GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers (7-3) will host the Chicago Bears (5-5) in a Sunday night showdown between longtime rivals at Lambeau Field. Let’s get to know the foe with Gene Chamberlain of SI.com’s Bear Digest.
1. The Bears' offense is terrible. You could probably tackle this issue for a while but what's the biggest issue beyond quarterbacking?
The quarterbacking is only part of the problem for the Bears, although the national media likes to portray it as a disaster.
Mitchell Trubisky should have succeeded in an offense based on changes they made in the offseason. The changes were aimed at more outside zone blocking and more movement by the quarterback to give the run different looks. Most of it came from under center instead of the shotgun, as it had last year. It worked well in the first three games, although that's also where the quarterback play came into question because Trubisky should have been able to get the ball downfield in the passing game with play-action, as they ran for 414 yards in three games, each time topping 100 yards.
Matt Nagy didn't appreciate Trubisky's play and yanked him in favor of Nick Foles, who lacked the mobility to go from under center as much. They reverted to the shotgun and their old style of run blocking, and the run game shut down. Foles was under more pressure without play-action as an aid, and then the offensive line suffered either injuries or COVID-19 to four of the five starters in a two-week period.
Game, set and match.
The line might be a bit healthier. They're apparently going back to Trubisky, although it isn't official. He was the only quarterback at Monday's practice. But will they be able to get the running game going after switching gears seven weeks ago and with new blockers? It's a mess, and Nagy deserves the blame.
2. I generally ignore PFF's player grades. But I did see where Roquan Smith is 24th among off-the-ball linebackers. Smith is second in the NFL in tackles, which might not mean anything, either, but he's first in the NFL in tackles for losses. Take me beyond the box score. How good (or medicore) is Smith?
Smith is an exciting player capable of far more than what they ask of him. I wouldn't put much stock in a PFF score at several positions, and inside linebacker is one. They tend to underscore most players at these spots. They have him graded really low against the run but, over the past six games, he's been a holy terror against the run with TFLs and by breaking up blocking schemes. PFF has him at over 80 against the pass, and I'm not sure what film they're looking at here. Maybe they're just comparing him to Danny Trevathan and are impressed because he can actually cover someone, unlike Trevathan. But he's not that good at it.
Smith is easily the best first-round draft pick made by GM Ryan Pace and will be the leader on their defense for years to come. He's 23 yeard old. Chuck Pagano should use him more blitzing the middle, because he's very effective there. Also, it would be a big help to the pass rush because of what they're not getting from Robert Quinn. At $70 million, it's a good thing Quinn raises his fist before every game during the national anthem or I wouldn't know he was even on the team.
3. The Bears have some fresh faces in the secondary compared to last year, led by cornerback Jaylon Johnson. How has Chicago's secondary played and do you think it's up to the challenge of facing Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams?
If they can get the kind of pass rush pressure they need, then they can give Rodgers a rough time. The secondary is effective. They lead the NFL in red-zone defense and third-down defense. Johnson has been better than they could have expected for a second-round rookie, physical and unafraid. Kyle Fuller has been brilliant and physical. Tashaun Gipson has been better than expected for a late pick-up at safety, but Eddie Jackson has been only so-so after signing a $58.4 million contract extension. He's had too many missed tackles and hasn't made any interceptions.
The player who is most likely to break against Rodgers and especially against Adams is slot cornerback Buster Skrine. He does an adequate job against some receivers but if you put a taller receiver into the slot against him, one who also leaps and is athletic like Adams, it becomes a game of pitch and catch. The Packers have done this to him several times in the past. He's playing right now as bad as he has all year.
4. For Chicago to make the playoffs, (fill in the blank) needs to happen.
For the Bears to get to the playoffs, they'll need to suddenly begin running the ball like early in the season, Trubisky will have to be somewhere close to 90 in passer rating and then the Arizona Cardinals have to finish 9-7 or worse. The Bears have a tiebreaker on Tom Brady and Tampa Bay, too, so that could help at some point, but the Buccaneers have an extremely easy schedule for the final three weeks and I can't imagine the Bears catching them even if they do turn it back around starting in Green Bay.