The Chicago Bears kick off their 100th season by facing the Green Bay Packers for the 199th time on Thursday night.
It’s one of the most anticipated Bears seasons in recent memory, but that doesn’t mean it will be a walk in the park. The Packers always bring their best against the Bears and with a new coach and offense, they’re going to want to show that the NFC North runs back through Green Bay.
Green Bay Packers
SB Nation site: Acme Packing Company
Game day/time/TV: Thursday, 7:20 p.m., NBC
2018 Record: 6-9-1, third in NFC North
Bears all-time record against: 95-97-4 (including postseason)
Historical match ups: The Bears and Packers have met five times in week one going back to 1997, the Bears won one of those games: in 2006, when they opened the season by shutting out the Packers 26-0.
Last meeting: The Bears beat the Packers 24-17 to clinch the NFC North title at Soldier Field in Week 15.
Remember Aaron Rodgers famous no interception streak? Eddie Jackson ended it.
Then there was my other favorite: the Khalil Mack ass-sack.
Injury report: The Packers have quite a substantial injury list for being week one, so here we go:
Full participation: DL Montravius Adams (groin), DL Fadol Brown (calf), DL Kenny Clark (ankle), TE Jimmy Graham (finger), CB Josh Jackson (achilles), RB Aaron Jones (hamstring), DL Tyler Lancaster (ankle), G Cole Madison (ankle), LB Blake Martinez (back), S Will Redmond (ankle), FB Danny Vitale (calf), RB Jamaal Williams (hamstring)
Limited: CB Ka’dar Hollman (neck), CB Kevin King (hamstring), CB Tramon Williams (knee)
Did not participate: LB Oren Burks (chest), T/G Alex Light (wrist), WR Darrius Shepherd (hamstring), TE Jace Sternberger (ankle)
Offense: The brand-spanking-new Matt LeFleur offense is all set to be unveiled. This offense is supposed to be new age compared to the old school system run by predecessor Mike McCarthy.
LeFleur gets roped in as one of those coaches that was breathed on by Rams head coach Sean McVay, but really he spent a lot of time under Kyle Shanahan.
The biggest thing with his offense is restricting the freelancing that Aaron Rodgers has done at the line of scrimmage in years past. He also will likely be under center more than under McCarthy.
Like Matt Nagy’s offense, LeFleur uses a lot of pre-snap motion. According to this Robert Mays piece on The Ringer, the Titans used it 56 percent of the time last season. Expect a lot more play action as well.
Returning with Rodgers are running backs Aaron Jones (133 att./728 yds./8 TDs in 2018) and Jamaal Williams (121/464/3).
Gone is Randall Cobb but Davante Adams (111 rec./1,386 yds./13 TD) returns, along with Marquez Valdes-Scantling (38/581/2) and Geronimo Allison (20/303/2). TE Jimmy Graham (55/636/2) is back as well.
Newcomers include tight ends veteran Marcedes Lewis and running back Dexter Williams, a sixth round draft pick.
Defense: Much like Matt Nagy convinced Vic Fangio to stay a year ago, LeFleur convinced Mike Pettine to stay on board this year.
Pettine led the 22nd ranked defense in terms of points allowed and they ranked only marginally better, 18th, in yards allowed.
Their defense does have some new faces this year as the Packers splurged in free agency. Outside linebackers Preston Smith (from Washington) and Za’Darius Smith (from Baltimore) join the Packer D.
And of course Bears fans will recognize safety Adrian Amos lining up at safety.
Kyler Fackrell (10.5 sacks/12 QB hits in 2018), Kenny Clark (6 sacks) and Blake Martinez (5 sacks/144 tackles) return. Recent draft picks Jaire Alexander (1 INT/11 PD/66 tackles) and Kevin King (1 INT/2 PD/1 FR) take over in the secondary with the 35-year-old Tramon Williams (54 tackles) still around.
Rookie Darnell Savage will be the safety starting across from Amos.
Key match ups: Stop Aaron Rodgers from getting into a rhythm.
Rodgers is the guy who makes the offense go and in a new system, he is likely going to be thinking a little more than he used to, which could mean the Bears’ defense may have a chance to get a jump on him.
Slowing down Rodgers is always the key to beating the Packers, because he is the cog that keeps the whole thing going. Pressuring him is the best way to keep him out of sync.
For the Bears’ offense, it’s going to be about finding the best match ups against a still-young secondary and giving Mitchell Trubisky time to find his receivers. The Packers invested in their pass rushers during the offseason, so let’s not let them have a big day.
What to watch for: How will this new Packers offense look in its debut? Could they have an early leg up on the Bears with some unpredictability?
Look for Chicago to showoff it’s own second year offense; will they be able to hang and put up points?
LeFleur’s system, much like the Shanahan/McVay offense, is predicated on confusing defenders into not knowing who to cover. Will Chuck Pagano’s defense be disciplined and in sync enough to play aggressively and be effective?
Key stats: 68.9 - Rodgers’ passer rating against the Bears in their week 14 meeting last season, his lowest of the season
Last year with the Titans, LeFleur called the 25th ranked offense in yards and 27th in points. They had the 29th ranked passing offense but the sixth ranked rushing offense.
The Packers are 8-3 in their last 11 week one games
The last seven Packers head coaches have lost their debut game against the Bears. The last Packers coach to win his first game against Chicago was Dan Devine in 1971.
The Bears have lost five straight week one games. The last week one game they won was Marc Trestman’s debut in 2013.
Do you think that the Packers and LeFleur can pull off the upset tomorrow night?