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Justin Fields Learns About an NFL Rivalry

The Green Bay Packers have dominated the series with the Bears since the end of the Lovie Smith era and the rookie quarterback is about to see what it is Chicago is counting on him to change.

Those who pay little attention to what goes on in Green Bay, Wis. probably fail to realize Aaron Rodgers said this week there is no chance he'd ever play for the Bears.

Brett Favre probably said as much about the Vikings at one point, so you never say never in NFL free agency. But the truth is the Bears are not in the market for a quarterback now anyway. They're trying to develop their own and let him play at the same time.

It's the approach most teams end up doing when the five-year clock on first-round picks is ticking. They need to see the rookie play right away and do it effectively as quickly as possible.

This is time the Bears originally planned for letting Justin Fields learn and watch. Instead, because of Andy Dalton's injury, "that sped the plan up," Matt Nagy said.

The real problem with this is the learning process is a little more transparent and difficult. Facing a conference favorite like the Green Bay Packers can expose the rookie's lack of knowledge about defenses and about his own offense.

It already happened in Cleveland and it can happen Sunday at Soldier Field against an opponent which never really seems to care about the home-field edge the Bears are supposed to own.

Here's who wins and why when Fields gets his first exposure to the Bears and Packers rivalry on Sunday, or what's left of it after the Packers won nine of the last 10.

Bears passing vs. Packers pass defense

Fields is capable of big throws but he's not capable yet of going toe to toe in a passing battle against Rodgers. He isn't on the same page with his own receivers to get this done. The Bears have only nine total receptions from their third and fourth receivers, Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd and Allen Robinson has only 17 receptions, a low number at this point for him. Fields can compete and beat defenses challenged to stop the Bears running game at this point, but not defenses ranking fourth in the league like Cleveland is or sixth overall with the 11th-ranked pass defense, like Green Bay. Edge to Packers.

Bears running vs. Packers run defense

The offensive line made the ground game work against two less-talented defensive fronts and there are questions about the Packers linebacker corps still. But the Bears have never been able to move Kenny Clark out of the way to get to the Packers linebackers with their blocks. If the Bears are going to run, it does take running backs. They have a rookie playing extensively for only the second time. Edge to the Packers.

Packers running vs. Bears run defense

Green Bay's running attack has suffered without their full offensive line on the field. They rank 21st in yards and 20th in yards per attempt as defenses the first three weeks had no problem keeping Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon in check. In the last two games, it's changed somewhat but this is somewhat deceiving. The consistency wasn't there against Cincinnati last week as more than half their yards came on two runs. The Bears defensive front would be more than sufficient for stopping Green Bay's running game if they had a healthy Akiem Hicks. They would really be pushing it to let someone with a groin injury play in two weeks at such a taxing position. No edge.

Packers passing vs. Bears pass defense

Rodgers has had only small contributions from receivers other than Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. It's made their passing game easier to defend. Rodgers' passing is still deadly and capable of doing damage even with only those two receivers as targets. Tight end Robert Tonyan is capable but hasn't done much this season. The problem with the Packers' offense is the passing largely results from play-action and if you're not running well this is not sustainable. The pass rush displayed so far for the Bears can give Rodgers trouble, with Robert Quinn playing at his old level and Khalil Mack somehow able to get through two injuries. They need a corresponding interior pass rush in this one and may not have it without Hicks. They need it because their own secondary is as challenged at covering as the Packers' receivers after Cobb and Adams have been at catching passes. It's impossible to get to Rodgers on every play and at some point he'll get off the big plays. Edge to the Packers.

Special teams

Cairo Santos somehow managed to avoid the kicking epidemic that saw 12 field goals or extra points missed around the league last weekend. His streak is an NFL high of 34 straight. Two of Mason Crosby's three misses have been in the 30- to 49-yard range. While Casey Bojorquez's punts have been sufficient for Green Bay, the Packers coverage units have been abysmal. They give up 8.96 yards per punt return (26th ranked) and a whopping 23.4 yards per returned kick (23rd). Edge to the Bears.


Matt Nagy beat the Packers once, when Green Bay was spiraling out of control and Mike McCarthy had been fired. Since then he's been overmatched against Matt LaFleur. The wild card in all of this is Sean Desai. Those four straight Packer wins came against Chuck Pagano's defenses and last year's two Green Bay wins were a direct result of defensive failure by the Bears. Desai has his team believing but he'll need to bring them to a higher level than Green Bay's offense. Bill Lazor's play calling has made a difference for the Bears but it's been based on running the ball. What happens when they can't run? Edge to the Packers.


The line: Packers by 6 (over/under 44).

BearDigest Bears record to date: 5-0 vs. the spread, 4-1 straight up.

Beating the Packers requires at least some balance from the Bears offense and they haven't proven themselves capable of adding a legitimate passing game yet, and then toss in the injuries at running back and at right tackle to Germain Ifedi and it looks bleak.

BearDigest Forecast: Packers 23, Bears 13.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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