I'm going to point the car north toward Green Bay here very soon and make good use of cruise control. No need to catch the attention of Wisconsin's version of Ponch and John. Before I push off, let's go over what I believe are some keys to the game for the Bears:
1. Pass rush. We can just cement this one atop the list just about every week. The Bears have to be able to get after the quarterback, Aaron Rodgers in this instance, with their down linemen. Otherwise, the Tampa Two scheme is really compromised. Say you want to blitz Rodgers? You better get there. His passer rating was over 107 last season vs. the blitz. That's a real roll of the dice.
2. Matt Forte. The quickest way to take what will be an energized Lambeau Field crowd out of the game will be a nice, long drive. Jay Cutler has been the focus ever since the Bears traded for him back on April 2, but Ron Turner will show you quickly that the Bears, indeed, got off the bus in Green Bay running.
3. Wide receivers. I broke it down in Saturday's paper how the Bears' wide receivers totaled just seven receptions in two games vs. the Packers last season. Charles Woodson and Al Harris simply manhandled the Bears' receivers. They're going to need to make some plays for Cutler, particularly on third downs. They don't have to have huge games--we'll see very quickly that Greg Olsen is probably his go-to target--but they have to make plays at key junctures.
4. Weak lead. That is the play Ryan Grant ran for huge chunks of yardage in the game at Lambeau Field last season. He was getting 10 yards before a defender would be near him. Basically, it's a run play that is designed to let the back pick his hole. Grant runs along the line, looks for one player to be out of position, and hits it upfield. The Bears must maintain gap integrity, or he will gash them again. If the Packers are running the ball, Rodgers will be even more difficult to stop.
5. Special teams. The Bears have been one of the best units in the league since Dave Toub arrived. The Packers traditionally have struggled, but they have improved of late. Devin Hester had a punt return for a touchdown in his first game at Lambeau Field. It sure would be a boost for the Bears if they can win the battle of field position with special teams.
10 players to watch
1. Pisa Tinoisamoa. He might have had a better preseason than any other linebacker. He's only going to play two downs, he comes out in the nickel, but look for the impact he makes on the defense.
2. Charles Tillman. If he plays, how does he perform? The Packers are going to go right at him. How will he respond?
3. Orlando Pace. Let's see how the aging left tackle responds when the lights come on. He got better as the preseason went on, and Cutler was not sacked once in what amounted to about 4 1/2 quarters of action.
4. Chris Williams. On the flip side of the line, this is the first start for the 2008 first-round draft pick.
5. Tommie Harris. The Bears paid him a $6.67 million roster bonus in March. They're interested in seeing a return on their investment starting tonight.
6. Al Afalava. The rookie sixth-round draft pick is expected to start at strong safety. Will he be the only contributor from another "redshirt" draft class?
7. Zack Bowman. He should get his first start at one of the corner positions. The hope here is he stays healthy.
8. Adewale Ogunleye. The drive for a contract for the 32-year-old free agent to be starts right here. He's going against a new starter in Allen Barbre. This is the kind of matchup Ogunleye needs to win to convince the Bears to re-invest in him.
9. Mark Anderson. Where have you gone?
10. Earl Bennett. His next catch will be his first as a pro. Our guess on Bennett's production for tonight? How about six receptions for 72 yards.
Now, we're off to avoid the speed traps.