It all begins on Thursday night for the 2019 Chicago Bears when they host the Green Bay Packers to kick off both their and the NFL’s 100th season.
Since the heartbreaking ending to the 2018 season, Bears fans have waited with excitement for the start of the 2019 season. With many having Super Bowl aspirations for the Bears, a win in week one against their long storied rival led by Aaron Rodgers would be a right way to start.
Here are five keys to victory for the Chicago Bears against the Green Bay Packers.
Don’t take this game or the season for granted
In 2018, the Bears won 12 games, the most for the team since 2006. No one predicted the breakout season from a team that featured a rookie head coach taking charge of a team that won just five games the year before.
Leading into this season, many are picking the Bears as a potential Super Bowl contender, while some are believing the team could regress this season similar to the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. In 2017, the Jaguars had the league’s best defense and made it to the AFC Championship game where they lost to the New England Patriots. Last season, they won just five games. One key reason for the regression was many of the players took it for granted that they were just going to show up and beat their opponent no sweat.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy needs to remind his team that this is a new season and that they haven’t accomplished anything yet. Taking the Packers for granted and getting blown out to start the season would be the worse thing that could happen to the Bears.
Take advantage of the crowd noise and the Packers new situation
The Bears will have one of the biggest and loudest crowds in attendance for the game Thursday night in recent memory. Getting to kick off the season as the first game of the year against rival Packers will have Bears fans in frenzy.
The Packers will have their rookie head coach Matt LaFleur make his debut almost a similar hostile setting that Nagy debut in last season.
Green Bay’s soon to be Hall of Fame quarterback did not see any reps during the preseason and will make his first live-in-game reps with the new offense against the Bears defense. The Bears must make a big play early whether on offense or defense to rile up the crowd. A sack, turnover, or big offensive play could drive the Soldier Field crowd into a frenzy.
With that noise, it could help create added confusion for the Packers offense playing with a new playbook. Missed audibles, pre-snap penalties, and having to burn a timeout are all things brought on by the loud environment. Every little thing is needed to throw Rodgers off his game with the Packers offense.
Take away the Packers X-Factor
The Packers offense lives and dies by the success of Rodgers, but he can be slowed down if you take away his best weapon. Many believe that weapon is Pro-Bowl wide receiver Davante Adams, but instead, it’s dual threat running back Aaron Jones. Jones was underused in Mike McCarthy’s offense last season but was impressive during that time. In 12 games, he averaged five and a half rushing yards per attempt which led the league and he scored eight touchdowns. Jones was also a factor in the passing game as he recorded three or more catches in five straight games.
Rodgers is at his best when he can utilize the play-action to freeze defenders. LaFleur will get Jones a lot of rushing attempts early to set up the play-action against the Bears pass defense. He will also lean on Jones and the running game, given the lack of live reps Rodgers has had with the new offense.
It will be up to inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith to limit Jones effectiveness both through the run and pass. If they can slow down the running game, it will be that much easier to control the Packers passing game.
Utilize the new versatility on offense
During the offseason, General manager Ryan Pace helped to add players that were tailored to Nagy’s offense. Although the offense shined at points last season, it struggled to do personnel not fitting the offense. This offseason the team drafted running back David Montgomery and signed wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson.
Montgomery is the perfect back for Nagy’s offense as he can excel in both the running and passing game. Last season, the team’s running back personnel lead to defenders having an idea of whether the next play would be a run or pass.
Against the Packers, Montgomery should be used as much as possible if the situation fits. His versatility could be a big issue for the Packers defense. The same goes for Patterson who has been used his entire career as a jack of all trades offensive player. His mere presence on the field mixed with Nagy’s use of creative plays could lead to a bust in coverage by the Packers defense.
It’s not how you start but how you finish
In the season opener last year in Green Bay, it was truly a tale of two halves for the Bears. In the first half, they held a 17-0 lead over the Packers and sacked both Rodgers and backup DeShone Kizer four times. In the second half, the Rodgers led the Packers to 24 points in one of the biggest comebacks the rivalry has ever seen. The main reason why Green Bay was able to come back was the Bears couldn’t get home with pressure in the second half as they failed to record a sack.
Going into Thursday night’s game, the Bears defense led by new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano need to remember that. Pagano’s defense thrives on blitzing and it will be throughout the game against the Packers. It doesn’t matter how many sacks the team can register in the first half, but how many they can get to close out the game if it is a close score late. Keep an eye on linebacker Leonard Floyd as he will have to take advantage of the added protection All-Pro Khalil Mack will be facing.