Tag Archives: Aaron Rodgers

Picturing Perfect NFL Playoffs Payoffs

You go through an entire sports season (in this case a 16-game, 17 week NFL slate) and get amped up for a thrilling match just to get something with no appeal. Oh, you thought this was about quality of play? Nah. More than likely, if a team is in the NFL playoffs the game will be good. Often the least expected matchups wind up being the most entertaining.

But that does nothing for the personal investment of a storyline that really piqued your interest never coming to fruition. For years the quintessential matchup was Tom Brady and the New England Patriots taking on Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Or Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Well, Manning is retired now and the other three now reside in the same conference with Brady’s move to Tampa.

Ideal Payoffs For a Long Road to the Playoffs

For the Nostalgia

Some combination of Rodgers versus Brady versus Brees is still very much a possibility. Rodgers is a legitimate MVP candidate. He has 33 touchdowns to just four interceptions and completing passes at his highest rate since becoming a full-time starter. Brees’ top-seeded Saints are 2-0 with him on the mend from 11 cracked ribs. Brady is bringing up the rear for the trio. His Bucs are still 7-5 with the seventh-ranked scoring offense and the second-highest DVOA of the three defenses, per Football Outsiders.

It wouldn’t matter what leg of the postseason. If any two of these three were to meet it would be must-see tv. Brees-Brady has the most extensive history, despite being in different conferences. Brees owns a decisive 5-2 edge in their head-to-head matchups, including a sweep of the season series this year. Next is Brees-Rodgers, where the Packers passer holds a 3-2 lead after winning in Week 3 this year. Brady-Rodgers have faced off three times as starters and had taken one apiece before Brady’s Bucs stomped a mudhole in Rodgers’ Packers in Week 6.

Again, all would be great matchups but, given the comparative rare nature of a Brady-Rodgers matchup that might be ideal to some. But if we are going off of the current performance of the principles, Brees-Rodgers 6 would be the one. Both quarterbacks are playing at an extremely high level (or were in Brees’ case). Brady’s team might be the most talented. But the cohesion hasn’t been there and Brady has committed many uncharacteristic mental errors this year.

Air Forces

Conference Championship week has often been referred to as the best round of the playoffs. The two teams are the best of their respective conferences but tend to have a level of familiarity that adds both to the strategery of the game as well as the personal investment. Losing is bad enough, losing to a “rival” is unfathomable. In that vein, is there a more exciting potential meeting than the seemingly inevitable one of the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs?

It’s really a matchup of Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes, though they will never be on the field at the same time save for possibly the coin-toss and the post-game handshake. Still, Roethlisberger versus Mahomes is must-see programming at its finest. Mahomes has thrown 30 touchdowns to just two picks with 3497 yards to go with that. Roethlisberger, with his 26 touchdowns and six interceptions, hasn’t generated the same kind of buzz because his team is so well rounded. But he is still throwing touchdowns at his highest rate since 2012 and throwing interceptions at his lowest rate since 2010.

Home field advantage could play a significant part in this one; both locales are notoriously tough for visitors. That’s with fans though. With empty stadiums, the bigger deciding factor could be the defenses. This is where the Steelers could prove to be the kryptonite to Mahomes and the Chiefs’ Superman. Pittsburgh’s defense is first in DVOA, sacks, and scoring. Kansas City ranks 17th in DVOA and 23rd in sacks. They are sixth in scoring, though, so maybe that squares it.

Micro Machines

Remember those fun, tiny little toy cars where the spokesman in the commercial talked like he was hooked up to a caffeine drip? This is kind of like that. Unconventional as they may be, the Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson and the Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray have proven they can hang with the big boys. Both of these players spent time as the MVP favorite this season. Wilson, who has never even received a first-place vote for the award, had a case for longer than Murray, but the latter was a popular preseason pick for MVP.

The season has been filled with ups and downs for both quarterbacks and franchises. Neither escaped the rash of severe injuries that hit the NFL so hard this season with Seattle losing their top-four running backs for different stretches of the season and Arizona losing stud pass-rusher Chandler Jones. The quarterbacks both had hands in their own undoing, with both having three-interception games at one point or another.

