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A New Era Begins: Bears vs Packers Week 1 Preview

The longest rivalry in NFL history will look to renew when the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers at Solider Field at 3:25pm CST Sept. 10.

However this match-up will look very different than the last 15 years of games between these two rivals. Aaron Rodgers is gone, putting on his best Brett Favre cosplay by starting at quarterback for the New York Jets after a pre-draft trade to the send the 4-time MVP to the Big Apple (Look for him to start in Minnesota in 2024). In his place, the fourth-year quarterback, out of Utah State, Jordan Love will finally get a chance to prove if he's a capable NFL quarterback. It's a fresh start for the Packers to see what the next generation of Packers will be like in this decade.

Meanwhile on the other side of the field a new era will hopefully begin with the Bears' Justin Fields. Chicago is hoping that Fields will turn into the quarterback that Rodgers and Favre were when they played the Bears. The hope is that they will flip the script on the Packers, as since Favre starter became the starter in 1992, the Bears have gone 15-47 agaisnt Green Bay. Chicago hasn't even beaten Green Bay since December of 2018 when the Bears last won the division. Fields has all the talent (and hype) in the world to prove that he can be a good-to-great NFL quarterback. However, up to this point Fields hasn't been able to prove that for a full season. He had a great stretch at the end of 2023, where he completed 67% of his passes, threw for 12 touchdowns to just five interceptions and had the fourth highest quarterback rating.

This game for both teams will set the tone in this new era of this historic rivalry. A Packers win could continue the trend we have seen for the last 30 years between these two teams. On the other hand, a Bears win could finally change the story of this rivalry and finally make it competitive and fun for both sides. Let's go ahead and preview one of the most important games between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.

Game Info:

Date: September 10

Start Time: 3:25 p.m. CST

Location: Chicago, Illinois

TV Info:

Bears Uniform: Home Navy Blue Jersey with white pants

Packers Uniform: Away White Jersey with yellow pants

Key Match-up #1: Bears Offensive Line vs. Packers Defensive Line

The Bears offensive line helped them have one of the best rushing attacks in all of football, averaging the most yards per carry at 5.4 and lead the league in runs of over 40 yards with eight. Much of that came with Justin Fields dynamic running ability along with a good group of running backs last year. Chicago ran for 335 yards between the two games a year ago. That mark was just second amongst division opponents, with the Bears running for 458 yards on the Detriot Lions. I would expect that same mix with Fields, Khalil Herbert, D'onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson agaisnt a Packers D-Line that finished 26th in rushing. The Packers will be better agaisnt the run this year with Kenny Clark and another year of experience for Devonte Wyatt and T.J. Slaton, but I wouldn't expect it to show up in Week 1.

The side of this match-up that will really determine if the Bears will have any success on the offensive side of the ball will be the Packers pass rush agaisnt a retooled Bears offensive line. While you wouldn't expect much from this group considering they finished 29th in sacks last year with 34, star pass rusher Rashan Gary missed eight games last year and still had six sacks on the season. His counterpart Preston Smith lead the team with 8.5 sacks a year ago, but the production dropped quickly with Kenny Clark at four sacks. To address this, the Packers used the 13th pick from the Jets on Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness to add both some run stopping and pass rushing depth. Van Ness had 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his two years with the Hawkeyes and has a good combination of speed and power.

In the Bears first match-up with the Packers in Green Bay last year, the Packers had three sacks and limited Chicago to just 48 net passing yards on the night. However, in game two in Chicago in week 13, Green Bay could not get to Fields all day. That allowed Fields to throw for the most yards in a game all of last season with 254 yards, while adding 71 on the ground and a touchdown. That second game was while Gary was out, so it will be key for the Bears to key in on him if Fields is going to do anything through the air.

Hopefully that will come with a better offensive line surrounding Fields compared to a year ago. While the left side of the offensive line will be the same in this game due to left guard Teven Jenkins being on IR, with Braxton Jones and Cody Whitehair there, the right side is completely rebuilt. Nate Davis was brought over from the Titans to play right guard and Darnell Wright was drafted No. 10 overall as the right tackle. Former Packer Lucas Patrick will be the starting center and he was serviceable while healthy last year. The Bears gave up the most sacks last year and while some of that was on Fields holding on the ball to long, the other part was the offensive line just not having a lot of good players. With this infusion of talent, the Bears offensive line should be able to hold up a bit longer for Fields to throw dots all afternoon.

Key Match-up #2: Bears Linebackers and D-Line vs. Packers Running Backs

If there is one big strength to this Packers offense it is their dynamic duo at the running back position with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion. While the Packers finished middle of the pack in rushing and rushing attempts, they always seemed to bring their "A Game," agaisnt the Bears, rushing for 278 yards and three touchdowns, the most the Packers had agaisnt teams within the division. It also didn't help that the Bears had one of the worst front sevens in all of football, giving up the second most rushing yards, the most rushing touchdowns and most 1st downs given up on the ground.

