Packers v Bears: Week 1 Matchup

The Green Bay Packers kick off the NFL's 100th season in Chicago as they take on their oldest rival. 

 The Packers kick off the NFL's 100th season in Chicago on Thursday night and I have never been more ready for an NFL season to start in my entire life. 

Here's a look at what to expect from both sides of the ball and my sure-to-be-incorrect call on who wins the game. 

When The Packers Have The Ball:

This, of course, is the big mystery heading into this one. How will Aaron Rodgers play in Matt LaFleur's system? What exactly IS that system? Will it be as dependent on the running game as we've heard all offseason? Can the offensive line hold up when it's time to utilize play action? (I mean, outside of right guard, its the same guys as last year and they sure as hell couldn't then...)

I tend to buy what LaFleur was selling early on when he talked about "building the Packers offense" instead of just bringing some version of what Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay have been doing. Neither of them have ever had close to the talent and experience at quarterback that LaFleur has in Rodgers. This will enable LaFleur and Rodgers to incorporate things from the previous offense in Green Bay that Rodgers had mastered. I know no one wants to give Mike McCarthy any credit for anything, but he absolutely laid the foundation for the quick spread game attack that Rodgers is so lethal with. 

When teams do to the Packers what the Patriots did to the Rams in the Super Bowl, LaFleur will have the quick game counter up his sleeve that McVay didn't have. 

We saw the offense practice it a few times during training camp, where the offense spread the personnel out five wide and Pettine just brought different pressures on every snap. Rodgers carved it up each time. 

I think if and when things stagnate against the Bears on Thursday night (and I suspect the running game will) look for LaFleur and Rodgers to push the tempo and go to this quick, spread game. And it will probably come out of 21 personnel, hopefully catching the Bears with base personnel on the field. (Danny Vitale in the slot. Be ready.) 

I know Khalil Mack will get the spotlight leading up to this game, and for good reason. He's an incredible player on track for a Hall of Fame career. But to me, this whole game can be wrecked by Akiem Hicks. The Bears defensive tackle doesn't get the same kind of publicity as guys like Aaron Donald or J.J. Watt, but I'm here to tell you he is an absolute one man wrecking crew who has come to chew bubble gum and kick ass...and he is all out of bubble gum

Hicks is one of four defensive tackles with 7+ sacks in each of last three seasons and he has 23 sacks since 2016, good for 5th-most among d-tackles. In short, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley and newcomer Billy Turner are in for a long night. 

If the Bears are able to slow down the running game without committing an extra body in the box, which I suspect will be the case, Rodgers is going to have to be efficient from the pocket and LaFleur will need to be patient and probing with his play calls. 

Speaking of Rodgers in the pocket, I thought Kurt Warner nailed it in regards to what went wrong last year and what we need to see from the Packers quarterback starting Thursday night:

This will be LaFleur's biggest challenge. Getting Rodgers to trust the design and the rhythm of the offense and to lean into the structure rather than breaking from it at the slightest sign of pressure. Obviously, this is easier said than done going up against one of the league's best fronts in their house on opening night. 

Rodgers obviously has a major security blanket in wide receiver Davante Adams, and Adams will undoubtedly see his fair share of targets. But the Bears will most likely roll coverage his way much of the evening and it will be up to guys like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jimmy Graham, Geronimo Allison and Jake Kumerow to make hay against the Bears secondary. Prince Amukamara checked Adams much of last season and I doubt that changes much under Pagano. Kumerow in particular should find some favorable matchups. 

When The Bears Have The Ball:

Here's the thing.

I know Packers fans have spent the summer making fun of Mitch Trubisky. I get it. He certainly has limitations as a passer and, as it turns out, that's pretty important when it comes to playing quarterback in the NFL. 

But I have to say, the more you watch his film from last year, the more you see a guy who definitely found a way to make plays against the Packers defense, usually by escaping pressure and using his mobility to either find something downfield or just tuck and run it and live for another down. It was maddening to watch. There were plenty of instances where the initial part of the play is won by the Packers defense, only to have the young QB escape and make something happen. 

Obviously, that's not sustainable over the long haul of his career, but right now it's a legit problem for Mike Pettine. 

The Packers defensive coordinator has been handed a bunch of talent by Brian Gutekunst and he'll need to utilize all of it on Thursday night.

The biggest key to me is making sure whoever is asked to get after the quarterback on passing downs comes in under control. So many times last year you saw outside linebackers, corners, safeties - you name it - come screaming into the offensive backfield for what should have been a sack only to be outmaneuvered by Trubisky. Pettine simply must get these guys to honor their rush lanes and keep the young gun penned in. 