These two have split the series both seasons since Murray entered the league, with Seattle taking the most recent duel in primetime. Playing in what might be the toughest division in professional football, these teams have spent much of the season beating up on each other and that has led to many taking both to task for their flaws. But the NFC is wide open and both of these offenses can hang points on you in a hurry. Seattle is third in scoring and Arizona is eighth.

Picture Perfect NFL Playoffs Payoffs

There are just some of the potential NFL playoffs matchups that would be worth the price of admission. A playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins would be a throwback to the ’80s and ’90s. If they were healthy, seeing the San Francisco 49ers take on the Tennessee Titans might not be the Super Bowl the league wants. But seeing the game’s greatest rushing system and its greatest runner go at it for the ultimate glory just feels like an ode to its origins. At any rate, we’ll get to see the actual NFL playoffs pairings in just a few weeks. Hopefully, the payoff is worth it.

Week 12 Primetime Moneymakers: Staying on Schedule

Week 11 saw the return of significant season-ending injuries and Week 12 is back to screwing with the schedule. After losing Joe Burrow and Rex Burkhead, among others, to injury last week we might lose an entire game due to COVID. An outbreak at the Baltimore Raves facility that has claimed Lamar Jackson and forced a shutdown until at least Monday. This obviously puts their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in even further doubt after the game was already moved from Thursday.

Moving that game may have been for the best. It was another week of taking it on the chin, going 1-3 in Week 11 which was an improvement over the week before. Undeterred, we must forge on with a two-game primetime slate. There’s still plenty of opportunities to make some money this week and if anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us (for a change, sheesh).

Staying on Schedule with Week 12 Primetime Moneymakers

Chicago Bears (5-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-3)

Spread: Packers -9

O/U: 44.5

What a fall from grace it’s been for the Chicago Bears (5-5 ATS) who began the season 5-1. They went into their bye on a four-game losing streak and with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings for the first time since 2017. As usual, their defense is among the best, ranking fourth in defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders and sixth in scoring. But their offense checks in at 29th in DVOA and 31st in scoring. You see the problem. Now, they turn back to opening-day starter Mitchell Trubisky with Nick Foles still on the mend. They also don’t know if Akiem Hicks will be available to stop the run.

The Green Bay Packers (6-4 ATS) should be 8-2. Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s fumble in Packer territory in overtime allowed for a game-winning field goal by the Indianapolis Colts. All three of Green Bay’s losses have been of a confounding nature for various reasons. They still rank ninth in total DVOA and second in offense DVOA. Their (sometimes glaring) weakness is their defense. After making tremendous strides last season, they have regressed some. They still rank 18th in defense DVOA (15th in 2019), but aren’t getting to the quarterback in the same way as before. Still, the trio of Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Aaron Jones is as good of an eraser as there is.

There isn’t much mystery here as the Packers have owned the Bears since Bret Favre’s time in Wisconsin with some highly critical games along the way including an NFC Championship. Chicago hasn’t beaten Green Bay since 2018 and, with the current state of both teams as it is, they don’t appear poised to snap that streak in 2020. Trubisky, who was already benched this season, has only thrown four touchdowns (with three interceptions) in five games against the Packers. So it’s unlikely he is the answer to their scoring woes, let alone breaking out of their slump. This game opened at Packer -7.5 and has only grown. Follow that lead and take Green Bay laying the points. We’re leaving totals alone this week for…reasons.

Seattle Seahawks (7-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)

Spread: Eagles +5

O/U: 50

It was around this time last week that we were on the brink of eulogizing the Seattle Seahawks (6-4 ATS) in advance of their matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. “Let Russ Cook” took a backseat as Russell Wilson tied a season-low with 28 pass attempts and set a new season-low with 197 yards. The Seahawks still managed a 28-21 victory in primetime. Seattle is much like Green Bay in that they are carried by their offense. They rank fourth in offense DVOA but 23rd in defense DVOA. So perhaps they can find a happy medium between letting Russ cook and their run-heavy approach of the past two seasons.

