All the hype and speculation is over, the NFL IS BACK! Finally, the games will do the talking… The Chicago Bears open the 2018 season with their biggest rivalry and division foe, Green Bay.
This off-season each team on the field for this game broke the proverbial “piggy bank” with historic paydays for an individual player. The Packers made QB Aaron Rodgers the highest paid player in the league while Chicago made OLB Khalil Mack the highest paid defensive player, momentarily.
This new narrative will provide context throughout the game as Mack is now paid to disrupt Rodgers all game long, twice a year. Meanwhile, Rodgers will attempt to continue a trend of dismantling any defense that comes his way when he can remain upright…
Each player has proven to be very good at his craft so there is a lot to watch on tv. Apparently, the NFL agrees since they announced it will be the first of many Sunday Night Football matchups on prime time tv.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Mitch Trubisky
Mr. Rodgers returns from a broken collarbone suffered in October of last season. The Packers’ hopes of a playoff run crumbled with his absence. His injury also displayed a very vulnerable roster with Brett Hundley at the helm (no longer with the team). When healthy, Rodgers is one of the best to play the game, but at 34 years of age how many sacks will it take to shut him down for good.
Trubisky enters his sophomore season with a new coach and an updated offensive system. He finished his rookie season with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. One can only wonder will the training wheels be completely off when the Bears take the field Sunday evening.
Green Bay has a steady line anchored at left tackle by the respected David Bakhtiari. However, the Packers line gave up a combined 53 total sacks last season between Rodgers and Hundley.
The Bears return former pro bowl, RG Kyle Long. He missed a portion of the season with a variety of injuries that were rectified this offseason. However, they managed to give up 39 total sacks between Trubisky and Mike Glennon.
If you have trouble naming the starter for the Packers, you aren’t alone. Last season, the three-headed monster, Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, and Aaron Jones, combined for 1,724 yards. Williams is the presumed starter with Montgomery playing third downs.
Jordan Howard finished 10th overall in the league with 1,122 yards rushing. He has established himself as one of the brightest young backs in the league and has a pro bowl nomination to show for it. The Tarik Cohen, the “human joystick” adds a versatile component and speed to a stout backfield. He is one of the few players to ever throw, rush, and return a touchdown in a single season.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The Packers return pro bowler and newly resigned Davante Adams to join one of the best slot receivers in the game, Randall Cobb. They have established chemistry with Rodgers, compound that with Graham and I give you about 34 touchdowns, give or take.
The Bears rebuilt a junior varsity position with former pro bowler, Allen Robinson. The speedster Taylor Gabriel and NCAA touchdown machine Anthony Miller. They join former seventh overall pick, Kevin White. But Trubisky is the great unknown so any prediction is skewed.
Before we can move on to defensive comparisons, let me preface this with a few tidbits. Historically, this is the Bears’ strength, always has been. In the 1980s they earned the nickname, the “Monsters of the Midway,” with a relentless brand of defense.
There was a brief lull of porous defense in the post-Lovie Smith era, but last season the Vic Fangio led defense was 10th overall (yards/game) and 9th in scoring. This was without a pro bowl selection.
On the flip side, the Packers were 22nd in total defense and 26th in scoring. One can argue Green Bay’s Achilles heel is its defense. However, it shouldn’t have to provide too much with Rodgers slinging the rock wherever and whenever he wants.
The Packers added former pro bowl DE Muhammed Wilkerson formerly of the Jets. He has not been the same player since 2015 when he sacked the NFL 12 times and contributed 3.5 last season. He combines with pro bowl alternate Mike Daniels (5 sacks) and NT Kenny Clark (4.5 sacks) for a formidable front.
The Bears have Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman who combine for a large dose of stopping power. Hicks had 8.5 sacks last season but was left out of the pro bowl selection. Goldman contributed 1.5 sacks but is notorious for collapsing the line against the run. Bleacher Report added he recently signed a $42 million extension for his efforts upfront, making him one of the highest paid nose tackles in the game. His contributions hardly show up on the stat sheet but ALL his teammates enjoy him up front. Hicks supported his fellow lineman during his announcement of the newly signed contract in front of the press. The third starter will be a combination of Roy Robert-Harris and Jonathan Bullard, who combined for three total sacks.
The Packers have an aging unit on the outside with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. But each contributes to the rush and run support. Newcomer Oren Burks, formerly of Vanderbilt, joins tackling machine Blake Martinez on the inside.
Two words, Khalil Mack, former Defensive Player of the Year (2016), joins extremely athletic Leonard Floyd on the outside. They are joined by the talented rookie and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Roquan Smith and veteran Danny Trevathan.
The Packers secondary combined for 11 interceptions in 2017. The Packers used a first-round pick on Jaire Alexander, formerly of Louisville, but according to Yahoo Sports, he is listed as the backup to 34-year-old, Tramon Williams. They are joined with 2017 second round pick, Kevin King, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice roaming the center of the field.
The Bears resigned Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara in the offseason. Ironically, Fuller signed an offer sheet from Green Bay that Chicago matched immediately. They are joined by sure tackling Adrian Amos and second-year man, Eddie Jackson. Together this group hauled in eight interceptions.
On paper, each team makes a formidable case to come out on top. But the needle swings to Green Bay because of home-field advantage. The Chicago defense is going to make it extremely uneasy for Rodgers’ return to the field.
Ultimately, I believe if the Packers score 24 or more they win the game but if the Bears can hold them under that number, I am calling upset.
The Bears new slogan under Coach Nagy is “Be Obsessed.” Anthony Miller agrees.
“People shouldn’t sleep on us, we about to rewrite history.” – Anthony Miller chicagobears.com
Tune in because this one should be exciting!
Until then, stay thirsty. JT, out!