus Wheaton into the game plan. Inman will be playing his first game with the Bears after coming over in a trade with the Chargers two weeks ago. Wheaton is attempting his latest comeback, this time from a groin strain after previously missing time following an appendectomy and a broken finger. It will be up to coordinator Dowell Loggains to figure out how each receiver fits best in the offense and how they ultimately can lift the passing game in sore need of a boost.
- Bears on offense
In the air
NFL rank: Bears offense 32nd, Packers defense 20th
Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky begins the second half of the season with a patched up receiving corps. Veteran Dontrelle Inman makes his debut after his Oct. 25 trade from the Chargers. At 6-foot-3, he has a friendly catch radius the Bears haven't had with Cameron Meredith and Kevin White injured. Speedster Markus Wheaton returns from a groin injury that cost him three games. Packers rookie cornerback Kevin King is physical at the line of scrimmage. The Packers are 27th in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.
On the ground
NFL rank: Bears offense 6th, Packers defense 23rd
Jordan Howard averaged only 2.9 yards on 18 carries in the Bears' 35-14 loss to the Packers on Sept. 28, in which the Bears fell behind 21-0. His 102-yard output against the Saints marked the third time this season he has rushed for more than 100 yards. His 50-yard carry was his second-longest of the season. The Packers held the Lions to a 1.9-yard average on 33 carries last Monday night, but they will miss safety Morgan Burnett (groin), whose versatility helped them use a three-safety package.
Bears 29th in total offense, 27th in points scored
Packers 25th in total defense, 22nd in points allowed
- Packers on offense
In the air
NFL rank: Packers offense 21st, Bears defense 11th
Quarterback Brett Hundley makes his third start in place of injured star Aaron Rodgers (collar bone). Hundley runs well, and his athleticism has prompted Bears coaches to emphasize the importance of pursuing him until the whistle blows. Hundley gets jittery in the pocket, and he's quick to drop his eyes if his first read isn't open. But he has a strong arm, can be accurate and still has receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on his side. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd's second-half focus is being more violent finishing sacks.
On the ground
NFL rank: Packers offense T-21st, Bears defense 13th
Rookie Aaron Jones has solidified his spot in the Packers' backfield, even now that Ty Montgomery is healthy. "He hits it quickly and hard, runs with authority and he has speed, too, to bounce it outside," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. Montgomery has great vision and consistently breaks tackles. The Bears would miss inside linebacker Danny Trevathan (calf) if he can't play. He has good instincts and has been a swarming presence. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman has been a reliable, gap-disciplined run stopper.
Packers 23rd in total offense, T-11th in points scored
Bears 8th in total defense, 13th in points allowed
Packers RT Justin McCray (No. 64)
Measurables: 6-foot-3, 317 pounds
Assigned: Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (No. 94)
Notable numbers: McCray has made four starts this season — two at right tackle and two at left guard. … Floyd has five sacks over his last five games and had a takedown of Aaron Rodgers in the teams' first meeting in September.
Scouting report: This is the kind of matchup Floyd should be drooling over. One of his predominant attributes — his length — is one thing McCray doesn't have. Furthermore, Floyd will be chasing after an inexperienced quarterback in Brett Hundley, who hasn't demonstrated the same feel for the game and effectiveness on the move as Rodgers. McCray has been a jack-of-all-trades this season, helping where needed on an offensive line that has been patched together week to week. "He has played different positions throughout the season," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "And I can't commend him enough because his week of preparation is never just set on one spot." Now, McCray is needed at right tackle after Bryan Bulaga tore the ACL in his right knee in Monday's loss to the Lions. He started at right tackle against the Bears in Week 4 but could have his hands full against Floyd.
Word from within: "I like his whole game. He's young. He's competitive. He obviously has very good feet. He doesn't have great length to play tackle but his feet and his balance are a real strength of his." — Mike McCarthy
Aaron Jones, Packers RB
Information for this report was obtained from NFL scouts.
