Preview and Prediction for Bears-Packers

Aaron Nagler breaks down the seaon opening matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, and gives his prediction for the game. 

The Green Bay Packers kick off their year long celebration of playing 100 seasons of football by hosting their oldest rival, the Chicago Bears, Sunday night at Lambeau Field. The Packers, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers reminded reporters earlier this week, hold a two game lead in the all-time series. 

This game will feature two distinct sets of matcups that will be fascinating to watch play out. One set of opponents who know each other quite well, when Mike McCarthy’s offense squares off against Vic Fangio’s defense, and another set that is completely unfamiliar with their opponents when we see Matt Nagy’s offense go up against Mike Pettine’s defense.

The Packers are seven point favorites at most sports books and with a decided advantage at the game’s most important positon, playing at home and having generally dominated the Bears throughout McCarthy’s tenure as coach, that is unsurprising. But how does this particular matchup shape up and who will come out victorious on Sunday night? Let’s take a look.

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL:

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has always come up with ways to slow down McCarthy and Rodgers, with his greatest success coming during his tenure in San Francisco. With premiere talents like Justin and Aldon Smith up front, Fangio was able to get after Rodgers without needing to send pressure, which afforded him the luxury of playing a variety of coverages on the back end. With the addition of Khalil Mack, Fangio may be able to somewhat duplicate that formula on Sunday night. I won’t belabor the “Can the Packers block Mack?” narrative that’s taken over the Internet this week. The short answer is: For the most part. But he will undoubtedly get the better of Bryan Bulaga once or twice, and that’s really all it takes for a big play to happen for the defense. I expect Marcedes Lewis to give Bulaga a bit more help than McCarthy usually affords his tackles, but only a bit.

One thing you can bet on when the Packers have the ball is a healthy dose of Jamaal Williams, if not necessarily right away. My hunch is McCarthy will come out the first few series in several different spread looks, featruring everything from 10 to 13 personnel. (here’s an overview of personnel packages) After that, expect McCarthy to try and pound the football for a series or two, provided the score isn’t out of hand. Mike tends to call games in phases, and that’s never more apparent than when he decides “it’s time to run the ball.” (He actually talked to me about this a few years ago.)

As for the passing game, I don’t expect anything to come easy against Chicago. Last year’s game in Lambeau is thought of as “another Bears blowout” but the score of that game was much more about the ineptitude of the Bears offense continually giving the Packers offense easy opportunities rather than actual domination by Green Bay’s offense. Yes, Rodgers threw for 4 TDs in that contest, but he did so while only throwing for 179 yards, 58 of those on one shot to Jordy Nelson. Once Mike Glennon stopped turning the football over to keep giving Rodgers a short field, Fangio’s crew did a very good job of slowing down McCarthy’s guys.

Obviously, this year is not last year and both teams have made some signifcant personnel upgardes. For the Bears, they went and got Mack to help get after Rodgers. The Packers added Jimmy Graham, who will undoubtedly be a focal point of the gameplan.

One matchup I really like for the Packers that hasn’t gotten a lot of play leading up to this game is Randall Cobb getting matched up against Kyle Fuller. Count me amoung those who didn’t quite understand Briant Gutekunst going after Fuller earlier this offseason, as both Cobb and Davante Adams have found pretty consistent success against him. Cobb in particular has fared well against the former first rounder. Expect to see Rodgers look Cobb’s way a handfull of times when he knows he has that matchup.

WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL:

Talk about unscounted looks. The Bears new head coach and offensive playcaller, Matt Nagy, will undoutedly have plenty of motion and misdirection on offer to try and mess with the keys for Mike Pettine’s Packers defense. Nagy has a whole host of offensive talent at his disposal, with Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel all being added this offseason. The Bears lead running back, Jordan Howard, is no joke either. Howard ranked 3rd in the NFC last year with 1,124 rush yards & tied for 3rd in NFL with nine rushing touchdowns.

