Tonight’s Thursday night game is another installment of a classic NFC North rivalry as the Bears face off with the Packers. While this matchup is one that probably would have ended up on national TV one way or the other, it also shows the cons of having a Thursday night game every single week. Both of these teams have had the injuries pile up at a rapid pace and will be missing plenty of key players in this contest. However, due to many of those injuries taking place in the secondary, this game does have the potential to be a high scoring affair.
If you were to only look at figures such as yards per game, the Bears offense would look like one of the more potent attacks in the league. Unfortunately, they have trouble turning those yards into points. Since replacing an injured Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer has exceeded expectations and then some. Known for erratic play in the past, Hoyer has completed almost 70 percent of his passes and has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his four starts. All of this comes without throwing an interception as well. With the Packers top three cornerbacks all out for this one, there is a chance Hoyer has another big day.
Alshon Jeffery last week looked the healthiest he had all year, which means him seeing a season high 13 targets this past Sunday may not be just a coincidence. He has a fantastic matchup this week and is an excellent play in any fantasy format. With Kevin White out for the year, Cameron Meredith has really emerged in his absence. Undrafted out of Illinois State, Meredith has quickly become a favorite of Hoyer having a whopping 27 throws in his direction the past two weeks. With that kind of volume, Meredith also makes for a very safe play in all fantasy formats. The Bears will be without Eddie Royal in this one, but don’t be surprised if this just opens more creative ways to use Zach Miller. While his 8.5 yards a catch doesn’t show it, Miller is an above average athlete for the tight end position and can create some mismatches in the slot. Don’t be surprised if he sees double digit targets tonight.
In the running game, Jordan Howard has been a breath of fresh air since Jeremy Langford went down. Howard runs hard, has shown burst and is a better pass catcher than he was given credit for coming out of college. He figures to see at least 15 to 20 touches in this one. Ka’Deem Carey took nine carries from Howard last week, and could see similar usage in this one as well. Howard is a safe fantasy play for the week, but Carey is worth leaving on waivers until his role in the offense is clear.
Despite sitting at 3-2, much has been made about Aaron Rodgers’ struggles and the Packers woes as an offense. While it’s still early in the year, these worries are justified as this has been going on since the second half of last season. There’s a chance that as good as Rodgers is, the Packers offense has just gotten stale. For the past three or four years now, fans have known to expect Eddie Lacy (who is already ruled out of this game) to be relied on for the rushing attack, and plenty of the Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb duo in the passing game. Unfortunately, the Packers just haven’t been able to develop skill players to step up as that third guy.
The Packers had it earlier in Nelson’s career when he established himself as a threat with players like Donald Driver and Greg Jennings already in place. Cobb was able to do the same with players such as Nelson, Jennings, James Jones and Jermichael Finley around him. For this game at least, the Packers are hoping that third weapon can be Ty Montgomery.
With Lacy and James Starks out, the Packers are extremely thin at running back and expectations are that the 2nd year receiver will get the start. Montgomery showed at Stanford that he has big play capability, and will give Rodgers another legit option in the passing game. Assuming he sees at least 15 or so total touches in this one, Montgomery (who most likely will only have receiver eligibility in fantasy leagues) is certainly worth a start as a flex play, or third wideout. Cobb could also see touches in the running game, and despite acquring Knile Davis in a trade, Don Jackson who got called off the practice squad is the only running back the Packers have currently with knowledge of the offense.
The Bears secondary is also decimated with injuries, so if Rodgers is going to get back on track this is a nice place to start. While he isn’t the sure thing he once was fantasy wise, he’s safe to start this week. Jordy Nelson hasn’t been able to separate the way he could before his injury, but odds are he will be targeted often in this one. Start him with confidence. Randall Cobb is the Packers player I like the most from a fantasy perspective if I had to choose one tonight. Cobb has received double digit targets in each of his last two games and is going up against Cre’von LeBlanc who while he has shown flashes in his opportunities, hasn’t had to face someone like Cobb in the slot.
While this game has definite shootout potential, the end result of this one will be determined by the defenses. At the end of the day, I’m going to have to go with Dom Capers and his personnel in that department. My prediction is Bears 23 Packers (-8.5) 27.