The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are set to face off for the 207th time in history in Week 1. Both teams have undergone significant changes.
That is just one of several things to keep an eye on in Week 1.
6 Bears Things to Watch vs. Packers in Season Opener
1) JF1 vs JLo – Quarterbacks With Plenty to Prove
While they find themselves in vastly different situations, Bears quarterback Justin Fields and Packers passer Jordan Love have plenty in common. That is, aside from their agent and yearly offseason training routine.
Fields is going into a pivotal Year 3, but just the second season with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. A strong finish to the 2022 campaign has been washed away amid heightened expectations for the season ahead. Some of that is on Fields who said he will be the Bears’ first 4,000-yard passer.
But it’s also due to the overhaul of the roster around him, presumably giving him a true top target at wide receiver as well as improved production once Teven Jenkins gets back.
Love is going into his fourth season out of college but will be making just his second start.
He is a relative unknown, as are his wide receivers and tight ends for the most part. Love is also stepping in for a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But far more around him is known which will make the “quarterback battle” a fascinating study of player development between the two friendly rivals.
2) Protection Plan
The Bears will be without Jenkins for at least the first four weeks of the regular season. But they are uniquely positioned to withstand the loss of arguably their best lineman from last season thanks to their work last offseason. Chicago signed Lucas Patrick – from the Packers – last spring with designs on him being their starting center.
Injuries interrupted that plan, with Patrick playing in just seven games and mostly at guard.
With Jenkins out, projected starting center Cody Whitehair slides over to left guard. This elevates Patrick to the position he was intended to fill.
Losing Jenkins is far from an ideal situation. But the Bears have essentially gone from having two players man new positions in Jenkins and Whitehair – who played right guard and left guard last season, respectively – to none.
How this will work out is a different story entirely. Especially when the unit faces a live, game-planned pass rush for the first time as a group in Week 1. The Bears are far better equipped to overcome what would have been a catastrophic loss last season. Then, they were bringing in starters off the street to start camp.
3) DJ Moore vs Jaire Alexander
This is the kind of matchup the Bears acquired and need DJ Moore to win. Jaire Alexander is one of the NFL’s best cover corners. He also relishes the opportunity to matchup against the opponent’s top threat.
Moore’s ability to score from anywhere was one of the few things made evident for the Bears’ offense this preseason. Teams completed 59.8% of their passes in Alexander’s coverage, the second-highest mark of his career. But he also came away with a career-high five interceptions and tallied 14 pass deflections.
The last time Murray and Alexander squared off was in 2020 in a Week 14 matchup between the Packers and the Carolina Panthers.
Moore finished with two catches for 32 yards on three targets in a 24-16 Green Bay victory.
Chicago has not beaten Green Bay since the 2018 season. The Bears won just three games last season while the Packers were 8-9, though two of those wins obviously came against Chicago. This battle is arguably the second-most important behind the QB duel.
This could be a matchup that favors Chase Claypool against Rasul Douglas. Or, even more, Darnell Mooney against unproven nickelback, Keisean Nixon.
Tight ends Cole Kmet and Robert Tonyan could be in for big games as well.
4) Revamped Pass Rush
The Bears have spent a lot of money revamping their pass rush – $20.3 million to be exact – in hopes of tallying more than the 20 they did last season. Yannick Ngakoue alone will account for $10.4 million this season.
Last season, Chicago recorded three sacks in the first meeting between these two teams. But they failed to sack the quarterback once in their Week 13 rematch. Ngakoue and fellow starter DeMarcus Walker will be looked to against an inexperienced quarterback in Love to get him off his spot and uncomfortable when he is in the pocket.
This is also a spot for defensive coordinator Alan Williams to showcase his ability to mix up his coverages versus a player that was on the sidelines to see how the Bears operated last season.
Green Bay allowed the seventh-fewest sacks last season, though that was with Aaron Rodgers.
Bonus Down: The Bears had the league’s worst run defense last season. Green Bay’s running game was 15th but starter Aaron Jones has routinely beaten the Bears in the passing game putting extra emphasis on Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards against the Packers.