Carson Wentz is fighting for his career as a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles (3-7 ATS) while they are fighting for the crown in the worst division in football. With a win, the Eagles would take over first place from the Washington Football team by virtue of having a tie in place of a loss. It’s a dubious honor but a loss could usher in the start of the Jalen Hurts era in Philly. The Eagles defense ranks 30th in DVOA thanks in no small part to Wentz’s league-leading 14 interceptions. But their defense ranks 13th bolstered by their stout run-stopping ability.

The Eagles have lost and failed to cover in each of their last two games and neither contest was against top-tier competition. On the other side, the Seahawks bounced back from implosion but have failed to cover on the road since Week 4 in Miami. Philadelphia is also getting healthier at wide receiver and tight end. Can they offset the juice seemingly added to Seattle’s pass rush by the addition of Carlos Dunlap? This feels like a trap after opening at -2.5, but home dogs have covered over 50 percent of the time making Philly plus the points feel best. Both defenses shut down the run meaning more passing which usually means more points. Pound the over.

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)

Spread: Steelers -4.5

O/U: 45  

This on-again, off-again affair is back on again for primetime after being moved from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon, now to Tuesday night following an outbreak of COVID among the Baltimore Ravens (4-6 ATS). In the midst of what would be considered a down year offensively, the Ravens will face an undefeated opponent having not been allowed to practice until Monday at the earliest. On top of that, even if they end up playing the game, Baltimore’s 23rd ranked offense (DVOA) will be led by Robert Griffin III as Lamar Jackson has tested positive. They’ll be relying on their defense that ranks seventh in DVOA a little more than usual.

“Undefeated” might as well be a four-letter word as you won’t find many teams that will ever entertain the idea. The same goes for the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2) who are having an incredible season. They’re third in total DVOA, first in defense DVOA, fourth in scoring offense, and first in scoring defense. This is a well-rounded machine even if it isn’t always well-oiled. Pittsburgh has scored at least 24 points in every game this season while allowing an opponent to score more than that just once.  The Steelers also lead the league in sacks, just one more thing for fill-in RGIII to worry about come (hopefully) Tuesday night.

There is no way the Ravens can be as prepared to play this game as they need to be to have a chance. And that’s before factoring in a backup quarterback. When these two teams met back in Week 8, the Steelers came away with a 28-24 victory on a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass to Chase Claypool late in the fourth quarter. It won’t get that close this time with the way this game is shaping up. 4.5 might not be enough for the Ravens to cover the first quarter, take Pittsburgh. And if you’re feeling frisky take the under. Baltimore might have trouble hitting their implied total of 20.5 and Pittsburgh could turn to James Conner and the run early with the Calais Campbell set to miss another game.

Triple Zeros: Nuk the Competition

NBA: Return Date Uncertain | Dinwiddie: KD Greatest Scorer
NFL: Clowney Declines Browns | Nuk: “I know I’m the best.”
+More!

The NFL’s Worst Off-Seasons of 2020

We are officially in the dead zone in the NFL off-season. Free agency and the draft are both in the rearview as organizations, players, and fans anxiously await the 2020-21 season. Whether or not it starts on time remains to be seen, but the NFL has acted as if things would proceed as normal. As such, we can–no, we are obliged to pass judgment on all that has transpired.

This will be a two-part exercise focusing on the best and worst laid plans from this off-season. We will begin with the bad news first, so apologies to any fans of the teams that follow. It may have been overpaying in free agency or reaching in the draft. It could be the opposite where a team was too frugal or patient and missed out on a prospect.

However you slice it, it wasn’t good….

Worst Offseasons of the NFL in 2020

3. Chicago Bears

Our countdown begins with the Chicago Bears. Coming off of a rather disappointing 2019 where they went 8-8, this is not what fans want to hear. They peaked in 2018, going 12-4, but fell back to Earth and have been trying to piecemeal their way back to prominence. That’s what happens when your general manager goes all-in on a project quarterback.

