Rather than starting the season with the Super Bowl champions playing on Thursday night, the NFL decided instead to showcase one of the oldest rivalries in sports, with the Green Bay Packers visiting the Chicago Bears. Chicago is coming off an NFC North title, while Green Bay is hoping to get back to the postseason for the first time in three seasons.
The Bears bring back much of the dominating defense that powered them to the postseason a year ago, led by Khalil Mack. Chicago split its season series with the Packers, losing the season opener before winning the rematch later in the season. Green Bay will be playing its first game under new head coach Matt LaFleur, the former offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.
The moneyline on this contest has the Green Bay Packers +150 and the Chicago Bears -170. The Bears are three-point favorites, while the over/under for the contest has been set at 46.5.
New Coach, Same QB
LaFleur walks into a pretty nice situation, having one of the top quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers under center. The 35-year-old Rodgers comes off a season in which he passed for 4,442 yards and 25 touchdowns, but he’ll be missing one of his top targets from 2018. Randall Cobb is now suiting up for Dallas, which means there will be more pressure — and defensive attention — on Davante Adams (111 catches, 1,386 yards, 13 TDs). The Packers would be helped by another solid year from tight end Jimmy Graham, who had 55 receptions for 636 yards and two scores a season ago.
Defensively, there won’t be the linebacker with the long blonde locks for the Packers anymore, as Clay Matthews has moved on to the Rams. Blake Martinez led Green Bay with 144 tackles a season ago, adding five sacks and 10 tackles for loss, and he’ll be counted on to put up the same kind of numbers this season. The Packers signed Za’Darius Smith to a free-agent deal in the offseason in hopes of him bringing an edge rush after he led the Ravens with 8.5 sacks and 60 quarterback pressures a season ago.
Last season, the Chicago offense seemed like almost an afterthought considering how dominant the team’s defensive unit was. But quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and company are hoping to make more of a name for themselves this season. Trubisky did throw for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns in 14 games last season, but he also had 12 interceptions and was sacked 24 times. The Bears are counting on rookie running back David Montgomery out of Iowa State to play a big role in the running game after they traded last year’s leading rusher, Jordan Howard, to Philadelphia.
It’s not quite the Buddy Ryan-led defense that took the Bears to the Super Bowl in 1985, but this Chicago defense is pretty darn good. Led by the presence of Mack, who had 12.5 sacks in his first season in the Windy City, the Bears applied a lot of pressure to opposing quarterbacks, including Rodgers, who they injured in Week 1 a season ago. Linebacker Roquan Smith led the team with 122 tackles, while Danny Trevathan chipped in 102. Both players will be looking to reach the century mark in stops again this season.
Bears Win A Close One
As good as the Bears’ defense is, it’s hard to keep a Rodgers-led offense out of the end zone for too long. Chicago will give Rodgers trouble, though, and the Bears’ offense should be able to put enough points on the board to come away with a victory. I’m going with Chicago -3 to open the season with a win.