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Thursday night thunder
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Week 2 of the NFL season begins with a showdown between division rivals - Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. These teams have been battling one another since 1921 when the team from Chicago was called the Staleys.

For many of the games in this series, we've watched titanic defensive struggles. But that's not what we're expecting in the 2012 edition.

Thursday night's game between the Bears and Packers should be an offensive display and fantasy owners will want to be involved.

The Bears defense of 2012 is not the "Monsters of the Midway" despite the presence of All-Pro defenders Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers.

The Packers won both games in 2011, averaging 31 points per game in the process. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a combined 49-of-67 for 580 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception.

Rodgers figures to continue throwing the ball, though perhaps not as often as he did in Week 1 against San Francisco (44 attempts). No one runs on the 49ers defense and the Packers made little effort to get the running game going. Cedric Benson should get more than nine carries this time around and could be a low-end starter for fantasy owners.

But Rodgers and the passing game is the star of the Green Bay offense and in Thursday night's game that won't change. Rodgers will throw often, but he'll likely be without his No. 1 threat, Greg Jennings, who hasn't practiced this week because of a groin injury and is likely going to be watching from the sidelines. Don't fret Rodgers owners, there is still a plethora of receiving talent for Rodgers.

The absence of Jennings will allow both James Jones and Randall Cobb to join Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley as fantasy-worthy starters this week.

When the Bears have the ball, the fireworks won't end. Quarterback Jay Cutler led a 41-point explosion against Indianapolis in Week 1, passing for 333 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Cutler has his favorite target from his Denver Broncos days, Brandon Marshall, in the fold, and the two are once again a formidable combination. Cutler threw 15 balls at Marshall, who hauled in nine of them for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Cutler also hit rookie Alshon Jeffery for 80 yards and a touchdown.

Against the Packers' pass defense, which finished dead last in the league last season in yielding 299.8 yards per game, both receivers, along with Cutler, are "must starts."

Running back Matt Forte is also a "must start" when healthy. He came out of the season opener in fine shape after combining for 120 yards from scrimmage. A little troubling was the two rushing touchdowns scored by backup Michael Bush, but Forte's fantasy owners are used to this situation by now. Bush also received 12 rushing attempts and should be a low-end fantasy starter in many leagues.

There is one caveat to all the expected scoring and that's the weather. The forecast in Green Bay calls for rain throughout the day Thursday until just before game time. As long as the rain ends before kickoff, the scoring-fest should go on as scheduled. However, if the rain lingers on past game time, then all bets are off.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.


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