Hold onto your butts, Packers fans: the long-awaited season opener is finally upon us! This is a huge debut game for the Green Bay Packers, as not only is this game against the hated Chicago Bears and opening the NFL’s 100th season, but also the first chance for Matt LaFleur’s Packers to define their existence. The Packers were the subject of many unflattering “stories” this offseason, making a potential win even sweeter.
As fun as it is to stir the pot, the Bears are no pushover and will be a tough opponent. Matt Nagy is a talented offensive mind from a prestigious coaching tree. While the defense likely regresses without Vic Fangio, Chicago still probably has the best defense in the NFC. Thankfully, unless Mitch Trubisky sells his soul to an eldritch entity before the game, quarterback isn’t a major concern, but the rest of the team has enough talent to carry him through.
The Packers truly have a herculean matchup for them tonight, but fans should be optimistic. Sure, we didn’t see Rodgers in the preseason, but this ain’t his first rodeo. The players are upbeat and hungry, and LaFleur is ready to unveil his team. What will be the most exciting stories to follow in this NFC North showdown?
With the 53-man roster set, the receiver battle has settled down, and the crew is known. Davante Adams is a cornerback assassin, and Geronimo Allison likely sees his fair share of looks, but it will be exhilarating to see how the rest of the group is utilized. Will the Rodgers/Valdes-Scantling connection click early and light up Soldier Field with pure speed? Will Jake Kumerow see significant snaps after his strong camp and seemingly psychic sense to be in the correct spot? Can Davis make waves as an offensive player after being viewed as a pure special teamer?
Take me away, takeaways
The Packers were bad at taking the ball away last year, generating only seven interceptions (tied for the second-lowest in the NFL). A lack of playmaker ability at the safety position and injuries throughout the secondary certainly didn’t help. In addition, the Packers were in the middle of the pack in terms of fumble recoveries (while also giving away 11). Only Rodgers’ precision kept the team’s turnover margin even.
Thankfully, the front office completely remodeled the safety group, signing the reliable Adrian Amos and drafting 21 (back to 26 now) Savage. Jaire Alexander is a legitimate stud, Kevin King is hungry to prove his doubters wrong, and the rest of the cornerback room is filled with more young talent than it’s had in years (as well as the valuable leadership and workmanship of Tramon Williams). Particularly exciting is if Josh Jackson, who led the NCAA in interceptions in 2017) can show off his ballhawk skills. The pass rush is younger, healthier, and Smithier. On paper, the team has done absolutely everything it could to rewrite last year’s history. If all goes well, Mitch Trubisky will be filing a police report for Grand Theft Football.
Aaron Fricking Rodgers
The team’s star quarterback has to be ready to light the league on fire after the last calendar year. The 2018 season started with a devastating injury that lingered all year. His leadership abilities, interpersonal relationships, coachability, and character have been questioned constantly. Yet Rodgers seems more excited than he has in a long time, offering plenty of praise to his young teammates, showing genuine excitement for this offense, and displaying plenty of smiles. Much of the national media has moved on from Rodgers greatness. It’s time to prove them wrong.
Who is Matt LaFleur?
LaFleur has come a long way since his first press conference, where many wondered if he had the skills and confidence to lead this historic franchise. Since then, he’s become more comfortable in front of the media, and we’ve seen plenty of examples of him creating his own culture. After this game, viewers will learn even more. LaFleur’s offense will be on the public stage for the first time, and how he makes adjustments, communicates with his quarterback, and uses personnel will be under a microscope. How he handles his post-game conference, in victory or defeat, will say a lot about this exciting young coach.
Every Packers game is important, but the stage couldn’t be bigger for Matt LaFleur’s debut. A hundred-year rivalry against the team’s biggest rival, on the road, celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the league, on national television is a daunting task. Win or lose, these stories will come together to tell the beginning of a new era of Green Bay Packers football. But let’s hope they win, shall we?
For the first time this season, GO PACK GO!Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.