Records: CHI 0-0 GB 0-0
TV: NBC 5
Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM
They’re named after a damned packing company. Did you know that?: acmepackingcompany.com
Tonight kicks off what many around Chicago feel is the year. Matt Nagy exceeded expectations and then some in 2018, and returning a near identical team has everyone thinking Super Bowl or bust. “Year Two” for Mitchell Trubisky. Year two for everyone in this system, really. A fully healthy Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. Expanded roles for Roquan Smith and James Daniels. And the most fitting of tests to open things up: Green Bay and the gatekeeper of the NFC North, Aaron Rodgers, on a National stage.
I do not need to remind you what happened to open that surprise 2018 campaign. The devastating 4th quarter comeback by Rodgers was a gut punch Bears fans are all too familiar with, but it ended up being more positive than negative. The teams would take wildly different paths from there, the Bears having success they haven’t seen in a decade or so and the Packers crumbling under infighting and poor performances. So what can we expect from each in this opener?
Green Bay arrives in Soldier field with a new Head Coach, and I mean brand new. Matt LaFleur is now the head charge tasked with establishing a new offense that doesn’t piss off the best QB of his generation while patching together a very expensive defense and getting it somewhere better than league-average. The Pack still boast Rodgers, who is allegedly healthy after two straight injury riddled campaigns (though you wouldn’t know it from a near career-best 2018 in many regards). And having Rodgers has proven to be the great equalizer throughout his career, evidenced by his dragging around Mike McCarthy and countless bum-laden rosters to seemingly always be a problem come January. RB Aaron Jones and WR Devante Adams will help him plenty this season, but a suspect offensive line returns to keep Rodgers running for his life.
What else is new? A third of the starters on defense. Headlined by former Bear Adrian Amos, the Packers spent big to revamp a defense that made slight improvements in year one under Mike Pettine. The team also threw bags of money at Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith (no relation, save for they both kinda suck) because they haven’t been able to draft and develop a pass rusher since Clay Matthews, who is now gone. His slower steps and trash performances the couple years will be missed. ILB Oren Burks will miss the game with a Pec injury. I was unaware of who he was before this morning, too.
Green Bay’s new defense will be tasked with doing something no one has done since January: playing the Chicago Bears first unit offense. Matt Nagy went full crazy-like-a-fox this Summer, sitting nearly all of his top unit starters on each side of the ball, with the offense sitting out nearly every snap. Much has been made of this, and we’ll finally see how it translates when Trubs and the boys take the field tonight. This offense returns 10 starters, with arguably an upgrade at the 11th position in rookie RB David Montgomery taking the place of departed red-ass Jordan Howard. That rushing game is a big story line, since Montgomery is supposed to be everything this system desires. Allen Robinson being fully healthy is another, and if his season starts the way it ended against Philly back in January he’s poised for a big season. But I’ve buried this long enough: This game and this season hinges on Mitchell Trubisky. A lot has been made of his progress, mostly by Nagy because we’ve hardly seen him throw a ball since last season. Now the world gets to see if Mitch is just Mitch, sloppy footwork and mechanics mixed in with impeccable precision and the ability to expend plays. It’s finally time to see how Summer school went for Mitch.
New in Chicago is Chuck Pagano, who will look to hold together a league best unit with a few new faces. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix swaps cities with Amos, taking over the cush job of playing in the same secondary as turnover machine Eddie Jackson. Buster Skrine is the other new starter, assuming the Nickel role of Bryce Callahan. He’s off to Denver, reunited with former Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Pagano has quite the job replacing Fangio, and it’d be foolish to think he can match the play design and game planning of Fangio. Chicago has an equalizer of their own, though, in do-it-all OLB Khalil Mack. Mack came in just days before the 2018 season, played through injury, and still made season-changing impact any time he stepped on the field. Mack busted up Rodgers for a strip-sack-fumble-recovery-TD and Bears fans will be looking for the same every time he’s on the field tonight. Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd and Danny Trevathan are all still here, too. I forgot how fun this all was! Who’s not here? Well, Trey Burton and Bilal Nichols are questionable, game time decisions.
You can bet that the Bears will be HYPED up for this one, likely to their detriment to start the game. The starters have been biding their time for real, live game action since the sour exit over eight months ago, so look for them to come out a little too hot before settling into the game around the 2nd quarter. This game is just the first of the season, but a loss will change the sky high narrative before it makes it off the ground. An ugly start is soon forgotten if you can persevere. More fitting would be if this came down to Eddy Piñeiro…but that might be too Hollywood, even that seems a bit much for this match-up and I don’t think it gets that close.
Prediction: Bears 31, Packers 20