Trying to remedy their mishandling of the quarterback position with journeyman Nick Foles is less than inspiring. But when you add in the draft capital it took to get him, the deal triggers something worse. Robert Quinn should boost the pass rush so his big payday may well be justified. Jimmy Graham did well for himself to get the deal he did. Let’s just leave it at that.

The draft was a chance to make it right but opinions on if the Bears accomplished that. Chicago landed the draft’s top tight end but did so at the expense of higher-rated players at bigger areas of need like safety, a hole they filled with Tashaun Gipson. Their second pick, cornerback Jaylon Johnson received better reviews, even if tempered by his shoulder issue. The rest of the picks were developmental.

Chicago, operating under financial constraints of their own making, came out of the offseason without being substantially better on paper. Aside, perhaps, from Foles though they are largely counting on 2018 being closer to who they really are than the debacle of 2019. Well, that and scrap-heap offensive linemen. Not exactly encouraging.

2. Green Bay Packers

Staying in the NFC North for this one, the Green Bay Packers have seemed to be working multiple angles heading into the 2020 season. They ended 2019 one game away from the Super Bowl. But everything since has been with an eye towards the future. They traded up to take quarterback, drafted a running back in the second round and spent big money on a middle linebacker and right tackle.

General manager Brian Gutekunst has been much more active than his predecessor but this off-season was reminiscent of days past. Two of Green Bay’s acquisitions were linebacker Christian Kirksey and wide receiver Devin Funchess. Kirksey has only played in nine games the past two seasons while Funchess appeared in just one game for the Colts last season.

Their draft wasn’t bad in a vacuum, especially taking Love with a 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers. Brett Favre can attest to that. But the pick of a running back in AJ Dillon that, barring an injury, is the third-stringer. The Packers took their second pass-catching tight end in as many seasons but ignored the receiver room, opting for experience and internal improvement.

Green Bay’s off-season is saved by Love’s talent (regardless of any other factors) and Ricky Wagner. That’s a far cry from the praise they rightfully received last off-season. Teams don’t spend big every year. That would actually be a bad thing. But for a team that was so close to playing for a championship, this off-season has left a lot to be desired.

1. Houston Texans

You probably know where this is going. Anytime a team trades away a player that is ranked at or near the top of his position, you better have a damn good reason for doing so. For the Houston Texans, that reason appears to be Bill O’Brien; the head coach slash de-facto general manager. Not only that, but it doesn’t appear he has done enough to replace that player.

Rumored to be displeased with DeAndre Hopkins’ influence in the locker room and desire for a new deal, B.O.B. went bold. He traded the stud wideout to Arizona. This is where it gets weird. O’Brien felt compelled to take back the bloated contract of running back David Johnson. And you’d be forgiven if you felt Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb combined didn’t make up for the loss of Hopkins.

Even weirder, usually following a move such as the Hopkins trade, teams try to draft the next guy to replace them. It’s true Cooks and Cobb were brought in, but this was a deep class at receiver. Instead, the Texans replaced a different key cog in D.J. Reader. It’s never a bad thing to build in the trenches. But that idiom is usually reserved for guys who get after the quarterback.

Houston also ignored the offensive line outside of a fourth-rounder. That’s not enough, even with last year’s trade of Laremy Tunsil, for a team that ranked eighth in sacks allowed in 2019. O’Brien might be trying too hard to channel his inner Bill Belichick, fielding an offense without a true number one receiver. The problem is, when the Patriots had a chance to get a true number one in Randy Moss, they did. O’Brien is hustling backward.

Worst NFL Offseasons of 2020

This is just one half of the coin. In our next installment, we’ll address the best off-seasons. But it’s hard to ignore the holes in the plans of these organizations. Of course, they could always prove the doubters wrong. But these teams’ decisions make it seem like they are fighting demons of their own creation. That rarely ends well for those involved.

Free Agency Best and Worst: NFC North

Free agency opened in the NFL with the legal tampering period and the deals came in furiously. Most teams had a pretty clear idea of who they wanted and at what price. Of course, not all activity is created equal. Some of the teams did very well on paper. Others, however, were not so fortunate.

