Packers vs. Bears: 5 Things to Watch and a Prediction for Week 1

Five things to watch and a prediction for the Packers' Week 1 showdown with the Chicago Bears.

The Green Bay Packers will open the 2015 regular season with a short trip south to take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Sunday will mark the 191st meeting between the two clubs. The Packers have won nine of the last 10 meetings, including five of the last five in Chicago. 

Here are five things to watch and a prediction for Green Bay’s Week 1 showdown with the team’s oldest rival:

 

1. Slot Machines

With Alshon Jeffery (calf) hurting, expect Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to look to Eddie Royal—his old buddy from Denver and Chicago’s new go-to option in the slot—early and often. The Packers should stick Casey Hayward inside and let the two players battle it out all afternoon. The slot figures to be equally important for Green Bay, especially if Randall Cobb is close to 100 percent. He could dominate his matchup with Bears nickel corner Sherrick McManis, who played all of 46 snaps for Chicago last season. Even if Cobb is laboring through his shoulder issue, rookie Ty Montgomery could play a big factor inside. Expect the Packers to use formations and personnel groupings to isolate matchups against Chicago’s underwhelming depth at corner. 

 

2. Featuring Forte

Jay Cutler’s struggles against Green Bay are well-documented, but it’s the Packers’ run defense that figures to be in the spotlight Sunday. Both Letroy Guion and Datone Jones won’t play, leaving Green Bay a little thin up front. The Bears will almost certainly feature Matt Forte and the running game, as new offensive coordinator Adam Gase should want to protect his quarterback and feed the football to his best player. In fact, Chicago probably can’t win the game without an ability to run the ball. The Packers have manhandled Cutler in the past when stopping the run on early downs and forcing the erratic quarterback into difficult down-and-distance situations. If Green Bay is successful keeping Forte in check, the turnovers will come. Probably in bunches. 

 

3. Blind Side Spotlight

Left tackle David Bakhtiari played just 33 snaps this preseason while dealing with a nagging knee issue. He didn’t look great during his only live-game action, allowing two sacks up in New England. He’s not listed on the injury report ahead of Sunday, but he’ll still be one to watch. The Bears figure to throw a bunch of different pass-rushers at him, including Jared Allen and Willie Young. It’s not an incredible group, but Bakhtiari might have some rust to play through. We should get a better idea of how healthy that knee is by the time Sunday is over. 

 

4. Unleashing Lacy

The middle of the Chicago defense looks especially vulnerable, as a rookie (Eddie Goldman) will man the nose in front of an untested group of inside linebackers. Throw in Green Bay’s strength in the interior of the offensive line and Lacy’s ability to create after contact, and the Packers running game could emerge as the major talking point Sunday. That’d be just fine for an offense working James Jones back into things and prepping Davante Adams and rookie Ty Montgomery for larger than expected roles. Lacy carrying the load early in the season would help buy some time for all the moving pieces in the passing game to click.

 

5. The Unknowns

This hardly feels like a typical division game, given the turnover on Chicago’s staff and the personnel changes on defense. The Bears really are a great unknown. The quarterback is the same, but new head coach John Fox is widely respected rebuilder, new offensive coordinator Adam Gase is an up-and-coming play-caller and new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has commanded attacking defenses in San Francisco. The Packers likely spent many hours this offseason working through tape from the Bears, Broncos and 49ers. While Chicago doesn’t look supremely talented on paper, taking on a new staff presents its own challenges. Who knows what to expect from the Bears Sunday. 

 

Prediction: Packers 38, Bears 20

Fox and Fangio will help the Chicago defense, but the personnel just isn’t there. The gap at quarterback remains substantial. Add it up and the Packers win big on the road. 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Comments (3)

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Bearmeat's picture

September 12, 2015 at 07:04 pm

Only an 18 point spread? I'd personally have gone 42-14. ;)

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FITZCORE1252's picture

September 12, 2015 at 08:54 pm

Blood. Bath.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 13, 2015 at 12:26 am

Zach, you're really advocating moving Hayward from the outside CB to the slot on base downs, and presumably (and without mentioning it) starting one of the rookies at outside CB? I assume that Hyde would play SS in place of Burnett. If GB does that, it will be interesting to see who starts outside. I'd guess Randall

Poor Eddie Goldman. He hasn't even practiced against an offensive lineman as good as Lang, much less Linsley or Sitton. Welcome to the NFL.

GB needs to keep track of Forte or we can expect him to do some damage with 10+ receptions.

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