The Bears also added wide receiver Anthony Miller in April’s draft. Miller flashed this preseason, and while I don’t expect him to have a Randy Moss-like debut at Lambeau for the Bears, I do think he will be given a handful of opportunities against a Packers secondary that will be seeing its first extensive action together.

To me though, the one player that could really give the Packers trouble in Nagy’s ever multiple scheme is Tarik Cohen. The second year running back is a matchup nightmare and could do some serious damage in the passing game. I don’t see anyone on Green Bay’s defense with the ability to match up with him in coverage, and his ability in the open field with the ball in his hands is probably going to make more than a few defenders look foolish this year.

Where I think Nagy will try to attack the most is using misdirection to get the young cornerbacks for the Packers to take false steps. One or two steps is all it takes to create separation in the NFL and you can bet Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson will both be tested early and often as Nagy tries to create a matchup that exposes their agressiveness and inexperience.

Now, having said all that, there are two components when the Bears have the ball where I feel the Packers have an edge. The first is up front, where winning can go a long way in wrecking all the bells and whistles for an offense. Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Muhammad Wilkerson should be able to control the interior of the Bears line. Much has been made about the lack of depth at outside linebacker for the Packers, but in this game Clay Matthews, Reggie Gilbert and Nick Perry in particular should be able to control the edge. I don’t expect any of them to rush the passer particularly well in this game, mostly because I think Nagy will have the ball out his young quarterback’s hands quickly.

But that young quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, is another area where the Packers should hold an advantage. I know it will be hard for Packers fans to wrap their heads around this fact for awhile, but going from Dom Capera to Pettine is going to feel like the 2018 season is one, continuous extension of the scence in The Wizard of Oz where everything goes from black & white to color.

Trubisky has some nice attributes and Nagy will undoubtedly try to utilize his athleticism by getting him outside the pocket and simplfying his reads. But Pettine will undoubtedly have several wrinkles, specifically on obvious passing downs, where he can take advantage of the young signal caller.

I think Tribisky will be a good quarterback in this league, but he’s going to have to take his lumps along the way. That starts Sunday night.

PREDICTION:

This should be a close game and early season contests, especially against division foes who know each other well, tend to favor the defenses. That said, I think the gulf at the quarterback position coupled with Rodgers being at home and able to manipulate the line of scrimmage both with audibles and his hard count will be the biggest difference in this one.

Packers: 27

Bears: 20

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Comments (26)

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Since'61's picture

September 07, 2018 at 03:04 pm

Packers 35 - Bears 9. Thanks, Since '61

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cheesehead1's picture

September 07, 2018 at 03:53 pm

Sounds good, hope you’re right! I just want to see an improved and sound D from Green Bay. No more players running wide open all over the field. If I had to predict a score, I’d say GB 26 CHI 20. Go Packers!

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Tundraboy's picture

September 07, 2018 at 04:36 pm

I wish. But I could see 31-16. Add in a Bears score on a turnover,and a stalled TD drive for us ending in a FG.

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Lphill's picture

September 07, 2018 at 03:16 pm

I agree since 61 , 0 sacks for Mack .

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TXCHEESE's picture

September 07, 2018 at 03:30 pm

If the Packers can get an early turnover or two this might turn out to be a laugher. Otherwise, the early season games are where the defense usually is further along than the offense. Not predicting a score, but I'm guessing the Packers beat the 7point spread.

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WMA's picture

September 07, 2018 at 03:46 pm

Packers 27 Bears 17.

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Johnblood27's picture

September 07, 2018 at 03:47 pm

If McCarthy keeps his foot off the brakes Rodgers will put up 35+.

If the defense keeps up its turnover ways (Im looking at you rookie CB's) then it will be a blowout of epic proportions.

Let's get a laugher in to start the season so we can keep some things under wraps for week 2 and THAT BIG WIN!

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Tundraboy's picture

September 07, 2018 at 04:38 pm

"Let's get a laugher in to start the season so we can keep some things under wraps for week 2 and THAT BIG WIN!"