So who’s who? Well, that is the fun part. Adding talent isn’t a shoo-in way to a passing mark. Some teams would have been better off embracing the chance to rebuild and others passed on the chance at that one difference-maker. Others still seemed to be operating in a different world.

Last time, we went over the AFC North. This time we shift our focus to their NFC counterpart…

Best and Worst From the NFC North Free Agency

Chicago Bears

Best Move: Finding Another Pass Rusher

After quarterback, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace has had one other glaring weakness in putting together this roster. That is finding a proper compliment to stud pass-rusher Khalil Mack. Enter Robert Quinn; owner of the highest Pass Rush Win Rate over the past two years. After recording 11.5 sacks opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, he could have a big year in Chicago.

Quinn’s predecessor in Chicago, Leonard Floyd, never developed as a pass rusher and often found himself unable to finish. That isn’t an issue with Quinn, though his deficiencies defending the run could be. Perhaps with Akiem Hicks back healthy next to Eddie Goldman, opposing offenses will be forced to run sideline-to-sideline for the Bears speedy linebackers to clean up.

Worst Move: Bidding Against Themselves

A theme of Pace’s tenure has been the Bears seemingly overpaying for players, be it in free agency or the draft. Trading up for Mitchell Trubisky is the most notable move and he may have just repeated himself trading for Nick Foles. The journeyman cost a (valuable) mid-round pick and $15 million. Pace could have waited for Foles to be released like Cam Newton was.

A logical argument can be made for overpaying for a quarterback, but what about an aging tight end? That’s the scenario with Jimmy Graham who the Bears signed to a two-year, $16 million deal with $9 million in guarantees. Graham hasn’t been useful between the 20s for several years, but he even saw a dip in his red-zone usage last season with the Green Bay Packers.

Next Move: Unearth More Gems

This is, of course, pending any trade that moves Mitchell Trubisky. If that happens, their next move should be to try finding their quarterback of the future. That’ll be tough with no pick until the second round without a passer falling. Outside of that, they’ll need to do what Pace and company have been best know for, discovering talent in the later rounds.

Free agency isn’t over, but the Bears are pretty cash strapped. That means holes at right guard and strong safety need to be addressed via the draft. Alex Bars will have his shot on the line, but Chicago needs offensive line depth across the board. And what about Deon Bush at safety? They at least have thrown bodies at their second cornerback spot.

Detroit Lions

Best Move: Moving On

When the Detroit Lions signed Desmond Trufant, it helped pave the way for their moving on from Rashaan Melvin. The late-bloomer went undrafted in 2013 and didn’t start until his second season and even then still only had two starts before 2016. He turned a couple of good years with the Indianapolis Colts into a pair of one-year pacts with the Oakland Raiders and the Lions.

Trufant arrives in Detroit on a two-year deal. Melvin’s play tailed off last season as he allowed 63 percent completion and a 104.1 passer rating; up from 54.8 percent and a 96.2 rating in 2018. Trufant spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Atlanta Falcons. He missed much of 2019, but in 2018 he allowed 59.2 percent completion and an 87.6 passer rating.

Worst Move: Moving On

A little double talk here as the Lions basically stayed in place. They upgraded from Melvin, but they also traded Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles. Slay has been Detroit’s best corner since his arrival in 2013. His play dipped compared to 2018, but he still only allowed 55.9 percent completion and 81.6 passer rating. In a down year!

The fact of the matter is, Trufant was really brought in to replace Slay. But the only reason a replacement is needed is because of friction between Slay and Lions head coach, Matt Patricia. Per Slay, Patricia made offensive remarks in regards to a picture of an opposing wide receiver Slay posted on social media. If true, the Lions are in more trouble than needing a cornerback.

Next Move: Win or Go Home

Patricia has done his best to recreate what he experienced with the New England Patriots. He’s even gone so far as to try and take on the persona of his mentor, Bill Belichick, with the media. He’s even chastised press members for being late; an infraction he himself is guilty of. Unfortunately, for Patricia, he isn’t Belichick so his antics aren’t being overlooked.

