Week 1 NFL Game Preview: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Week 1 NFL Game Preview: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler runs the offense against the Packers in the first quarter of a 2014 Week 4 matchup at Soldier Field. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

The NFL’s oldest rivalry will hold its 191st matchup this Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers come to Soldier Field to battle the new look Bears. The Bears hold a slight edge in the all-time series, 93-91-6.

The last time these two NFC North franchises opened the season against one another was exactly six years ago. That came during Jay Cutler’s first season (2009) in a Bears’ uniform. The Bears fell 21-15 and Cutler posted a 47.8 completion percentage along with a touchdown and four interceptions at Lambeau Field.

Hopefully, Cutler and the Bears are well past a lackluster performance like that. In 11 career starts against the Packers, Cutler has a passer rating of 67.1 as he’s thrown seven more interceptions (21) than touchdowns (14).

He has fared well in regular season openers, tossing 14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a passer rating of 91.1. The Bears have won four of their last five opening games with Cutler under center.

On the opposing sideline, with Rodgers at the helm, the Packers have picked apart the Bears’ defense. He tossed 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in just two meetings a year ago.

In 14 regular season meetings against the Bears, the 11th-year pro has posted an 11-3 record, 31 touchdown passes, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 109.8. Rodgers has thrown just four interceptions in the last eight regular-season matchups dating back to 2011.

The Bears are simply trying to hang around in this game. Considering how dominant Green Bay has been over the past few years against the Bears, new head coach John Fox and his staff will have to try to do everything in his power to keep Rodgers on the sidelines as much as possible.

What the Packers are thinking

Rodgers always has an edge against the Bears no matter where the game is held, but he will be without his safety blanket and top receiver Jordy Nelson. Nelson tore his ACL in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 1.

That means No. 2 receiver Randall Cobb will have to step up despite his current right shoulder injury. Second-year Fresno State product Davante Adams totaled three touchdowns a year ago as a sub-package receiver. Adams is really seen as the No. 1 receiver since he can play any spot on the field while Cobb is more of a slot guy. Both guys will be leaned upon heavily.

The Packers also have veteran James Jones, who was brought back this past week after playing last season in Oakland. Rookie Ty Montgomery will get time as the No. 4 wide receiver and starting tight end Richard Rodgers is a dangerous red zone target.

As great as Rodgers is it’s hard to ignore third-year running back Eddie Lacy as a the centerpiece of this offense. The Alabama product has scored three touchdowns in four career games against the Bears. Look for him to be more involved than ever this season for the Packers.

On defense, Clay Matthews is the man at inside linebacker and he will be looked upon to slow down Matt Forte and the Bears’ running game. The Packers run defense ranked 23rd a year ago.

Starting safety Morgan Burnett is expected to be out with a calf injury after missing practice all week, so that means Sean Richardson will make his first career start next to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

What the Bears are thinking

As the Packers look to slow down Forte, the Bears will be hoping to get their No. 1 back going early on. He’s enjoyed recent success against Green Bay as former head coach Marc Trestman utilized the versatile back very well over the last two seasons.

Forte has averaged 99 yards from scrimmage in 14 career games against the Packers. He only has five combined touchdowns and has gone over 100 rushing yards just three times. However, all three of those 100-plus rushing yard performances have come over the past two seasons as he’s averaged 21.5 carries per game.

Cutler will need his full receiving core to be healthy for the Bears to even have a realistic chance. The top three guys: Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson all practiced on a limited basis this week and appear to be ready to play. We will know more prior to kickoff, but expect them all to suit up.

Tight end Martellus Bennett has been a quick starter in two seasons with the Bears. The eight-year pro has reeled in touchdowns in the last two season openers as he’s averaged five receptions and 59 yards.

On defense, the Bears are finally done with the Cover-2 scheme. Now it’s onto the 3-4 look under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Fangio knows it won’t be easy against these Packers, but the Bears could have somewhat of advantage considering it’s an entirely new feel for Rodgers and Co.

“Well, it’s a challenge,” said Fangio about the Bears’ defense to the Sun-Times. “They’ve been pretty bad here for two straight years defensively.”

Regardless of what happens on Sunday this is a big first test for this new look Bears’ defense against one of the best offenses in the league.

Note: The Bears cut outside linebacker Sam Acho on Saturday and signed inside linebacker Lamin Barrow, according to ESPN NFL insider Field Yates. Barrow was a fifth-round pick by Denver last season, who started one game a year ago. He will be a special teams leader under coordinator Jeff Rodgers. Acho is currently battling an illness and might be brought back at some point soon.

Injury Report

BearsOUT: Linebacker Sam Acho (illness) and cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Linebacker Jon Bostic (ankle), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf), wide receiver Eddie Royal (hip) and wide receiver Marquess Wilson (hamstring); PROBABLE: Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (back), quarterback Jimmy Clausen (concussion), defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (concussion)

PackersQUESTIONABLE: Linebacker Sam Barrington (ankle) and safety Morgan Burnett (calf); PROBABLE: Wide receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder).

Final Score Prediction

Packers 30, Bears 21

I think this game will be a lot closer than what people expect, but in the end Rodgers and his offense are just that much better than the Bears. The Bears won’t be able to keep up with the Packers unless Cutler has a great day which has not been the case in his career against Green Bay.

Qwikcast.com Weather Report

Mostly sunny. High’s in the upper 60’s. West winds 10 to 15 mph.

A look ahead

The Bears will play host to Arizona next week before flying out to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in the loudest NFL stadium in Week Three.

Read up on the five Bears players you should keep an eye on in Sunday’s clash with Green Bay, here.

Thoughts on the Packers-Bears season opener? Make sure to weigh in on the comment section below.

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