Seven players who must perform for Bears

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Seven players who must perform for Bears

We've all enjoyed the build up, trash talking and hype which normally precedes the most storied rivalry in all of sports: Bears vs. Packers.

Tension was kicked up a notch after Packers tight end Jermichael Finley spoke disrespectfully of Brian Urlacher. Now the division is on the line and players will perform accordingly to what's at stake, but there are seven players who will be key to the Bears upsetting the Packers.

Jay Cutler

Cutler hasn't performed well in past matchups against Green Bay. His 16 interceptions do not generate much confidence in fans, the team and Cutler's own confidence. Furthermore, losing five of the last six games, while contributing with poor play, is something Cutler is looking to rectify.

The Bears don't need Superman at quarterback, but they do need smart play from Cutler who must play a turnover-free game.

Matt Forte and Michael Bush

It doesn't matter who's running the football when it's in Chicago's possession. Whether it's Forte or Bush, they must make guys miss or push the pile forward for the offense to stay on schedule. Negative runs on first or second downs will destroy Cutler's bid for a mistake-free game if he's dealing with third and long situations.

During the Bears-Packers matchup earlier in the season, Green Bay played mostly 2-man coverage on third downs and Forte left the game early in the third quarter with an ankle injury. To beat 2-man coverage, a quality route running, receiving running back is needed to beat linebackers in the backfield.

Forte most likely will be a big key today on third downs. The Bears cannot afford to lose him again.

Defensive linemen

Again, it doesn't matter who is in the lineup of when, but the Bears' front four defensive linemen must be dominate. There is a reason Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the league with 42 sacks; his team is just not very good at pass protection right now with a makeshift, rag-tag offensive line.

If all other positions play their normal game and the aforementioned seven positions step up to the challenge, the Bears' chances of upsetting the Packers improve greatly.

A special teams play might help too. Wasn't it the Packers who converted a fake field goal for a touchdown in the first matchup? It might be time for Devin Hester to come through for an ailing team with something special too--make it eight positions!

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Gar Forman's plan work?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Gar Forman's plan work?

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by Rick Telander (Chicago Sun-Times) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) to talk Bulls. 

The panel breaks down the trade with Oklahoma City and question whether the team is better or worse now. 

Later, the guys talk about the Blackhawks' trade for Tomas Jurco and also break down the upcoming Daytona 500. Finally, Telander discusses his five-part series chronicling the Orr High School basketball team as they excel on the court and try to survive off it. 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

Blackhawks acquire Tomas Jurco from Red Wings

Blackhawks acquire Tomas Jurco from Red Wings

General manager Stan Bowman saw the potential in Tomas Jurco several years ago.

For the 24-year-old forward, it wasn’t working out with the Detroit Red Wings. Perhaps a change of scenery, an opportunity on a team that could vie for another Stanley Cup, makes a difference. The Blackhawks are about to find out.

The Blackhawks acquired Jurco for a third-round pick in this year’s draft on Friday afternoon. The 24-year-old Jurco has played in 16 games with the Red Wings this season but has yet to collect a point. In four seasons with the Wings, Jurco had 15 goals and 24 assists in 159 games. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press that, “things haven’t worked out” for Jurco there and that he wanted to go elsewhere.

Jurco was on a bye as a member of the Red Wings but, now that he’s with the Blackhawks, the bye ends. Bowman was hopeful Jurco would join the Blackhawks at practice on Saturday. Also, to clear a roster spot for Jurco, the Blackhawks reassigned Vinnie Hinostroza to the Rockford IceHogs.

[RELATED: Nick Schmaltz gaining confidence, effectiveness with Blackhawks]

Bowman said he’s been watching Jurco for a few seasons now.

“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” Bowman said. “He’s been an accomplished player at a lot of different levels. He’s shown flashes in the NHL, not as consistently as he or the Wings would like, but you can see the talent and potential. You have to have some patience with these guys. It doesn’t always come together right away. I’m not expecting him to carry our team but I think he can contribute.”

It was an under-the-radar trade for Bowman but that’s not surprising. In late January, Bowman said he probably wouldn’t do much at the trade deadline; he liked how the Blackhawks’ young players were progressing and figured, if that continued, the team would be in good shape. Since then the Blackhawks have won eight of their last nine and are just three points behind the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild. As the Blackhawks kept winning it looked like, if they did anything, it would be a depth move.

So will there be any more moves? At this point it doesn’t seem likely, be it on forward or defense – Bowman didn’t have an update on Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) but said he’s happy with the depth in Chicago and Rockford on defense. Bowman said he’ll keep talking but, “but it’s a little bit different than in previous years when I thought we definitely needed something and were lacking in an area.”

“I’ve had a feeling about our team, not just recently but even a month ago. I liked the way this group was starting to come together,” Bowman said. “We’ve seen that enhanced over the last couple of week here. We’ve seen players step up, [Nick] Schmaltz in particular. [Ryan] Hartman’s been good all year. We’ve seen Jonathan [Toews] become a dominant player again. It gives your team a confidence that you have balance, scoring in different lines. We just added a young player to help us now as well as in the future. There’s a lot to be excited about. I’m not expecting more trades. I can’t predict more will happen but I have a good feeling about this group right now.”