What’s more, if he is indeed bumping heads with players over such things his tenure in Detroit might not last the entire 2020 season. This isn’t to say an organization is always wrong for choosing the coach over a player (though they usually are). But it is suggesting that Patricia hasn’t done enough (nor does he have a leash long enough) to be running off players.

Green Bay Packers

Best Move: Free Agency Restraint

2019 saw a very different gameplan from the Packers in the offseason. General manager Brian Gutekunst used his second go to further distance his image from that of predecessor Ted Thompson. Green Bay addressed its leaky defense both in free agency and the draft, signing Adrian Amos and pass rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith and drafting Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage.

2020 has been a return to normalcy. Green Bay has added inside linebacker Christian Kirksey, offensive tackle Ricky Wagner, and wide receiver Devin Funchess from the outside. And those deals all pale in comparison to what was spent last year. Fans might have been disappointed by the overall lack of aggressiveness. But they needed much less this time around.

Worst Move: Questions at WR2

Davante Adams has worked his way into becoming Aaron Rodgers’ favorite weapon. He entered last season fresh off of his first 1000-yard season in 2018 but injuries limited him to 12 games. He still managed to accumulate 997 yards, tying his second-highest single-season mark, and grab five touchdowns. Adams’ 83 grabs by far led the team.

The second-leading receiver was Allen Lazard with his 35/477/3 stat line. He was bested by running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams as well as tight end Jimmy Graham. The only addition so far, Funchess, missed all but one game last year. With so much youth at the position already, another rookie doesn’t make sense so it’s a bit surprising they didn’t do more.

Next Move: Draft Rodgers Heir Apparent

Green Bay only has one pick this season and it’s not exactly a premium one. They’re currently slated to pick 30th in the first round of the April 23rd NFL Draft. That spot can be used for a myriad of things from simply taking the best player available to trading down to gain more draft capital to fill more holes.

While the Packers could certainly use the pick on a receiver (see above) but a savvier move might be to select a quarterback should one slide. No, they don’t have an immediate need for one, but that shouldn’t stop them from taking one should the opportunity arise. After all, Brett Favre was 36 when the Packers took Rodgers (also 36) in 2005.

Minnesota Vikings

Best Move: Blowing Up the Secondary

This is a bit of an exaggeration. What the Minnesota Vikings actually did was start over at cornerback. Xavier Rhodes (Colts), Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander (both Cincinnati Bengals) will all suit up elsewhere as the Vikings revamp their 15th-ranked pass defense.

Rhodes’ release is the biggest reason this is a good move. His completion percentage allowed ballooned from a mediocre 61.3 percent last season to a whopping 81.5 percent. He had to go. It remains to be seen if Minnesota rolls with Kris Boyd and Mike Hughes plus a rookie. But they will need to draft at least one corner. How early and often are the only real questions.

Worst Move: Losing Diggs and Griffen

Hey, a twofer! Both Stefon Diggs and Everson Griffen will find themselves in different uniforms in 2020 for very different reasons. Diggs’ frustration has often been visible on the sidelines and social media; though he has often denied the latter were ever anything serious. Minnesota traded him for a draft haul to the Buffalo Bills. Adam Thielen could struggle without Diggs taking the top off.

Griffen’s departure is a little more sentimental, and not just because he was longer tenured. Griffen went through some mental health issues that cost him five games in 2018. The Vikings stood by him through that and he came back in 2019 with eight sacks opposite Danielle Hunter. They’ll need Ifeadi Odenigbo to take a major leap.

Next Move: Win or Go Home

Vikings brass finds themselves in a similar situation to the Lions. They have put together a team they’ve felt were contenders for the past couple of years only to fall short. Their saving grace has been making the playoffs three of the last six seasons. But how long can just getting there be enough? Especially when the peak was reaching the NFC Championship game back in 2017.

