Bears offense vs. Packers defense
Both the Bears offense and Packers defense will have new looks when the teams meet up Sunday night. The Bears, obviously, will showcase quarterback Jay Cutler and a rebuilt offensive line along with some new receivers. The Packers have switched to a 3-4 defense. Which unit is more game-ready? We saw great things from both units in the preseason. After a rough first outing, Cutler and the Bears’ first team offense rolled through the final three games in the exhibition season whereas the Packers’ defense looked like they already have clicked and settled into the new scheme. Truthfully, it will take a few weeks, if not longer, for both units to truly jell. I expect to see both sides making plays in this matchup. The Bears should be able to move the ball effectively at times throughout the game by utilizing their new weapon, Cutler, as well as running back Matt Forte. The Packers, meanwhile, should be flying around and making plays while complicating things for the Bears.
Bears defense vs. Packers offense
The Bears are two seasons removed from being an elite defense in the NFL and are now simply an average unit. In order to regain respectability, they’ll have to pressure Aaron Rodgers with their front four. Rod Marinelli was brought in to help the defensive line play better, and through this point in the season, he’s drawn rave reviews. But until we see it in a regular season game, we can’t expect them to resemble the 2005 and 2006 teams. The Packers feature one of the best offenses in the NFC and often can be explosive, as we witnessed in last season’s 37-3 drubbing at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers earned respect last year after many — myself included — thought he would not be a good pro quarterback. He’s a smart decision-maker and is careful with the ball. He’ll buy time in the pocket by moving his feet and he’ll take a sack or throw the ball away rather than try to force things. The Bears had one of the best run defenses in the NFL last season and their first task is to stop the Packers from gaining yards on the ground. Considering they have a young secondary, though, the Packers will try to exploit it and they very well could with one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. This looks to be too much for a Bears defense that is rapidly aging and was not complete throughout the preseason due to various injuries.
Devin Hester is returning punts and Danieal Manning should be returning kickoffs if his hamstring allows. They are two of the best returners in the game and will give the Bears’ offense great field position if given the opportunity to return kicks instead of watching them sail out of bounds or to an upback. Robbie Gould enters the season third on the NFL’s all-time field goal percentage list. Brad Maynard should be solid as usual. The Packers’ Mason Crosby had a shaky preseason despite being solid the past few years. The Bears normally have solid special teams coverage thanks to Dave Toub.
It’s a division rivalry that supercedes all else in the league. It’s a prime time matchup on national TV. And now there is a respectable — scratch that, a great quarterback leading the Bears. Jay Cutler versus Aaron Rodgers could be the story line for years to come. For starters, the Packers have an immediate advantage given that they’re playing this game at home. Secondly, even though preseason games don’t matter, that doesn’t mean a team can’t have a lot of confidence after playing very well during that stretch. While there’s a slight chance of overconfidence, they’re more than likely going to find the right balance. With an already strong offense paired with an exciting new defense that will be flying to the ball and making plays, the Bears might just have their hands full in this one.
Final Score: Green Bay 27, Chicago 24