Aaron Jones is a rookie fifth-round draft pick from UTEP, the second of two running backs the Packers selected this year. The 5-foot-9, 208-pounder got his first action of the season in the first meeting with the Bears in Week 4 and quickly moved ahead of Jamaal Williams, a fourth-round pick from BYU.
Jones got only five carries in Monday night's loss to the Lions and is splitting time with Ty Montgomery. He has had two 100-yard games, going for 131 in Week 7 against the Saints and 125 in Week 5 against the Cowboys. He set the career rushing records at UTEP.
"I really like him and I'll be honest, I've been surprised with him," the scout said. "I didn't see a lot of him because this was a pretty hyped running back class and he didn't get the buzz the guys at the top did. He has done a pretty good job.
"His best game was against the Saints in (Brett) Hundley's first start. He had a big run up the middle and that stood out to me because I wasn't sure he had that kind of burst or speed. It was just an inside run, made a nice cut, waited for the block to develop and, man, he took off and split the safeties. Gone. He plays with good vision, good pad level. He has enough wiggle in his game to shake guys at the second level.
"He hasn't been involved as much in the passing game. That's because they have Montgomery (a former wide receiver). The problem they have run into is their offense is so damn limited with Hundley. Jones has to get more touches to take pressure off Hundley. He's a pretty good player.
"He gave up a sack Monday night and that could be part of it. The Packers had some success when they started to go up-tempo and maybe they figure they can't have him on the field then. If he can't pass protect for the young quarterback, Montgomery's snap count is going to go up and this is probably going to be dependent on game flow. I think he's a better inside runner than Montgomery and he's just as physical. Montgomery probably has better lateral quickness and change-of-direction speed, but how much do you need if you just have to slip one tackle at the second level and go?
"He would be much more highlighted by now if Aaron Rodgers wasn't out because I believe Mike McCarthy really wants to run the ball."
Brad Biggs (4-4)
Bears are playing better on defense and have superior running game. They also rate edge at quarterback with Mitch Trubisky, and when is the last time the Bears could say that playing against the Packers? Bears 17, Packers 13
Rich Campbell (5-3)
Neither offense scores consistently, but the Bears will play better defense. Packers fill-in quarterback Brett Hundley lacked poise in their Monday night loss to the Lions, dropping his eyes too quickly when his first option wasn't available. That will get him into trouble against a Bears defense that has a high collective motor and has thrived on takeaways in the last three games. Coaches will try to open up the passing game for Mitch Trubisky, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. But they have had two weeks to reassess the passing game and incorporate receive Dontrelle Inman and tight ends Adam Shaheen and Daniel Brown. That will help just enough. Bears 17, Packers 15
David Haugh (4-4)
Bears finally will break through and finally win a game under John Fox they are expected to win. Defense will carry them. Mitch Trubisky will outduel Brett Hundley in the battle of developmental quarterbacks. Bears 21, Packers 17
Colleen Kane (4-4)
Packers haven't scored more than 17 points in a game under backup QB Brett Hundley. Bears defense will make sure streak continues as Bears post first victory over Packers at Soldier Field since 2010. Bears 20, Packers 17
Mike Mulligan (4-4)
Loss of Aaron Rodgers to broken right clavicle has exposed all of Packers' flaws. They are vulnerable and coming off a short week. Bears defense can and must carry the day. Bears 20, Packers 17
Phil Thompson (4-4)
Packers must find way to move ball against eight-ranked Bears defense. Packers' defense, makes offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains' blueprint pretty clear: Run Jordan Howard. Bears 24, Packers 20
Dan Wiederer (7-1)
Just about everyone, it seems, is picking Bears and it feels odd. But this is chance for John Fox's team to prove its resurgence is legitimate. Defense was terrific in October, creating eight turnovers while allowing just four touchdowns. And there's reason to believe Bears can build on their momentum in season's second half. After facing murderer's row of standout quarterbacks over first eight games (Ryan, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Newton, Brees), the Bears' D now will get a crack at 24-year-old Brett Hundley in his third NFL start. Vic Fangio's bunch should be ready to capitalize. Bears 17, Packers 13