By Kyle Raugh
Finally the first week of the NFL season is here and what better way to start it than a rivalry game. Both fan bases have been eyeing this juicy matchup all summer long if you don’t believe go ahead and take a peek at Twitter where the NFC North fan bases continue to throw haymakers at each other. In particular, the Detroit Lions fan base has gone absolutely coo coo, but that’s not what we are here for. I just needed to toss a little shade at one of the worst franchises in the history of the NFL and as they like to say, “that’s just facts.”
So what makes this matchup so exciting? We get to see the new look Bears go against a rival that has gotten the best of us for far too long. Now Bears fans have always gotten excited when it comes to battling the Packers, but this time it just feels different and I know you all feel the same way. Ryan Pace injected Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Anthony Miller and Taylor “Turbo” Gabriel into an offense that already had one of the most potent running back duos in the league. Oh, and on top of that, Pace gave the Bears the ultimate prize. West Coast mastermind Matt Nagy, formulating a well-oiled offensive machine that the Bears have been lacking for a lifetime. As if a top ten defense last year for Pace wasn’t enough, he went out and got the top inside linebacker in the draft, Roquan Smith and arguably the best outside linebacker in the league, Khalil Mack. Unlike when Mack was on the raiders, he is no longer the only guy on his defense that an offensive coordinator has to game script for. Look for Mack to be in the running for defensive player of the year. So why does this year feel different than others? The tide has not only turned when it comes to our rivalry with Green Bay, it’s turned with the NFC North and the whole league as well.
Keys To Victory
Key 1: Not allowing Aaron Rodgers to create, while also interrupting his timing with receivers. Aaron Rodgers is deadliest when his receivers aren’t contested at the line of scrimmage. He has an unbelievable connection with his wideouts when it comes to timing and understanding how the play flows when it breaks down. Vic Fangio needs to apply constant pressure to get Rodgers out of his rhythm, while also getting physical with the Packers receiving options initially at the line of scrimmage. It’s important for the Bears defense to trap Rodgers within the pocket, as he is at his deadliest when the play starts breaking down.
Key 2: Taking the pitch count off of Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith. We are talking about primetime Rodgers, that’s a whole new animal. When facing the NFL’s best quarterback, you can’t take your game changers off of the field. Mack played 90% of the Raiders defensive snaps last year and we are going to need the same thing from him in this matchup. Mack playing with a mild understanding of the playbook is better than Sam Acho on his best day. No offense Sam, you’re the perfect depth piece now for the 10% of snaps Mack doesn’t play. I am more understanding of Roquans situation as he is working back from a minor hamstring injury. We have an adequate
back up in Nick Kwiatkoski, but Roquan has game-changing burst, speed and playmaking ability. That speed would be nice to have on the field when Rodgers is maneuvering outside of the pocket on broken plays and to help stop a lackluster rushing attack.
Key 3: Matt Nagy by no means should take his foot off the pedal when it comes to offensive play calling. Even if the Bears get ahead early, Nagy shouldn’t alter his play calling and become run heavy to grind out the clock. With Rodgers under center for the Packers, they are always in the game, even if the score looks lopsided. You don’t want to mess around with Rodger’s primetime magic. The Bears have to keep the pedal to the metal and keep throwing up points until the final second ticks off the clock.
What To Watch For
Mitch Trubisky: Bears fans haven’t seen much of Trubisky throughout the preseason but the reports out of training camp have been great. In a west coast scheme that fits Trubisky like a glove, it’ll be interesting to see just how good of a grip he has on Nagy’s playbook. I believe we have our franchise QB under center and also that he will have a Jared Goff like 2nd-year jump in production this season. We finally get to see if Trubisky passes the eye test, especially against an unintimidating Packers defense. I expect him to lean heavily on Trey Burton in this game, as he knows the offense inside and out. I project Burton for 875 yards and 7 TDs on the season. This year will depend on how big of a jump Trubisky can take in Nagy’s offense.
