I’ve been saying for days that we won’t see the Bears starters the whole game today. And certainly that will probably be true, especially for any player who is nursing an injury. But that doesn’t mean that they’ll just roll out the “second string” at 22 positions on offense and defense. Brad Biggs, writing for the Chicago Tribune, makes the point:
“The idea of resting players against the Packers really isn’t realistic. Yes, players with any minor injuries will sit, but with a 53-man roster that turns into 46 (counting the third quarterback on game day), it’s not like [Bears head coach] Lovie Smith is going to be able to sit starters across the board.”
and then there’s this fact to consider as well:
“Running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Johnny Knox have some statistical milestones in mind. Forte needs 22 yards to reach 1,000 and Knox is 40 shy of that figure.”
The extent to which Smith should or will accommodate Forte and Knox is a debatable question but the guess here is that he’ll give them each a fair shot at reaching their respective milestones. How long does that mean you leave them in? If the Bears are playing well, you’re probably talking about roughly a half. If they’re not, it means you leave them in until the game is obviously lost.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is doubtful that Smith will pull anyone on the offensive line with the possible exception of veteran Olin Kreutz. They’re playing better but the problems on the offensive line still exist, in part because they’ve only been together half a season.
I was listening to an local football commentator on WSCR one morning this week. Callers had been trying to make the point that the Bears should play the Packers game all out because more game experience would be good for a Bear offense that has only recently begun to perform well. The expert sarcastically asked how much better the players are going to get as a unit with only one more game. When you are an offensive line that has been together as a unit for only 8 games, and one that has yet to play well in the first half of any of them, the answer is a lot better.
Statistically there’s only a 2% chance that the Bears will have anything to play for as a team today. In that case, they won’t play their “starters” much. But when the word is framed in terms of who you leave in and who you leave out, the definition is going to vary.