Troubling Mismatches Bears Face Against Packers

Matchups against several Pro Bowl Packers could leave Bears at a disadvantage in showdown for playoff berth
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There's no question the Bears have played better over the last four games, although this improvement came against a weaker stretch of opponents.

The Green Bay Packers have excelled all season long, with losses only against Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Indianapolis.

"It's gonna be a playoff-type atmosphere," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "It is a playoff-type game, obviously. You wouldn't want it any other way."

If there wasn't enough hype surrounding the game, then Packers tackle David Bakhtiari provided extra incentive.

"So I'm assuming all of us in our facility are definitely going to go in with 'Let's beat the piss out of the Bears because we'll get the 1-seed,' " Bakhtiari said in an interview with Milwaukee's AM-1250. "Then, the following week we can practice, heal up and watch the games to see who will come up to Lambeau Field."

It could very well happen based on the earlier game between the teams because the Bears are taking a drastic step up in the type of personnel they faced over Jacksonville, Minnesota, Houston and Detroit in their previous four games.

How far have they really come since they were trampled about a month ago 41-25 in Green Bay before the start of this stretch?

Here are the most difficult matchups they'll have on Sunday and the outcome in these will go a long way in determining the answer.

Bears RG Alex Bars vs. Packers NT Kenny Clark

Clark will line up on either the center, the right guard or sometimes even the left guard and terrorize the inside. The young Notre Dame interior for the Bears helped hold Clark to one tackle and one quarterback hit in the first game between the teams when other years he has been a menacing figure along the line. In last year's games, he had 2 1/2 sacks and three tackles for loss. Clark does it with extreme quickness off a first step for a player in the 315-pound range. Bars has held his own despite inexperience, but hasn't been spectacular. He owns a 54.5 grade on the year according to Pro Football Focus' grading system, which is relatively low but not so much for someone playing for the first time. Bars has allowed one sack, but none since lining up at right guard.

tBBears DE Bilal Nichols vs. Packers LG Elgton Jenkins

Jenkins made the Pro Bowl and is at his best as a pass blocker this year with a 75.7 PFF pass-blocking score and 68.3 overall. He has allowed only one sack. Nichols would have been considered no match for Jenkins earlier in the year but has been coming on strong as he mixes time between end and nose tackle. Nichols still is at his best playing at end and has produced several big plays in recent games, including an interception against Detroit and a near pick last week. Jenkins is not a massive, overpowering guard at 6-5, 311. He's about the same size as Nichols, who had one solo tackle and two assists in the first game between the teams.

Bears LT Charles Leno Jr. vs. Packers OLB Za'Darius Smith

Another Packers Pro Bowl player and Leno has been experiencing one of his more consistent seasons, with a 74.9 PFF grade overall and a 75.4 pass-blocking grade despite allowing five sacks, the 10th most at his position in the league. Smith had the strip-sack on Mitchell Trubisky which resulted in a Packers TD return to turn the game into a rout before halftime. He has two sacks in three Packer games against the Bears and Leno

Bears CB Kindle Vildor vs. Packers WR Davante Adams

This would be Jaylon Johnson if his shoulder has recovered enough but so far indications are it could be in a potential playoff game when he returns. He wasn't able to practice on Monday. Vildor got beat badly and sometimes has show lack of technique on the deep sideline routes, like Adams can run. When taller receivers go vertical on him, Vildor is at his worst and gave up a TD last week that way against Jacksonville. Admas had six catches for 61 yards and a TD in the first matchup this year and in the last four games has 25 receptions for 319 yards and two TDs. His leaping ability and speed make it likely Vildor will give him some free yards on routes just to prevent the deep ball.

Bears S Tashaun Gipson vs. Packers TE Robert Tonyan

Tonyan burned the Bears secondary for five receptions, 67 yards and a TD in the first game and the TD actually came against Eddie Jackson and not Gipson, as either could wind up covering him when matched up man to man. At 6-5, 237, Tonyan is definitely not a big tight end but has developed a knack for getting open within this offense and learned some of that from Jimmy Graham, who mentored him somewhat last year. He has 50 catches on the year. Gipson is allowing a passer rating of 96.1 when targeted, and 64.4%. He's been a solid tackler, missing only on 4.5% of his attempts.

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