The Bears have a number of play makers and one of the biggest ones matches up well against the Packers when you look to the outside. Allen Robinson had a bunch of plays in both games last year where he broke open for what should have been a positive play, only to have Trubisky miss him with the throw. (One of the worst of these was Robinson on Kevin King in the redzone where the Bears wideout burned King off the line and should have had an easy touchdown if not for the quarterback air mailing it to the sideline.) I don't know how much we'll see Jaire Alexander matched up on the much bigger Robinson, but it feels like that's the way to go. Even with the size difference, Alexander's tenacity and technique are their best bet at slowing down the imposing receiver. 

Now, Matt Nagy is no fool and he's not going to have Trubisky dropping back 45 times on Thursday night. I expect rookie running back David Montgomery to get a lot of work, not only running between the tackles where he certainly thrives, but out of the edge and in the passing game as well. Kenny Clark is the headliner for the Packers defense up front, but I suspect second year lineman Tyler Lancaster to have an important role in trying to keep the Bears running game in check. Yes, Dean Lowry just got paid and is the starter, but look for Lancaster to play a lot on a rotational basis and to help keep Blake Martinez clean so he can make tackles near the line of scrimmage rather than 5+ yards downfield. 

Enough Already, Who Wins?

Packers fans don't want to hear it, but the Bears are good football team. Extremely talented on both sides of the ball with a bright, aggressive coach in Nagy who did a great job with this squad his first year out of the gate. Yes, Pagano is a step down from the departed Vic Fangio, but not the huge advantage that some Packers fans seem desperate to pin their hopes to. 

I think both teams will move the ball and, especially in the second half, we'll start to see them trading scores. Ultimately though, I expect the Bears to win by 3 - but here's the catch. If any and all Bears field goals are kicked prior to the last five minutes of the game, I have no doubt the Bears will prevail.

But if Eddy Pineiro lines up for a field goal at the end of this game, turn off the TV and start celebrating because there is no way - after the absolutely absurd tomfoolery that Nagy rolled out looking for a kicker this offseason - that this kid doesn't watch his soul disappear as he tries to send the Bears to victory. 

8 points

Comments (33)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Lare's picture

September 04, 2019 at 07:09 pm

Frankly, I think it's the other way around, If it comes down to a Mason Crosby field goal I think the Packers lose.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 04, 2019 at 08:14 pm

Fine work Nagler. Although I think the Packers will surpass expectations, great analysis.

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skyler's picture

September 04, 2019 at 08:29 pm

Superior Analysis, Mr. Nagler

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korbie33's picture

September 04, 2019 at 08:40 pm

Great preview of potential game time happenings. I think if the Packers hold Montgomery to less than 70 yards the Packers win. I am going to bet the line. The Packers win straight up.

Go Get Da Bears

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Bearmeat's picture

September 04, 2019 at 09:30 pm

I don't expect Green Bay's offense to move the ball at will on this defense, but I also think Mitch is going to screw something up big on the other side. Pettine has literally double the talent he did last year and Mitch is not a good Quarterback. Don't let him run = limit his explosive ability.

This will not be a blowout: I expect the game to come down to special teams. I also think the Bears win a close one. Lotta season left though - even if we do come out with an L.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 04, 2019 at 10:39 pm

That breakdown by Warner reminds us of what we already knew. Rodgers held the ball too long too often last season and even for a long time before that. MLFs number one job has to be getting Rodgers to follow the game plan. I hope he's able to do it.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 05, 2019 at 05:06 am

First of all, thanks Aaron for your work on this site and your contribution to my enjoyment of Packer football. I think this game may come down to halftime and in-game adjustments. Last year, the huge comeback was credited to QB1 having to go to the short passing game after his injury. But he was working within a system he embodied after so many years, and I can’t help but give McCarthy some of the credit for halftime adjustments.

This year, with a new coaching staff, there has been a lot of talk about the fresh new looks and schemes. I am very hopeful, but the best of plans can go out the window when someone punches you in the face. And boy were we punched in the face last year! That team and that coaching staff were able to overcome it. We cannot know yet the resilience of the new version. My biggest fear is that the necessary resilience may be a learned skill that may take years to develop in a new coach and system.

I still stand by my 60-0 score. Pack wins.

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I am Gute's picture

September 05, 2019 at 05:27 am

What day is it? What day is it? It’s game day!

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Stevo36z's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:54 am

Great article Aaron, enjoy the game

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Handsback's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:11 am

I suspect that the Bears will throw short passes, well disguised, to their RBs and TEs to test Green Bay's LBs. Cohen in particular will get the ball a lot. I suspect the Packers will attack with their speed on long routes. To see if the Bears can cover multiple players, and if their Oline can hold the fort.

I really think the Pack gets a lead and holds on for the victory.

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PackfanNY's picture

September 05, 2019 at 02:07 pm

Tomfoolery! Any article using this word gets a gold star. Although, I would have liked to see Nags pick the Pack. At least he is honest.

