Green Bay Packers (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0)
Sunday, September 13th
1 PM ET, FOX
Green Bay Offense:
For the Packers, everything begins and ends with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is coming off one of the greatest seasons in his career, culminating with another MVP award. Rodgers was surgical, finding his star targets Jordy Nelson & Randall Cobb effortlessly last year. However, the dynamic has changed slightly this year, as Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in the third preseason game and is effectively out for the season. Losing a player of Nelson’s caliber would be crippling for most teams, but the Packers happen to be very deep at the wide receiver position, and Rodgers should be able to turn the next man up into a good player. That player is Davante Adams, a second year player who was expected to be the team’s tertiary receiving option. Adams is a talented player, and the offense shouldn’t see much of a dropoff, especially with James Jones being brought back earlier in the week. And to make matters even easier for the Packers, they get to break in their new weapons against quite possibly the worst secondary in the league. While Kyle Fuller is a solid starter, Alan Ball is a very mediocre second option. And the safeties aren’t much better either. Antrel Rolle isn’t the player he once was, but he can still play some. Brock Vereen, however, may be the weakest link. His constant missed assignments helped Rodgers destroy the Bear’s defense last year.
Chicago won’t put up much of a resistance through the air, and they may be in a worse boat against the run. That’s because Green Bay has one of the top run blocking offense lines the league has to offer. And to top it off, it also has one of its premier runners, too, in Eddie Lacy. Lacy started cold last year, but part of that can be attributed to the rough defenses he faced. Chicago is breaking in new starters at each of their defense line spots, while also missing their best lineman, Jeremiah Ratliff, too suspension. To top it off, Chicago is also switching base defenses, which has left most of their holdover players out of position. Jared Allen could hardly generate a pass rush last year, and now he has to learn how to play standup linebacker? Lacy should have running lanes galore, while Rodgers should be able to stay upright for the majority of the afternoon.
Just like in Green Bay, the Bears go as far as their quarterback takes them. And while Jay Cutler has had some nice moments in his career, last season was a brand new low for the inconsistant signal caller. Cutler led the league in turnovers while also being benched, and got his head coach fired as a consequence. Now Cutler will be asked to run a more conservative system that will take the ball out of his hands more. Cutler will still have to throw plenty this week though to keep pace with Green Bay’s explosive offense, and the results might not be too pretty. That’s because Cutler could be missing his top receiving target. Alshon Jeffery has been plagued by a bad calf all of training camp, and missed every preseason game as a consequence. Jeffery is questionable at best for Sunday’s game, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see coach John Fox hold him out of this contest. Green Bay has a very solid secondary, led by second year safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, that should be able to control passing lanes down the field. That means Cutler will have to settle for checkdowns to Eddie Royal, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte most of the afternoon. Royal had his best season as a pro with Cutler as his quarterback, but he shouldn’t be expected to carry an offense’s receiving corps.
Chicago would like to feature Matt Forte in this game and get the ball in his hands as much as possible. That has worked well in the past, but the Bear’s offensive line is so bad it may not matter. Kyle Long is being kicked to right tackle, a position he hasn’t ever played as a professional, while Will Montgomery was one of the league’s worst starting centers last year in Denver. It’s not like Forte would have many places to run anyway, as the Packers possess a solid run defense to complement its secondary. Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are experts at setting the edge, and both are more than adept at getting after the quarterback.
X-Factor, Green Bay:
Clay Matthews. If there is one hole that Green Bay has, it’s at inside linebacker. Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan are the projected starters. Ryan is a rookie 4th round pick, while Barrington was a starter at the position last year, a role in which he struggled in. Matthews was rotated between outside and inside linebacker last year and saw success in both spots. Matthews is better as an outside linebacker, but his coverage abilities will be required in this contest at middle linebacker as Chicago will undoubtably have to throw short and intermediately to Martellus Bennett & Matt Forte.
Eddie Goldman. This spot could be almost any Chicago defender, but getting a solid game out of Goldman is crucial if the Bears hope to win this game. Goldman was a solid player at Florida State, doing a good job of clogging running lanes while also providing a decent pass rush, a bonus for a nose tackle. Goldman is a load at 338 pounds, and if he can anchor down the defense front, the edge rushers should be freed up to get after the quarterback and take some pressure off the secondary. The teams literal biggest player may also be their biggest figurative player too.
Result: Green Bay 42, Chicago 17
However you slice it, Green Bay is better than Chicago. Just look at last year’s results for proof. The starters for the Packers barely even played in the second half of last year’s second game against the Bears, and the same could occur in this matchup. Even the first time the teams met last year, the starters didn’t even finish the game for Green Bay. There will be too much Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb for Chicago to handle, and Cutler and the offense should be good for a turnover or two to boot. If you’re into betting, Green Bay would be a very good play this weekend.
Aaron Rodgers: 22-28, 278, 4 TD’s
Jay Cutler: 26-43, 267, 1 TD, 2 INT’s
Eddie Lacy: 16 carries, 119 yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 41 yards, 1 TD
James Starks: 8 carries, 31 yards, 1 TD
Matt Forte: 13 carries, 49 yards, 1 TD; 6 catches, 55 yards
Randall Cobb: 7 catches, 91 yards, 2 TD’s
Davante Adams: 5 catches, 74 yards
Eddie Royal: 7 catches, 98 yards
Marquess Wilson: 3 catches, 19 yards
Richard Rodgers: 4 catches, 39 yards, 1 TD
Martellus Bennett: 8 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD