Chicago Bears Open Season Against Packers


The Chicago Bears open their regular season against the archrival Green Bay Packers on Sunday, kicking off what is expected to be a brutal 2015 campaign against one of the best teams in the league. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. EST.

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Little is expected of our beloved Chicago Bears this season; they’re a trendy pick to finish last in the division (including by yours truly), and are also usually included in a list of teams in the running for a top-five draft pick next year.

Coming along with those low expectations are such a large number of changes in front office, coaching and player personnel that we won’t list them all here, but a few include new Coach John Fox, Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio (and his 3-4 scheme), Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase, wide receiver Eddie Royal, strong safety Antrel Rolle and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. And that doesn’t include the draft picks.

Yes, it’s been a long offseason of changes for the Bears following last year’s nuclear bomb of a 5-11 season.

Sep 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, some things haven’t changed for certain teams, including the fact that Aaron Rodgers is still playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. As long as Rodgers is there, the Packers are a safe bet to beat the Bears. He’s 11-3 in games he’s started against the Bears, and one of those losses saw him leave in the first half with a broken collarbone. Last year, I’m pretty sure he didn’t even need to wear pads or a helmet while defeating the Bears 38-17 and 55-14.

The Bears come into this game following an up and down preseason, with the offense moving the ball but failing to put it in the endzone while the defense looked porous in two games and solid in a third against the Colts. Green Bay, meanwhile, lost Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL but looked solid in their preseason games.

Sep 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) rushes the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the second half at Soldier Field. The Green Bay Packers defeats the Chicago Bears 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago is expected to shift back to running the ball in an effort to lean on Matt Forte and his backup stable of Jacquizz Rodgers, Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey and cut down on the chances for quarterback Jay Cutler to turn the ball over. In the passing game, receivers Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson are all listed as questionable, according to ESPN, while rookie first-rounder Kevin White is out at least the first six games with a shin injury.

The offensive line has looked sieve-like for much of the preseason, but the expected move of Kyle Long from right guard to right tackle should help with pass protection, especially later in the season as he learns the ropes on the outside. Unfortunately, the Bears failed to get Long any game snaps at tackle in a preseason contest, so expect him to struggle early on as Green Bay throws pass rushers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers at him.

Defensively … where do I start? Even with the Packers missing Nelson, expect the Bears secondary to get gashed by Randall Cobb, Davonte Adams, veteran James Jones and others. If the Bears are lucky, maybe second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller can shutdown (or at least marginalize) Cobb, slowing the Packers down. But Rodgers has feasted on the Bears, and a new scheme from Fangio and the addition of McPhee to rush the passer doesn’t change the fact that the Bears are still woefully short in quality cover men.

The run defense doesn’t shape any more optimistically in this game. If Jeremiah Ratliff were playing I’d be more hopeful. But he’s suspended for three games, and the Bears are only carrying five defensive linemen. Rookie Eddie Goldman will likely get the start at nose tackle. I like Goldman, but as the sole legitimate nose on the roster, look for him to get worn down and the run defense to breakdown in the second half.

For Green Bay, the run defense was weak for most of last year, but they have a pair of good outside linebackers in Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers and cornerbacks in Sam Shields and Casey Heyward. But the main conversation with the Packers starts with the offense, where Rodgers is still the king and having Eddie Lacy means teams have to worry about stopping the run, too.

Sep 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) leaps for and misses a pass in the end zone during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Both teams are battling several injuries coming into the game. ESPN reported Friday that Tracy Porter and Sam Acho won’t play due to a hamstring injury and illness, respectively, while the same report listed Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson as questionable. In the Packers’ injury report, Cobb is expected to play despite a shoulder injury, while starting strong safety Morgan Burnett is questionable with a calf injury.

About the only way I see the Bears competing – or, God willing, winning – is by outside linebackers McPhee, Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston pressuring Rodgers into mistakes and Green Bay ignoring the running game. For the offense, it’s the same song and dance for Cutler and company. Use Forte and the other backs to control the clock. And try to minimize the damage from Cutler’s turnovers. Even though he’s protected the ball in the preseason, we all know they’re coming.

While I don’t see much of a chance for the Bears to pull this one out, I do think the potential is here for the Bears to gain some confidence. Green Bay’s defense is good, but it’s not overpowering; the Bears should be able to move the ball on offense. Green Bay’s offense is very good; a couple of stops or a turnover or two on defense should give the Bears’ defense something to build on.

I expect the Bears to come out of this game with some things to build on for their winnable Week 2 contest against Arizona.

Next: Previewing the 2015 Chicago Bears Season

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