NFL’s Oldest Rivals Both Working Through Transition Periods

Bart Starr, Aaron Rodgers, and Brett Favre won’t walk through the door Sunday at Soldier Field when the Packers and Bears meet. The Packers have a long history of playing with superstar quarterbacks under center. But with Rodgers’ departure this offseason, Green Bay is now trying to develop the next icon in Packers’ football.

Green Bay went a long time between Starr and Favre’s tenures. The Packers will be desperate to avoid that long of a wait again. Chicago hasn’t necessarily had a quarterback considered among the league’s best since before the Super Bowl era. Now, the Bears are still trying to figure out if third-year quarterback Justin Fields can lead the team to NFC North glory. 

This is a significant season of transition for both franchises which makes the games between the Packers and Bears intriguing. With the division being up for grabs, either team picking up a win in Week 1 will provide confidence and could provide some momentum to help both teams move forward.

Dark Days for the Bears

 

Not making the playoffs was tough enough for Chicago football fans. But how things have gone for the Bears against the Packers in recent seasons has been brutal. Chicago hasn’t beaten Green Bay since the 2018 season, a stretch of eight games.

The Packers lead the all-time series 105-95-6, including two postseason battles. Green Bay has won 12 of the past 13 games in the series and won both last season, 28-19 and 27-10. The Packers hope the trend continues to boost what should be a tight race in the NFC North Division.

Finding Love in a Hopeless Place

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Green Bay Packers

Packers quarterback Jordan Love has the difficult task of trying to replace a legend. Love did serve as an understudy to Rodgers for the past couple of seasons. He hardly saw the field, however, only appearing in 10 games.

Love completed 60 percent of his passes in his cameo appearances, piling up three touchdown passes and three interceptions. Love lost his only start. Green Bay hopes a strong run game, led by A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones, will give Love strong enough support to allow him to grow into his new role.

Second-year wide receiver Christian Watson plans to take a step forward. Watson struggled at the start of his rookie year with drops but grew into a strong receiver. Love will be the first black quarterback to start the Packers’ season opener. He will be the third black quarterback to play Green Bay when he takes to the field for the Packers and Bears game.

Gary Ready to Get Back on the Field

 

Packers defensive lineman Rashad Gary was on pace to set a career-high for sacks last season when he suffered a torn ACL in Week 9. Gary finished last season with six sacks, not too far from the career-high of 9.5 he recorded the season before.

While Gary’s return may involve Green Bay easing him back into the lineup, having him on the field against a questionable Bears’ offensive line will give him room to make plays. The Packers will likely rotate Preston Smith and Lukas Van Ness into the lineup to try and put pressure on Fields.

Chicago’s Offensive Line Believes They Are Improved

 

The Bears believe they have plenty of depth on the offensive line. Injuries in training camp have already resulted in Chicago shuffling things around ahead of the Packers and Bears matchup. The Bears have already dealt with the loss of left guard Teven Jenkins, who will be out for a month after landing on the injured reserve.

Nate Davis will remain at right guard, while there may be some changes with Cody Whitehair to make room for Lucas Patrick. The Bears also acquired Dan Feeney in a trade with the Dolphins. Second-year player Ja’Tyre Carter is also expected to make an impact for Chicago.

Will Fields’ Style Work in NFL?

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Fields

Bears coach Matt Eberflus showed during his first season last year that he was willing to change the style of the offense to suit Fields. The Bears think they have a handle on what their third-year quarterback is capable of. Fields was 3-12 as a starter last season and has poor passing accuracy compared to most modern quarterbacks.

Fields threw 17 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions, and 2,242 yards. Last season, Fields rushed for 1,143 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He ran twice as much last season compared with his rookie year. Chicago will want to see his passing improve if he is the long-term answer at quarterback.

Recreating Monsters of Midway

 

The Bears have a history of nasty defenses. Chicago getting back to its roots required adding some extra muscle in free agency. The Bears were able to lure linebacker Tremaine Edmunds away from the Buffalo Bills. 

Chicago also brought in former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards to support Edmunds. The Bears also brought in a pass rusher in Yannick Ngakoue. Chicago will be desperate to make opposing quarterbacks more uncomfortable this season. The Bears only finished with 20 sacks last season, which was the fewest in the league.

New Bears, Old Packers Ready for Week 1

 

Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy left the Packers’ coach to take the job in Chicago before the 2022 season. Getsy leaving may be the reason there have been some players moving back and forth between the franchises over the last two seasons. Offensive lineman Lucas Patrick and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown left with Getsy last season.

This year, former Packers Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan joined the Bears. Lewis, a 6-foot-6 target, spent five seasons in Green Bay before joining Chicago this season. Lewis, who is 38, has seen his production in the passing game decline.

Lewis played in all 17 games last season but only caught six passes. Tonyan, 28, had spent his first five seasons in the league as a backup tight end. Tonyan caught 53 passes for 470 yards and scored two touchdowns last season. Tonyan had his most productive year in 2020 when he hauled in 11 touchdowns.