GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers has owned the Chicago Bears, boasting a 20-5 record with 55 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 107.2 passer rating during his prolific career.
With Justin Fields, the Bears hope they will eventually turn the tables on the Green Bay Packers’ spectacular run of dominance in the rivalry.
While Green Bay (4-1) is a six-point favorite over Chicago (3-2) with its perceived advantage at quarterback, here are three seasons to worry.
1. Bears Passing Game
Fields is going to need a big game. It’s something he hasn’t delivered – not that he’s been asked to deliver – during his first three games as Chicago’s quarterback.
The Bears’ passing attack has been laughably irrelevant. Again, that’s not necessarily Fields’ fault. Over his three starts, Chicago is last in passing attempts (19.3 per game; 6.4 fewer than New Orleans), completions (10.0 per game; 5.7 fewer than New Orleans), passing yards (98.3 per game; 70.0 fewer than Houston) and completion percentage (51.7; 6.5 percent worse than San Francisco).
However, this game figures to play out differently from at least a play-calling perspective. The Bears will be down their top three running backs, including young standout David Montgomery. The Packers are down two starting cornerbacks, including All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander. The injury report is practically begging the Bears to throw the ball.
It should be advantage, Chicago, on the perimeter. Allen Robinson is one of the NFL’s underrated standouts. The previous two seasons, he caught 200 passes for 2,997 yards and 13 touchdowns. Darnell Mooney is considered a rising standout. He caught 61 passes as a rookie and has a team-high 20 this season. If Fields plays up to his potential, and can add some life to the offense with his legs, as well, the Bears have a very good chance of springing the upset.
Everything You Need to Know About NFL Wild-Card Weekend
From the Packers' next opponent to betting odds to game previews, here's what you need to know to be ready for the start of Super Wild-Card Weekend on Saturday.
2. Living on the Edge
Chicago has two of the hottest pass rushers in the NFL with perennial Pro Bowler Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Mack, with at least one sack in four consecutive games, is tied for sixth in the NFL with five sacks. Quinn, who had at least a half-sack in each of the first four games, is tied for 10th with 4.5 sacks. The Bears are the only team with two players in the top 10 in sacks. Combined, they fuel what’s statistically the NFL’s best pass rush.
Quinn generally rushes from the defense’s right side and against the left tackle. That will be Elgton Jenkins or Yosh Nijman. Mack generally rushes from the defense’s left and against the right tackle. That will be Billy Turner. Sometimes, though, they work together on the same side. That means double trouble.
“It primarily shows up on passing situations, when they want to get a real good rush and they want to do some twists and stunts and things like that,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “Let’s face it, this is probably one of the best defenses in the NFL, if not the best with their talent. So, when you take two guys like Quinn and Khalil and you put them right next to each other, it could be devastating. So, you have to be sure you know where those guys are at all times because they’re special players.”
The Packers will need a big game from their starting tackles. Rodgers is a woeful 30th with a 36.8 percent completion rate and 29th with 4.8 yards per attempt when under pressure. If Rodgers isn’t protected, his mastery of the Bears might come to a crashing halt.
3. Take Nothing for Granted on Special Teams
Aside from Mason Crosby’s not-so-excellent adventures in kicking, Green Bay’s special teams are coming off a rocky outing at Cincinnati. Maurice Drayton’s unit will have to tighten up in a hurry because Chicago’s special teams are quite good.
On Oct. 5, the Bears acquired receiver Jakeem Grant from the Miami Dolphins for a sixth-round draft pick. In his sixth season, Grant has returned five kicks for touchdowns – three punts longer than 70 yards and two kickoffs longer than 100 yards. In his Bears debut last week, he had a 32-yard kickoff return and punt returns of 21 and 18 yards. The Packers haven’t had a punt return of 20 yards since 2018.
Coming out of Texas Tech in 2016, Grant measured 5-foot-5 7/8 but ran his 40 in a sizzling 4.37 seconds.
“He’s a guy that obviously has speed, first-step quickness, can make you miss, can use all field zones whether it's the boundary, the middle or take them to the field,” Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. “So, he kind of opens some things up in that area. He's been a good player in this league and we're fortunate to have him.”