Much like the offensive line the Bears put in a lot of resources into improving this group. Outside of DT Justin Jones and LB Jack Sanborn, everyone in the front seven is new this year for Chicago. Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards brought in for the linebacker group, while Andrew Billings, Zacch Pickens and Gervon Dexter Sr were brought in to rebuild the interior of the defensive line. The Bears also added Yannick Ngakoue, but he will be a pass rushing specialist and shouldn't factor too much into the run defense for the Bears.

With the injuries to the Packers receivers (get to that later) the Packers are going to run the ball early and often to give Jordan Love easy downs to build confidence. The Bears will have to put everything they can into trying to stop the run and force Jordan Love to beat them through the air. That's not an insult to Love, it's just the best gameplan of how to beat a young starter. Why do you think Bill Belichick has such a good record against rookie quarterbacks, he knows you have to force them to beat you and not the other players around him.

If the Packers want any chance of winning, they will need to rely on their running game to make life easy for Jordan Love. However, if the rebuilt Bears D-line can even be league average agaisnt the run in this one, then it will be on Love to try and win the game without his No. 1 wide receiver and three rookies as targets in Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft and Jayden Reed.

Key Match-up #3: Justin Fields vs. Jordan Love

You all knew this one was coming. The one part of this game that everyone has been talking about since the schedule was released in May. Jordan Love vs. Justin Fields. Two very different quarterbacks at two very different points in their career. Love, the former Utah State Aggie, is finally getting a chance to prove he can be a starting level NFL quarterback after being drafted in 2020 and sitting behind Rodgers for three seasons. This will really be the first time anyone can truly evaluate Love at this level, with just one career start and a relief appearance last season agaisnt the Eagles. Outside of that, we really have only seen him in preseason games agaisnt vanilla defenses.

I think Love can grow into at the very least a game manager style quarterback. He has the talent to win you games, but not the game breaking ceiling that can change a game on a dime. Realistically, I expect Love to play an average game and make passes when he has to. If he can play within the system that Matt LaFleur runs, he can win this game and a lot more with the Packers. I just don't know if Love may get rattled on a third-and-long late in the game, on the road with a lot of noise, when he has to make that big throw. We'll just have to wait and see if that happens.

On the other side, Justin Fields is trying to prove that he can ascend to a star level quarterback. Fields has played pretty much since he was drafted 11th overall by the Bears in 2021. While he didn't win the starting job over Andy Dalton, Fields scored his first career rushing touchdown agaisnt the Rams on opening night of 2021. Since then it's been an up-and-down road for the former Ohio-State quarterback. He's had impressive and elite level moments in his career, but hasn't been the most consistent quarterback. He can hit the deep throws and make highlight level plays, but sometimes misses the easy ones, his "layups," in the passing game.

Fields had a great stretch last season that I talked about in my burning questions article, but it's about putting all together and being a consistently good-to-great quarterback. That's what makes the Patrick Mahomes and the Joe Burrows of the world so good, they can make the extraordinary play two or three times a game, but they also hit the easy stuff on a regular basis. If Fields can get there in the passing game, with his already deadly running ability, he can become a great dual-threat quarterback, like Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts.

Both of these quarterbacks are in their prove-it year, one way or another. This game will not only have ramifications for this season, but the direction of both of these franchises for potentially the next 3-5 years.

Injury Update:

It's a fairly clean bill of health for the Bears this go around. There were five players on the injury report through out the week including starting safeties Jaquan Brisker (Groin) and Eddie Jackson (Ankle), new edge rusher DeMarcus Walker (Calf) and Nate Davis who was out Wednesday and Thursday with a personal issue. All of those players are slated to play Sunday, but one player did pop on the injury report late and that was former Packer Robert Tonyan who is questionable with a back injury.

It's a slightly different story for the Packers, as despite David Bakhtiari and Rashan Gary are expected to play, they will be hampered in the wide receiver room. As our very own MJ Hurley reported on Thursday, the Packers will be without second year wide receiver Christian Watson due to a hamstring injury. Ian Rapoport also reported that Romeo Doubs will play, but he will be limited due to a hamstring injury as well.

Prediction: Bears 24-Packers 21

This will be a close game through-and-through. These teams are evenly matched and should provide a good look into how good Bears head coach Matt Eberflus and Packer head coach Matt LaFleur are at making adjustments on the fly.

In the end, I think the Bears have the better overall roster. The Packers have a great defense, but with the inexperience of Jordan Love and the injuries to Watson and Doubs, I think the Bears squeak this out on a last second field goal from Cario Santos. The win would give them their first season opening win since 2020 agaisnt the Matthew Stafford led Detroit Lions.

It's a new era in this rivalry between the Bears and the Packers and I for one can't wait for it to begin.

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