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jlc1's picture

September 05, 2019 at 02:23 pm

Yes the Bears are a good team and the Pack is, at best, maybe a good football team. I don't see the Pack defense having any answers for Cohen running or in the passing game. Which will then open up other things and make Trubisky look like the better QB on the field (he won't be but it will look that way). Bears will likely score early and the Pack offense, coming from behind, will be just that much more uncertain of how to make things work. this could easily get ugly. I see the Bears winning by 13 to 17 points.

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Cubbygold's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:26 pm

Just curious, what is GB missing in order for Cohen to be stopped? Or is he unstoppable in your mind

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Leatherhead's picture

September 05, 2019 at 02:25 pm

Unless we lose Rodgers, we can move the ball in the air. We know that.

The question is whether we can run against playoff caliber defenses. I hope we run it about 40 times for 150 yards and pass it 25 times for another 250. Because if we can run against Chicago we can run against anybody, and if we can’t, we might as well find out sooner rather than later.

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nostradanus's picture

September 05, 2019 at 02:27 pm

A double doink miss by the Bears to lose in the first game of the season would be terrific! It would be a fitting ending especially after all The double doink mania leading up to this game. A miss like that would probably doomthe bears season from the start

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shmelbs's picture

September 05, 2019 at 03:16 pm

No weekly Packers game predictions from the CHTV staff this year? Bummer! I've used that intel to win my family football pool.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 05, 2019 at 03:47 pm

Gotta join TGR's Pickem!

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shmelbs's picture

September 05, 2019 at 03:56 pm

Do you have a link? I can't find it, here.

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shmelbs's picture

September 05, 2019 at 04:26 pm

Nevermind, found it.

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albert999's picture

September 05, 2019 at 03:22 pm

Why doesn’t Michael Irvin famous for the nfl network quote and video of
SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND PUT YOUR MONEY ON THE LINE
Tell the thug Antonio brown to shut his prima Donna mouth
I hope Oakland cuts him tonight

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Cubbygold's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:25 pm

And then GB picks him up!

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albert999's picture

September 05, 2019 at 03:22 pm

OH
GO PACK GO

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DragonSilk's picture

September 05, 2019 at 03:52 pm

McCarthy always talked about the running game but after 2 or 3 runs got stuffed he quickly abandoned it. LaFleur can't fall into that trap. It won't be easy against Bears but he needs to keep pounding as long as it's still a game.

As bad as the Packers want this game all the pressure is on the Bears. I don't think Trubisky can handle it.

WE ARE GOING TO KICK THEIR ASS!!!

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Leatherhead's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:22 pm

It's a real common ailment among coaches. Why run it 3 times for 6 yards when I can throw it once for 8?

If we throw 40 times tonight, that's not a good sign, IMO. If we run it 30 or more times, that's a good sign, even if we barely get 100 yards.

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Lphill's picture

September 05, 2019 at 03:57 pm

New season , Bears lost their defensive coordinator and a safety, Packers re loaded their defense and solidified the O line and have a talented group of receivers and tight ends, this is not the McCarthy Packers , I think the offense starts off a little conservative and maybe adds in a few new twists as the game goes on . Time for Aaron Rodgers to take over . Pack wins.

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CAG123's picture

September 05, 2019 at 04:43 pm

Hicks doesn’t get credit because he was just average before Mack came he’s put up pretty good numbers during his time in Chicago but he’s not a truly dominant player on his own.

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4thand1's picture

September 05, 2019 at 04:54 pm

A lot of questions will be answered in a few hours. Most people are talking about how AR will do in the new offense. I want to see a playoff caliber defense that can get off the field on 3rd down. Lets get it on, GOPACKGO.

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buddrow53's picture

September 05, 2019 at 05:03 pm

This years Packer team is the fastest team I have watched. Cant even remember which team was the closest to them.

Its about time, my concern can Arod hit them in stride, if he does the YAC will be awesome. I expect a somewhat scripted first half and a what the hell second half.

Pack wins 24-20

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:33 pm

Good point about their speed. That was purposeful on Gutekunst's part. He also added long athletic players to their front seven.

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DraftHobbyist's picture

September 05, 2019 at 05:48 pm

The Packers surprise by dominating the Bears in a blowout win. Our Offense breaks some big ones for TD's and their Offense turns the ball over.

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:04 pm

I just hope that if the Packers win the toss they take the ball and preferably score to take the crowd out of it early.

I don’t want to defer and start the season down 7-0.

It’s OK to defer at home but I don’t agree with deferring on the road and possibly starting out behind, especially in the first game of the season with a new HC. Take the ball, score and set the tone for the game. Thanks, Since ‘61

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crayzpackfan's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:19 pm

I’m so excited in Iowa right now. I’m eating brats, mac & cheese, nachos, drinking Spotted Cow, and ready to watch game one!!!! This whole offseason and here we go!! Hey guys, let’s go crazy tonight.

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Cubbygold's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:21 pm

This is so boring. Can't wait until February so we can start overanalyzing mock drafts again

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