Early Bird Breakdown Week 1: Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

Hello and welcome to the first Early Bird Breakdown of the 2015 NFL season. With this being week one, we are going straight into the breakdown.

The Breakdown:
Packers’ Offense vs. Bears’ Defense:

Let’s start with the bad news, shall we? Green Bay has had issues the past two seasons getting off to good starts, going 1-2 in back-to-back seasons. Number one wide receiver Jordy Nelson is out for the year with a torn ACL. Green Bay was much better at home than on the road last season, having 17 more offensive touchdowns at home than on the road. Rodgers was significantly better at home, throwing 25 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. Compare that to a road ratio of 13 touchdowns to 5 interceptions, and each road game could give the Packers fans pause.

Having said that…of those 13 road touchdowns, four of those came against the Bears in Chicago. In fact, historically Rodgers is 11-3 with 31 touchdowns to 8 interceptions against Chicago.

Come on, it’s Rodgers we know what’s going to happen right?

While the Packers are missing Jordy Nelson and still will be adjusting to their new play caller Tom Clements, this still is a major mismatch in favor of the Packers. The Bears may very well be improved this season on defense with the major overhaul on their coaching staff as well as a formation shift to the 3-4 based defense. However, the shift will take time to adjust to and the Bears lack talent at virtually every position on the defensive side of the ball. Simply put, the Packers receivers without Nelson are still better than the Bears secondary. The Packers offensive line has developed into arguably the third or fourth best (Baltimore, Cleveland, and Green Bay all fight for slots 2-4 behind Dallas, who boasts the best). Chicago has arguably the worst defensive line. The only thing Chicago does do well is they do not miss tackles, ranking third on an average of missed tackles-per-snap (0.091).

Randall Cobb had a brief injury scare as well this preseason but is probable for today’s action. It will be interesting to see if the play calling has changed with sophomore receiver Davante Adams slotting into Jordy Nelson’s spot on the offense. Expect the Packers to still utilize three and four wide receiver packages with Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis, and take the time to see who looks to gain Rodgers’ trust going forward. Look for Cobb and Adams to each have big games against the Bears, and my money is Montgomery cements his status as the number three.

Packers’ Defense vs. Bears’ Offense: 

While the Packers offense should be the more fun spectacle to watch on the field Sunday, the defense is the more intriguing. Most of the issue with the Packers slow starts in the past few seasons have been due to defensive issues that seem to get smoothed out as the season goes on. Green Bay may not need its defense to look rock solid this week, but it absolutely will need to be in the coming weeks so for them to have a strong opener will be an excellent sign for the weeks to come.

The Bears offense has more talent than its defense which will give the Packers plenty of competition to spar with. Alshon Jeffery is becoming a very good wide receiver and is in the midst of a contract year so he will be very motivated to get off to a hot start. While Jeffery is difficult to cover, the Bears lost Brandon Marshall in the offseason and first round pick Kevin White is injured so the depth at receiver is pretty low.  The packers have the opportunity to double cover Jeffery without too much worry if they decide to go that route.

The Packers this offseason lost Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency, so it will be a test on the young secondary to see how they handle themselves. The Packers reloaded from those losses with first round pick Damarious Randall and second round pick Quinten Rollins.

Matt Forte has been in the past a problem for the Packers, having a combined 171 total yards the last time they played in Chicago. Green Bay significantly improved against the run as last season wore on, keep an eye out on middle linebacker Sam Barrington today to see if he continues his progression from last season or looks out of position. His improvement will go a long way towards how far the Packers defense improves.

A big year from Barrington will go far in stabilizing the Packers’ D

While the Bears have talent offensively, ultimately they are tied to their fate by Jay Cutler. Cutler has the arm strength and physical gifts to put up a good game but makes far to many mistakes that the Packers do not let go to waste. If the Packers youth plays strong, expect Cutler to force a few errant balls that end up going the other way and this game to get ugly early. If Cutler can keep possession of the ball, this game will be closer than people think.

The Weather Factor:

The weather report shows that it should be perfect tomorrow, high sixties, zero percent rain chance, with a low wind under 10mph.

The Game:

The Packers roll into Chicago week one on the road with a new play caller and without star receiver Jordy Nelson. Chicago is motivated by a new coach who hopes to turn the defense around and has talent to work with on offense. And all of that…does not make much of a difference. The Packers have more talent offensively and defensively than the Bears, not to mention a huge gap in the levels of their quarterbacks. While the Bears have enough here combined with being at home to keep it interesting for a time, the Packers should comfortably win this game. At the end of the day, the Packers are a 11-13 win team, and the Bears are a 10-13 loss team. For the most part, this game is more important as a tool to gauge where the Packers stand at receiver and defensively going forward. Packers on top, 38-17 (yes, the same exact score as last year’s game).

Fantasy Forecast: 

Adams, Cobb, Lacy, and Rodgers all could potentially be the top player at their position this week (yes the matchup is that good). If your league is deep enough even Ty Montgomery is a flex potential start, and the Packers are a solid gamble for turnovers as a defense. As for the Bears, Matt Forte has historically crushed the Packers, Jeffery is a must start week-to-week, and Bennett had a strong outing last season in Chicago against the Packers. I would not trust Royal yet to make an impact, Green Bay’s secondary while young is too deep to trust him having a big game.

As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University