Does anybody else wonder why the NFL continues to trot out the Bears at Lambeau in prime time? I mean, is anybody outside of the upper Midwest excited for this one?
I mean, I get it. It’s the oldest rivalry in the NFL, meeting #205. I’m old enough to remember when the Bears’ lead in the series looked insurmountable. But I’m old. This series hasn’t been competitive since the Packers had one Super Bowl winning QB in their history, not three.
You all know the numbers. Six in a row, 20 of 23. When Aaron Rodgers says he owns the Bears, it’s because no QB in league history has been as productive against a single team, as he has against Chicago, with a 107.4 passer rating and a 23-4 record in games he’s started and finished. There’s the NFC title game in Soldier Field, the 4th down TD pass to Randall Cobb, and on and on.
The prime time attention is all about the history: ancient, bitter rivals, black and blue…not to mention Aaron Rodgers and the Pack always seem to make for compelling TV. And what do you know, da Bears find themselves above the Pack in the standings, by virtue of their upset of the 49ers on the rain-soaked Slip-N-Slide that was Soldier Field.
So here come the Bears, feeling pretty good about themselves, with former Packer QB coach Luke Getsy leading their offense, and former Packer utility lineman Lucas Patrick, who appears to be everyone’s favorite new teammate. Not to mention Equanimeous St. Brown, who caught a touchdown pass from Justin Fields in Week One.
You can argue that the Bears will come in all loosy goosy, with zero expectations and nothing to lose. You can argue that the Pack, ten point favorites, might be too eager to put last week behind them and might be prone to tightness and nerves.
But I’ll argue that the Bears remain the perfect cure for what ails you. The elixir begins with a proud defense that clearly, and for some unknown reason, needed a game to get their feet under them. The good news: they’re facing the most offensively-challenged team in the league. I like Fields a lot and believe that Getsy will take that rare talent and, sometime down the road, give the Bears the best QB they’ve had in decades. The bar, as we know, is not set high.
While Patrick has provided some stability and leadership to the offensive line, that unit is still a long way away from being mediocre, meaning Fields is being forced to escape the pocket with regularity and that’s where he can be his most dangerous. He put up solid numbers in both games against the Pack last year, especially the December game at Lambeau where the Bears led 27-21 at halftime and Fields rushed for 74 yards.
With Quay Walker cleared to play after suffering a shoulder injury, the Pack’s defense is better prepared to deal with Fields’ legs this season. Walker made some mistakes in his debut, but also always seemed to be around the ball. After an opening stinker, I believe the defense is ready to make a statement in prime time: feels like a three turnover night.
Of course, all eyes will be on Rodgers and the Packers’ offense after an opener that was disjointed and out of rhythm, with plenty of places to point fingers. Rodgers was not sharp and missed open receivers. LaFleur called a lousy game, barely using Aaron Jones and not leaning enough on the running game, which was productive when their numbers were called. Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb were non-factors; the rookies are still getting their feet wet and the offensive line was a hot mess, especially on the right side, where Jake Hanson and Royce Newman struggled all afternoon.
I don’t expect Bakhtiari and Jenkins back for this one, and Jon Runyan may miss the game as he heals from a concussion. So the line will continue to be a work in progress. Getting those guys back for next week in Tampa would be nice; for this week, look for rookie Zach Tom to step in at left guard.
The offense is not going to suddenly start firing on all cylinders, but if Allen Lazard is able to suit up, and LaFleur gives the backs at least 30 touches between them, Green Bay will light up the scoreboard. Don’t expect a third straight 40-burger at Lambeau in the series, but do expect the Pack to look more like the Pack.