Packers vs Bears: The Rivalry That Will Be

Analysis NFC North
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“We’re going to kick Chicago’s ass.” Mike McCarthy is doing his part to rekindle what was a great rivalry just a half decade ago. Today, however, it feels like the Packers and Bears haven’t been competitive in forever. The once proud and blissfully over confident fan base of the Bears that used to enter every season with the baseless optimism that they had a shot to bring back the glory that they experienced in 85 seems to have disappeared and in its place stands the ‘new age Bears fan’ who meets any sort of trash talk with a level head and self-depreciating remarks. It’s a sad era indeed.

McCarthy defended his ass kicking comments saying, “We’re not going down there to play hopscotch.” This is football where homerism and blind allegiance is not only acceptable, but encouraged. Bears fans would do well to remember that.

The Match-ups

Packers Offensive Line vs Bears Defensive Line/OLBs

Especially in the second half of last season, the Packers’ offensive line came in to its own and looked to be a top 3 unit in all of the NFL. They returned all 5 starters, but there have been some injury concerns that have plagued the group in the pre-season. Baktiari suffered a knee contusion early in camp and looked like he wasn’t fit to play in the pre-season opener. T.J. Lang missed the last 2 pre-season games with a concussion, Josh Sitton missed 2 pre-season games with soreness and while Brian Bulaga didn’t miss any preseason starts he did miss some practice time with an ankle injury. The majority of the time missed came after Nelson’s injury so you have to wonder if the Packers decided that pre-season games weren’t worth risking starters’ health over, but the lack of pre-season reps is still a bit of a concern. Mike McCarthy has said that he’s confident that the offensive line starters will be ready to go, however, so that’s a plus.

I am somewhat unfamiliar with the Bears’ defensive line so I will just go off of what PFF had to say about them through their pre-season action. With Ratliff suspended the Bears will start Goldman at NT. He’s coming off of a concussion, however, and while he was able to produce 3 hurries in the pass rushing front through the pre-season, his -3.7 run stopping grade is a bit disconcerting. The Bears will likely start Ferguson and Jenkins at DE. Ferguson had a meh pre-season grading out at -1.3 with his poor pass rush contributing most of the mark against him and Jenkins was equally meh at -.8. This group doesn’t seem like it’s going to be very good at getting after the passer so Chicago will likely have to rely on blitzing and stunts to get after Rodgers. McPhee and Houston will look to bring pressure on Rodgers and McPhee could be in for a big game in his debut. Bak usually gets off to a slow start in games and has been dealing with knee issues so look for McPhee to get the best of him early before Bak settles down and figures him out. Houston is more of a run stopper who is meh at rushing the passer so I expect Bulaga to handle him with ease.

Edge: Packers O-Line

Packers Weapons vs Bears CBs, ILBs, S

Jordy Nelson going down was a sizable blow to the Packers offense. He was their biggest big play threat and leaves a sizable chunk of production that needs to be replaced. The Packers were stacked with weapons so the offense should still be very good, but may not be as explosive. They are left with Cobb, who is at less than 100% after suffering a shoulder injury, Adams in his second year, James Jones who returned to the Packers just earlier this week following the Jordy injury, rookie wide out Ty Montgomery, Dick Rod in his second year at TE, and Fat Eddie coming out of the backfield. This group is enough to be a handful for any defense but may have to rely more on longer drives and establishing the running game in Jordy’s absence.

The Bears had a lot of turnover on their defense after not forcing many turnovers last season. At ILB the Bears will start Shea ‘Rodgers Killer’ McClellin and Christian Jones. Both of the ILBs did well against the run with each earning positive grades but struggled in pass coverage where both graded out negatively by PFF. Fuller and Ball at CB are going to offer up the most favorable match ups on the field compared to their GB counter parts as Fuller received a -1.4 pass defense grade and Ball received just a .1. The safeties Rolle and Amos follow the trend of being ok in run support, but struggling against the pass.

Edge: The passing edge goes to the Packers, but the run game edge is actually tough to call. Lacy is an absolute beast and I’d like to believe that the packers will spread the Bears out enough for him to get in that ass, but there are enough positive grades on the Bears side for me to call this a draw.

Look for part two of the preview where I’ll go over the Bears’ offense vs Packers defense.