A pair of old NFC North rivals will get the 2018 season started against one another as the Green Bay Packers host the Chicago Bears. Kickoff is set for 8:20 EST on Sunday, September 9, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The game will be televised nationally on NBC.
If we look at the Week 1 odds in the NFL, the Packers are holding steady as a 7.5-point favorite at home. This game also has an over/under of 47.5 points.
The Packers enter 2018 coming off a disappointing 7-9 season. Of course, things seemed to be going well until Aaron Rodgers was knocked out with a broken collarbone in Week 6 against the Vikings. Before that game, Green Bay was off to a 4-1 start and very much part of the Super Bowl conversation in the NFC. The Packers definitely have some holes on their roster heading into 2018. But they still believe that if Rodgers is healthy, they can be a Super Bowl contender.
The Bears, meanwhile, are coming off a 5-11 campaign in 2017 that saw Mitchell Trubisky take the reigns as perhaps the quarterback of the future. Chicago didn’t do much to surround Trubisky with the right pieces, but they’ve rectified that over the offseason. Quarterback guru Matt Nagy is Chicago’s new head coach, so Trubisky should have a good mentor. The Bears also brought in several new skill players so their young quarterback has some proven playmakers to give the ball to. All the moves have made the Bears a trendy pick as this year’s breakout team.
Of course, recent history is still working against the Bears, especially when it comes to playing the Packers. Dating back to the end of the 2010 season, Green Bay has won 14 of their last 16 games against Chicago. The Bears haven’t beaten the Packers since a Thursday night at Lambeau in 2015. Oddly enough, their three most recent wins against Green Bay before that all came on Monday night, so perhaps nighttime games in primetime are a good luck charm for the Bears.
I’ll admit that I’m drinking the kool-aid with the Bears. They’ve helped Trubisky as much in one offseason as you could ask. Chicago has also added linebackers Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith to an already strong defense. I know going against Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau can be risky. But with the spread a little over a touchdown, I’ll lean toward the Bears to make this a close game, even if they can’t pull off the road win.
It’s tough to know what to expect out of Trubisky and the new-look Chicago offense until we see them in action during the regular season. What I like about the Bears offensively is that they should have good balance. Jordan Howard has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, so I’m not too worried about Chicago’s running game.
The key will be the likes of Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson making an immediate impact with their new team. Unproven players like Kevin White and Anthony Miller also add an element of speed to Chicago’s offense that could make a difference. New tight end Trey Burton shouldn’t be overlooked either, nor should diminutive running back Tarik Cohen, who can be a threat catching passes out of the backfield.
Obviously, it’ll be up to Trubisky to get the ball to his playmakers. But if he can do that, the Bears will put some pressure on Green Bay’s secondary. The Packers have a nice collection of talent in their defensive backfield. But the group is a little young, and the Bears have so many potential playmakers that Green Bay could struggle to keep up if Trubisky is able to spread the ball around. That will be a little easier to do if Howard and the Chicago running game can be effective.
Of course, as long as Rodgers is playing quarterback, the Packers are a threat offensively, and probably a more reliable one than the Bears. Even with Chicago’s defensive prowess, the likes of Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham provide potential matchup problems for the Bears. The same could be true of Randall Cobb if the presence of Rodgers can help him bounce back from a rough 2017 season.
My concern with Green Bay’s offense is their running game. Part of the problem is that Aaron Jones is suspended for the first two games of the season. Both Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery averaged fewer than 4 yards per carry in 2017, so that could be a problem against a tough Chicago defensive line. If the Packers are forced to become one-dimensional, pass rushers like Mack and Leonard Floyd could end up having a big influence on this game and start causing problems for Rodgers.
Obviously, there’s some risk in picking a team that was 5-11 last season to hang with a healthy Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field. But I feel good about leaning toward Chicago. The Bears have enough on defense to at least keep the Bears within striking distance and give Trubisky a chance to get the offense going. When all is said and done, I’ll take my chances with the Bears and the extra 7.5 points.