That would be ideal, especially if Vike's lose their opener!

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Bearmeat's picture

September 07, 2018 at 04:36 pm

GB: 27
CHI: 14

Trubisky's Stat Line: 15/25 - 225 yards. 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rodgers Stat Line: 27/35 - 325 yards. 3 TDs, 0 INTs.

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Oppy's picture

September 07, 2018 at 05:22 pm

I have had less of a feel for what to expect from the Packers in 2018 than at any time in the last decade.
To me, it's like flying blind into the season.

I appreciate a number of personnel improvements I'm very excited to see legit upper tier TE bookends. I
m extremely optimistic about the young trio at CB coupled with the veteran leadership of Williams and House. I couldn't be happier with our DL anchored by Clark. Our WR room may already have the corps of the future in it. Lots to like.

I feel the Packers win. I have no idea what it is going to look like.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 07, 2018 at 05:28 pm

"going from Dom Capera to Pettine is going to feel like the 2018 season is one, continuous extension of the scence in The Wizard of Oz where everything goes from black & white to color."

Haha, welcome back Aaron.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 07, 2018 at 06:30 pm

Oppy, I am with you. I have no feel at all for how this will go. Thursday’s opening game had writers commenting about the need for starters to play in the preseason. We did not really play the whole Oline and Aaron and company during the preseason. So, I have no feel for how they will mesh during real games. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad for a healthy line and Aaron back with the addition of JG, but unsure how it will fare against a rabid defense. Also, for as promising as the CBs look In preseason, they are not yet a well oiled machine. And except for the kickers, I have no idea on how our special teams will do with all the new players. BUT the other team IS the bears...so there is that.

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Bure9620's picture

September 07, 2018 at 08:56 pm

Packers 30-13. Rodgers 19/32 for 237 and 2 TD

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Samson's picture

September 07, 2018 at 09:06 pm

The Pack has more talent and could even make a few early mistakes in this game & probably still win. -- The Bears are better but have a long ways to go to catch up with an "AR Led" team. --- Except that this game is against the 'dreaded Bears', this game means little for season 2018. --- The next 5 before the bye will tell us what this year's Pack is all about.

Everything starts after game 1. (unless the Bears somehow pull out a "W" -- highly unlikely)

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MarkinMadison's picture

September 07, 2018 at 09:39 pm

I'm worried about misdirection with young cornerbacks. I'm worried about an offensive line that is one OT injury away from being poor. I'm just not sure where this one goes.

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croatpackfan's picture

September 08, 2018 at 02:30 am

I believe you are happy now. You found reason to worry...

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holmesmd's picture

September 08, 2018 at 11:23 am

Someone must always be seated in the worry chair Croat;) We all know that it can never be unoccupied! LoL

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The TKstinator's picture

September 08, 2018 at 06:54 am

Plenty of good seats still available.
Beep beep!

Oh, and we’ve raised prices on our tickets to ride.

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dobber's picture

September 08, 2018 at 09:41 am

I've got a ticket to ride...but I don't care...

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dobber's picture

September 08, 2018 at 09:43 am

We might see the longevity of good DBs improve due to the change in tackling rules. They aren't going to be actively trying to lay the wood on WRs because they're going to anticipate getting called for a personal foul and potentially ejected and fined.

We've reached the era where a DB is just going to have to let a WR catch the ball and try to tackle them where they stand.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

September 07, 2018 at 11:54 pm

Bears, 24-19.

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holmesmd's picture

September 08, 2018 at 11:26 am

Really?! #12 just puts up 19 points in a prime time season opener of GB’s 100th season!? LoL. Sure, ok...

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 08, 2018 at 05:33 am

Just win baby!

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 08, 2018 at 05:33 am

Just win baby!

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Packer Dave's picture

September 08, 2018 at 07:30 am

35-21 Packers.

Jimmy gets 2 TDs, Jackson gets an INT, and Clay and Gilbert get a sack.

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

September 08, 2018 at 09:38 am

Otay

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