Packers to Open Season in Chicago
Last year, Aaron Rodgers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns, and the Green Bay Packers rolled to a 38-17 win over the Chicago Bears, in Chicago.
This year, the Packers and Bears will renew their rivalry Sunday in the Windy City and there's plenty of hype.
Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy fueled the fire when he said,
“We will proudly stand as the 95th team in the history of the Green Bay Packers when we kick Chicago’s ass.”
But when you dig deeper, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote that McCarthy was actually saying that the Packers and Bears have a great rivalry.
"It's the oldest rivalry in the National Football League. In my opinion, I think it's the best rivalry game that I've played in. So playing down there opening day, it's going to be a lot of fun. It's a big challenge."
The Bears bring in a new coach with John Fox as the new man in charge. He also brings in Vic Fangio as the defensive coordinator and Adam Gase as the offensive coordinator. Fangio was previously the defensive coordinator at San Francisco, while Gase was Fox's offensive coordinator in Denver.
2015 could also be a make or break year for quarterback Jay Cutler in Chicago. Sunday's game could be especially big for Cutler because he's struggled against the Packers. Green Bay picked off Cutler four times in two games last season.
Another key for the Packers is attacking the Bears defense with their potent offense. While Jordy Nelson is out for the season, Green Bay still has a bevy of offensive weapons in Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, James Jones and Richard Rodgers. Chicago's defense was ranked 31st against the run last year. Lacy ran for 98 yards and a score in two games last year against Chicago. While Lacy didn't have big games against Chicago, Rodgers did. Rodgers threw for nine touchdowns combined in two games against Chicago in 2014.
So, if you're the Packers, their offensive game plan is to attack Chicago's defense on the ground and through the air with Lacy and Rodgers. Duh. On defense, the Green Bay will look to frustrate Cutler as they have done in the past. The Packers have a young secondary with the losses of Tramon Williams and Davon House. But Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde and Sam Shields all picked off Cutler last year.
What should you expect out of the Packers?
Rodgers is still the quarterback and he has a lot of weapons even without Nelson. Signing Jones adds a veteran presence and will take pressure off Cobb. I think adding Jones allows Cobb to be used in the slot and Adams on the opposite side of Jones. Then there's Jeff Janis as the No. 4 wide receiver and tight ends Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless that provide Rodgers with more weapons to use at his disposal.
On the offensive line, T.J. Lang, Corey Linsley, David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton are all healthy and will hopefully click as well as they did at the end of last year. Those five guys along with John Kuhn and Aaron Ripkowski should open plenty of holes for Lacy and James Starks.
So, the offense should be ready to go. I'm just interested to see how they fast they start against the Bears.
My other questions are defense and special teams. Micah Hyde is listed as the Packers' punt returner, while rookie Ty Montgomery is the kick returner, via Packers.com depth chart. Finding explosive plays to get solid field position and then making tackles to hold the Bears to poor field position is going to be an important 'X-factor' for Green Bay.
Defensively, the line is missing Letroy Guion and Datone Jones to suspensions. B.J. Raji at nose tackle, Mike Pennel at end and Mike Daniels at tackle are all listed at starters on the line for the Packers. The linebacking core is young, too. Clay Matthews is listed outside, but I'm guessing he'll play both inside and outside. Julius Peppers is the other outside linebacker and Nate Palmer and Sam Barrington are the other two linebackers. I wouldn't be shocked to see Jayrone Elliot and rookie Jake Ryan to see a lot action, too. The secondary is young with experience. Hayward and Shields are the starting cornerbacks, while Morgan Burnett and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix are the starting safeties. It should be interesting to watch this unit gel, as I think there's a lot of depth and quality players that will get time Sunday.
Packers: Barrington (ankle) and Cobb (shoulder) left practice Wednesday, while Burnett (calf) did not practice.
Bears: Tracy Porter (hamstring and Sam Acho (illness)) did not practice Wednesday, while Jonathan Bostic (ankle), Alshon Jeffrey (calf), Eddie Royal (hip) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring) left practice and Jimmy Clausen (concussion) and Eddie Goldman (concussion) practiced in full.