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Week 1 NFC North Rivalry Game Prediction

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Meeting #197

Written by Jordan Jensen

Twitter: @JordanJ03058759

Sept. 4, 2019

The logical side of me:

I feel dirty even whispering it. I never thought I would see the day that a Chicago Bears team would be widely considered a better football team than the Green Bay Packers while #12 is still on the roster. Yet here I am, counting the days until the season opener and am already having nightmares featuring a screaming Khalil Mack coming off the blindside (or frontside) edge. All signs currently point to a Bear’s victory: it’s a home game for them, they have a fantastic roster on the defensive side (#1 in PF and #3 in yards last season according to Pro Football Reference) and what seems to be an improved roster on the offensive side and even Vegas has the Bears as a three point favorite. The Packers also gave up some interior lineman depth during the offseason and there is a considerable worry that Chicago’s rookie running back will be able to thunder his way into a clock advantage. The Bears did lose a special defensive mind in Vic Fangio but they were able to find a moderate replacement in Chuck Pagano; it will be difficult for Pagano to make a mess of this roster and Matt Nagy has a frustratingly impressive handle on the offense (9th in points scored last year despite having the 21st highest yardage according to Pro Football Focus).

The Packers did not live up to expectations last year and have a ways to jump in order to be true Super Bowl contenders. As always, there are fingers to point and excuses to make. The Packers only had three defensive starters who managed to take the field during all 16 of their games last season and, shockingly, of that only one of them was under 30; Clay Matthews (32), Tramon Williams (35) and Blake Martinez (25). The injury bug hits every NFL team the packers always seem to be the anti-vaxers of the league. So far this off-season the Packers have managed to avoid significant injury on the defensive side. This can be credited to a more intelligent approach to practice reps by coach Matt LaFleur, a hardened stance on physical contact during practice implemented by the NFL league office and the firing of ex and subsequent promotion of new strength & conditioning staff which can only be seen as an upgrade.

The fan in me:

Luckily for the Packers, they have an element of surprise coming into the 2019 season as Matt LaFleur’s offense promises to be more creative and, at the very least, not as well known to Chicago as Mike McCarthy’s. There should also be a considerable number of Chicagoans who have vivid anger flashbacks when they see the Green & Gold “G” and for good reason: Aaron Rodgers owns all NFC North teams but none more so than the Chicago Bears. In his career with the Packers, Aaron Rodgers boasts a 45/10 TD to interception ratio and a 105.9 passer rating. The man understands this league and how important winning the division is, he will always come prepared and he will be more willing to play through injury as was evident during the exciting come from behind victory during the game a year ago. That does not mean that the rest of the team will be on the same page just yet.

The Packers will also hope, and must, improve on the defensive side of the ball if they expect to make any noise this season. They may be a bit on the undersized side but should vastly make that up in speed and coverage ability in the secondary which will be further bolstered by the free-agent outside linebacker acquisitions (Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith). This is an improved group from the previous three seasons and I expect the Packers to have a much better 2019 on the defensive side of the ball. What I love about them is that all of the youth doesn’t come without savvy as each of the base starters are seen to have great instincts and football I.Q. As far as secondary personnel is concerned, Green Bay has all of the pieces that they should need.

The merger of the two:

This is a difficult game to call but I’ll take Chicago 21-17. The Packers offense is very recently installed and I can see them getting off to a slow start as they did last season, the offense should prove formidable and will get rolling as the season chugs along but it’s difficult to imagine them doing so against a stacked Bears defense that is hungry to live up to their Super Bowl aspirations. It is simply too difficult to score in Chicago against the #1 ranked defense in the league. Here’s to hoping Adrian Amos was the glue that held the whole squad together.

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