This shows worst on two individuals in the Vikings organization. Head coach Mike Zimmer and quarterback Kirk Cousins. Zimmer is in his sixth season and obviously owns the successes and failures of this group. Cousins has failed to elevate them above the heights they reached with Case Keenum, but he just got an extension. It looks like the powers that be in Minnesota have picked a side.

Chicago Bears Seek Vengeance, Playoff Berth in Week 15

The Chicago Bears are looking for a little vengeance in Week 15, and a playoff berth wouldn’t hurt either. Life is funny sometimes. One moment the sky is falling, 14 weeks later and everything is falling into place. Yes, that is a very specific length of time. It happens to be the exact length of time since the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers shared the field. Funny.

Are Vengeance and a Playoff Berth in the Chicago Bears Future?

Best Served Cold

Bears fans surely remember that game; opening night at Lambeau Field. The Bears started the season with a bang, going up by 20 on their most hated rival. They even managed to knock out Aaron Rodgers…almost. Rodgers came back to throw three second-half scores on the way to an improbable victory. One that apparently has stuck with more than just fans.

Kyle Fuller remembers. So does Akiem Hicks, who also took exception to remarks Rodgers made about going to “Chicago, a place we’ve won several times, beat them…”. Hicks responded in no uncertain terms that he is “excited for Aaron to come down here…”. Chicago is coming off a huge primetime win over the NFC leading Rams, who were held to 214 yards for 6 points on two field goals. It was an inspired performance, to say the least; one the Bears will look to replicate this weekend. They will have to do so without their impressive slot corner, Bryce Callahan, who was diagnosed with a broken foot.

An Old Foe

Green Bay (5-7-1) is in unfamiliar territory. Having fired their head coach and his top assistant, most teams would play out the string. They would take this time to evaluate the young talent on the roster. Most teams, however, do not have Aaron Charles Rodgers at quarterback. He alone allows the Packers to develop their young defense – Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams are the only current starters over 27 – to learn on the job as the offense does the heavy lifting. Add the rejuvenated ground attack led by Aaron Jones and these Packers pose a bigger threat than their record would indicate.

The Packers will probably look to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands quickly with short passes. Slants to Davante Adams are always a good idea, but they might be inclined to target the Bears fill-in slot corner, Sherrick McManus. That could mean lots of Randall Cobb and yards after the catch. It is a tactic that has worked against the Bears this season; the Packers among the teams to exploit it. They should also look to establish a ground game to keep the potentially-explosive Bears offense on the sidelines. That is easier said than done.

Be You

For Chicago, the game plan should be similar to last week. Smother the Packers offense. That means shutting down Jones out of the backfield; like they did Gurley. It means getting after Rodgers so he cannot just sit in the pocket, but it also means containment. Rodgers is a master at extending the play, a characteristic certainly not lost on the Bears. The front seven got to Jared Goff early and often Sunday night. This time around they will have a much taller task.

The hope is that a game and two full weeks of practice gets Bears quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, back on track. He was awful against Los Angeles and was lucky to get bailed out repeatedly by his defense. Trubisky has struggled with accuracy throughout the season, but he had been trending upward in that regard as he built chemistry with his pass-catchers. He gets a feisty Green Bay secondary that is physical and fast, but also young and burnable. The Bears would do well to lean on Jordan Howard and the rediscovered run game; the less Rodgers has the ball the better.

Chicago Bears Seeking Vengeance and Playoff Berth

Clearly, there is no love lost between these two teams. The Packers have tormented the Bears and their fans for years. This meeting, however, is different. This time around it is the Bears perched at the top of the NFC North and gearing up for their first postseason appearance since 2010. On the other side of this role reversal, the Packers are fighting for their playoff lives and needing help to do it.

Could there be a better setup for the 198th meeting between these two historic franchises? The bully trying to maintain their dominance versus the young upstart with a lot to prove. The season started with heartbreak in Chicago and another campfire tale in Green Bay. This week it could end with a Chicago playoff berth and a long trip back to Wisconsin for the Packers. Not exactly the stakes expected after opening night. Again, funny.