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Packers travel to Chicago: Five key matchups

James Starks should have some big runs on Sunday. The Bears have given up 5.3 yards per rush in 2011.
James Starks should have some big runs on Sunday. The Bears have given up 5.3 yards per rush in 2011.
(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The Packers will open up their 2011 division slate Sunday when they travel to Chicago to take on the Bears (1-1). Quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears' offense failed to keep up with the Saints last week in a 30-13 loss, while the Packers came back and hung on to beat Cam Newton and the Panthers, 30-23 to move to 2-0.

Here are five key matchups to watch Sunday:

1. Clay Matthews vs. Frank Omiyale

Matthews has been good, but not great, through two weeks. He hasn't recorded a sack but has played well against the run and had two near misses on both Drew Brees and Newton. This could be the week he breaks out, however, as right tackle Gabe Carimi will miss Sunday's contest with a minor knee dislocation. Frank Omiyale, who gave up 14 sacks a year ago, will replace him. The key to the Packers slowing down Jay Cutler will be pressuring him, and Matthews will have to lead the charge. If Matthews dominates this matchup, Cutler will have a long day.

2. Jay Cutler vs. Charlie Peprah

Before safety Nick Collins was lost for the rest of the 2011 season, the Packers had given up 400 yards per game through the air. With him out, someone will need to step up. For now, that person is Charlie Peprah, who will replace Collins at strong safety. He fared well in 2010 after filling in for an injured Morgan Burnett, but with such a talented secondary it's only a matter of time before the Bears pick on Peprah. The secondary has been a surprisingly weak spot thus far, and Peprah will need to soften the blow of Collins' loss.

3. Jermichael Finley vs. Bears' linebackers

Tight end Jermichael Finley hasn't had a breakout performance yet, and Sunday won't make his life any easier. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are two of the game's best at their position, so freeing up Finley won't be easy. However, his ability to stretch the middle of the field against the Bears' Tampa-2 will be important to free up Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson on the outside.

4. James Starks vs. Chicago's front seven

The Bears have given up 5.3 yards per rush through two games in 2011, and Starks could really exploit this Sunday. The Packers are starting to favor Starks in the run game, making him their go-to guy over starter Ryan Grant. With Aaron Rodgers' relative struggles against the Bears, getting the ground game working will be important early. In last year's NFC Championship Game, Starks rushed 22 times for 74 yards and a touchdown.

5. Chad Clifton vs. Julius Peppers

As Julius Peppers goes, so does the Bears' defense. The annual Defensive Player of the Year candidate had two sacks and a forced fumble in a Week 1 win over the Falcons, but was silenced against the Saints, finishing with just one solo tackle. Clifton held his ground against Peppers last year, holding him without a sack in three games against the Bears. That trend will need to continue Sunday.


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