The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bearskick off the NFL season on Thursday night in Chicago. It’s a big game for both teams as the Packers are looking to start strong after missing the playoffs last year with a disappointing 6-9-1 season. Meanwhile, the Bears want to prove that the double-doink was the fluke last season, not their 12-4 record.
Last season was the first time since 2010 that the Bears finished above the Packers. If Green Bay wants to restore the natural order of the Midwest and the NFC North, then their offseason moves are going to have to pay off in week 1.
The Packers’ biggest offseason move was their coaching change. After more than a decade (12.75 seasons to be exact) of Mike McCarthy, Green Bay decided to skip right over interim coach Joe Philbin and give the job to former Rams and Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. It will be interesting to see how LaFleur handles such a high-profile job once the actual games get going because he’s already had some dust-ups with the media about whether or not Aaron Rodgersgets to call his own plays at the line. Considering LaFleur was in charge of the 25th-best offense in the league last season (27th in scoring), you would think he would be open to suggestions from a Hall of Fame quarterback. We shall see.
One good sign for the Packers is that all eight of their draft picks made the final 53-man roster. Their top pick, Rashan Gary (12th overall) will see some action, but it was 21st pick Darnell Savage Jr. who earned a starting role on the depth chart heading into the season. Savage will start at safety with another newcomer signed over the offseason, Adrian Amos. With Amos from Chicago and former Ravens linebacker Za'Darius Smith, the Packers added two starters who played major roles on two of the top defenses in the league last season. Green Bay was 18th overall in defense last season and only had 7 interceptions, tied for the second fewest in the league.
It helps their quarterback has traditionally dominated this opponent in particular.
Rodgers has a 16-5 record as starter against Chicago over the last ten years.
Rodgers’ stats against the Bears would make for an MVP-caliber season: 5,156 yards, 45 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
Still, the Packers will need more than the cast of Happy Gilmore to catch back up with the Bears. 6.5 games is a big gap to close, but if Green Bay is going to do it, a win on the road in the opener would be a great start.