Bear’s WRs: What excites me the most is seeing what the Bears receiving core is all about. Will Allen Robinson return to his 2015 form when he put up 1,400 yards and 14 TDs for a middling Jaguars offense or will we see a season closer to 2016 when he had 883 yards and 6 TDs. I am expecting an offensive output of 1120 yards and 9 touchdowns. Although it is rare that rookie wideouts make an impact in year one, Anthony Miller is the player that excites me the most. Miller’s got that dawg to him, that blue-collar work ethic, a player that constantly beats away at his craft. He’s not the biggest, fastest, most explosive but will have an instant impact developing a quick connection with Trubisky. I’m calling for 895 yards and 6 TD’s on the season for him. Taylor Gabriel is more of a gadget player; I am calling for 410 yards and 3 touchdowns. I believe Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen will play similar roles in the receiving game. I don’t expect a significant impact from Kevin White, I believe that at this point he is a depth piece that will mix in.
Bear’s RBs: Only Leonard Fournette faced more 8-man boxes and fewer 6-man boxes than Jordan Howard in 2017. With Nagy’s west coast scheme opening things up, I am excited to see what Jordan Howard can do facing lighter fronts. Nagy also relayed to the media that Howard will be staying on the field on third downs. This is a positive development for a player that’s been labeled with stone hands. I am excited to see the steps Howard has taken in his receiving game. We didn’t get to see
a lot of Tarik Cohen in the preseason. It will be fun to see how Nagy deploys him and to see how many touches he will get in the offense.
Packers CBs: I am very interested in the investment the Packers made into their secondary, especially since Trubisky will be battling them for years to come. Kevin King, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson were all superb talents coming out of college. Outside of QB, I believe corner is the toughest position to transition to when coming into the league. Odds are one of these guys will emerge, but lord help us if they are all dominant.
Packer’s WRs: The Packers have one solid option in the receiving game, Davante Adams. Although Rodgers isn’t a QB that keys in on one wideout, it’s still important to know where Adams is at all times. Outside of Graham in the red zone, Adams is the only receiving option that may command a double team at times in the game. With Randall Cobb’s career trending in the wrong direction and Jordy Nelson off to Oakland, it’ll be interesting to see who steps in for the production that’s left. The Packer’s took a lot of fliers on WR’s late in the draft, so maybe one of those guys will emerge, but my money is on Geronimo Allison being the next guy up.
Playing The Odds
I took to Odds Shark to see how the big dawgs running all the numbers were breaking this one down. The predicted score was Green Bay 24.5, Chicago 18.5. The spread consensus of all betting sites combined had Chicago +7 and Green Bay -7, with the consensus of total points scored being 46.5. Odds Shark has Green Bay winning, with Chicago covering the spread and the combined score being less than 46.5 points. My advice, get out the checkbook and write a fat check with your money on the Bears. I believe the number crunchers are wrong here but it’s probably because they get flashbacks of a John Fox led Chicago Bears team. This is nothing new to the average Bears fan; we have been doubted all off-season by many fan bases, analysts and now oddsmakers. We all know that’s about to change after Sunday night at 8:30. The Chicago Bears fan base, front office, coaches and players have been licking their chops for months thinking about this moment. It’s time to take the league by storm.
Vic Fangio and the Bears defense are going to cause problems against an underwhelming Packers offensive line. Combine that with the Packers defense in the dark on what Nagy is bringing to the table and you’ve got the Bears in the driver’s seat. Kevin King of the Packers even admitted it, saying “I think they’re going to come out and… honestly, I can’t tell you anything on him (Mitch Trubisky). I’m trying to make shit up.” I’ve got the Bears over the Packers, 31-27.
Book it, Bear Down.
I need more fan interaction! I love talking Bears and interacting with anyone that loves the game as much as I do. Add me on twitter: @TheNFLSector. I look forward to going on a journey with you all this season.