The regular season is finally here! I’ll do my best to contain my excitement long enough to write this article. No promises though. This season kicks off with a huge rivalry match as we trek down to Chicago to take on the Bears. Here’s the breakdown on how we match up.
Green Bay Offense vs. Chicago Defense
This could be a long day for the Bears defense. After changing schemes in the offense to John Fox’s preferred 3-4 base, their first test is against reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and his dynamic supporting cast. There is some talent on this defense, but the players have little experience in a 3-4 setup, and a painful adjustment period should be expected.
Their starting defensive line of Ego Ferguson, Jeremiah Ratliff and Jarvis Jenkins all hover around 300 lbs., which means they’re not likely to be overly quick in the pass rush or too stout in run defense. It’s strange to say that Ratliff, who is 6’4” and 303 lbs. is undersized, but at nose tackle, you need someone heavier than that to plug up the running lanes. At linebacker, they have four solid, but not spectacular starters. Jared Allen was a playmaker at one point, but that was several years ago. Asking a man in his mid-30’s to switch positions to one that requires more athleticism is a tall order. The secondary has Kyle Fuller and… not a whole lot more. Antrel Rolle is a solid veteran safety, but not much of a playmaker.
Let’s switch gears to the Packers’ offense, which figures to be one of the best offenses in the league again this year, even with the loss of receiver Jordy Nelson. With the exception of Nelson, the offense is returning all of their starters. That fact is especially important for the offensive line. The center position has been a revolving door for the past five years, and Rodgers will be happy to work with the same guy for a second straight year. This unit is the best the Packers have had since Rodgers took over as quarterback.
Rodgers, as usual, has no shortage of weapons at his disposal. With Lacy as the featured back, you can expect the run-game to be top notch once again. And, even without Nelson, the Packers have a group of receivers that many good teams envy. The X-factors are Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers. The MVP will be looking to throw their way often. How successful this offense is will depend on their development.
Green Bay Defense vs. Chicago Offense
There’s not a whole lot to say about the Bears’ offense. They still have questions on the offensive line, and they still have Jay Cutler at quarterback. Those two facts almost negate the positive qualities this offense has. Things were looking good at receiver until rookie Kevin White injured his leg, leaving them with Alshon Jeffery and a bunch of guys. They do have Matt Forte, who John Fox would be wise to use a lot. Forte was misused by the previous regime. This coaching staff is a lot smarter than the last, so I would expect a great season for Forte, starting with a great game against Green Bay.
The Packers’ defense was much improved in the second half of last season. They’ll be hoping for more of the same this week against the Bears. Expect to see Clay Matthews line up at all four linebacker spots again. If the opposing offense never knows what he’s going to do, it’ll just be that much harder to account for him. The Packers have a very young, but very talented secondary. Expect to see some rookie moments from this unit, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same young players intercept a few Jay Cutler passes.
The defensive line will be without Datone Jones and Letroy Guion, who are serving one and four game suspensions, respectively. However, the progression of Mike Pennell and the return of BJ Raji, who missed all of last season with a torn bicep, should help the unit to hold up against the Bears in the absence of Jones and Guion. Mike Daniels is entering a contract year, so I expect him to be wildly productive early and often.
The Bears still have Robbie Gould, one of the best kickers around, but nothing too scary in the return game, where Marc Mariani is expected to handle both kick offs and punts.
The Packers have Crosby, a good kicker, and a return game with some potential. We’re all excited to see what Ty Montgomery can bring to the return game. The Packers concern is with punter Tim Masthay, who is coming off of his worst season as a pro. He had a solid game against the Saints last week, but has otherwise struggled this preseason. If he struggles against the Bears, Coach McCarthy might hear pressure to start looking for other options.
The Bears are not in a good place right now and are at least a few years away from competing again. This season, which could very well end with the worst record in football, starts off with a matchup nightmare for them.
I expect the Packers to dominate in everything but stopping Matt Forte. He’ll make things difficult for the front-7, but the Packers will win by at least 10 points.