Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, Lambeau Field, Green Bay
Critical matchup: Aaron Rodgers beats the pass rush with mobility and a split-second release, which downplays protection to some degree. But Rodgers is counting on a new cast to lead the offense, including TE Jimmy Graham and WR Davante Adams, elevated to No. 1 on the depth chart when Jordy Nelson was released. It will be evident early where Rodgers trusts lies, and the adjustments that follow from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio add layers of intrigue.
Graham has a massive catch radius and where he aligns in the formation dictates Fangio’s options for contending with him. Flexing Graham wide becomes a headache, complicating the Bears’ decision to commit more help to containing Graham or Adams. Chicago held Adams to seven total catches in two meetings in 2017.
Numbers to know: Rodgers is 15-4 in his career against the Bears with a 42-9 TD-to-INT ratio and 67.7 completion percentage.
The Bears are 1-5 in the past six meetings in the series.
Enemy lines: Bears DE Akiem Hicks shared his steadfast belief that no Packers’ offensive line configuration would be ample enough to slow down Khalil Mack.
On a conference call with Wisconsin media this week, Hicks assessed the situation thusly: “I know those five guys can’t block Khalil Mack.” Of any one-on-one scenarios with Bryan Bulaga and Mack, Hicks went back in with a sharpened blade, downplaying Bulaga’s limitations coming back from a torn ACL.
“I don’t think he had a chance to block Khalil Mack in the first place,” Hicks said.
Depth finder: Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is open to splitting time at running back between Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery, and the door is open for Aaron Jones after he returns from a two-game suspension.
But Montgomery will work mostly with the four-minute and hurry-up offenses as McCarthy intends to give Williams every opportunity to establish himself as a featured back. He had only seven carries in the preseason but McCarthy professed his faith in Williams as one of the players ready to “make the leap.” McCarthy said Williams is in line for a “big year” if healthy.
Fresh faces: Matt Nagy is in his first season as head coach of the Bears. He was an offensive coordinator for one season in Kansas City. ... Preseason returns were promising for the Packers’ pair of rookie defensive backs, first-rounder Jaire Alexander and second-round pick Josh Jackson. ... The Bears unveil a hybrid offense with roots in the Reid-Doug Pederson schemes in the playbook and a new lot of receivers. WR Allen Robinson (Jaguars) and TE Trey Burton (Eagles) are starters and second-round pick Anthony Miller has potential to be an impact rookie. Robinson was catchless in the preseason. He’s coming back from a torn ACL suffered Week 1 with Jacksonville last year.
Prediction time: Chicago might well have the ingredients to become the bully of the NFC North. But there are too many moving parts to bring together, leaving the door open for a rejuvenated Rodgers and the Packers to pick up the Week 1 win.
Final score: Packers 23, Bears 19
—Field Level Media