Packers at Bears: Gameday Preview - 2021 Week 6

The Packers and Bears face off today in the latest chapter of the greatest rivalry in sports. The Packers have dominated recently, winning 4 in a row and 9 of the last 10. But this time, the Bears have a new quarterback. Will it be enough to put them on top for a change?

The last time these teams met, the Packers whipped the Bears in Chicago 35-16. Aaron Rodgers threw 4 touchdowns to 4 different receivers as Green Bay won their 4th consecutive game over Chicago. The Packers have won 9 of the last 10 in what has become a very lopsided matchup. Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results. 

 

WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL

Do not believe the hype.

Not yet, anyway.

Yes, Justin Fields has a ton of potential. Yes, he has all the necessary skills to succeed in this league. Yes, Bears fans should be excited and hopeful.

But right now, Justin Fields (the 20th quarterback to start for the Bears since Favre took over for the Packers) is a rookie quarterback making rookie mistakes and occasionally throwing a great pass.

Last week, in his 3rd start, he finally threw his first touchdown pass. He's averaged less than 130 yards passing in his 3 starts. 

That's even worse than Andy Dalton's pathetic start to the season.

The Bears may have solved their long-term quarterback issues, but Fields is still developing and doesn't look ready to break out just yet. The Bears offense has been centered around the run game. Second-year running back David Montgomery is a better back than his stats indicate, but he's on IR. His backup, Damien Williams, was added to the Covid exemption list this week. That leaves rookie Khalil Herbert as the starting running back for the Bears.

Herbert, at 5'9, 210, doesn't have great speed or size, but he's a quick, decisive runner who looked solid in his first extended action, racking up 75 yards on 18 carries against the Raiders.

Still, with these two rookies making up the backfield, the Bears don't have a very scary offense.

That doesn't mean they'll be pushovers, though.

The Bears line isn't perfect, but they ironed out some wrinkles since allowed 9 sacks in Justin Fields's first start. They lost right tackle Germain Ifedi, so Preston Smith will face utility lineman Elijah Wilkinson. This could be a key matchup for the Packes to get some much-needed pass rush pressure, because the Bears have some dangerous receivers.

Allen Robinson, even with an ailing ankle, is a big target who can use his 6'3 frame to bully defenders. Second year speedster Darnell Mooney will be a handful with his 4.38 speed. Kevin King would be a good matchup with Robinson because of his size, but the Packers might have to put 5'11 Chandon Sullivan on him because no one except Eric Stokes has the speed to run with Mooney. Even if Stokes is on Mooney, he won't be able to depend on makeup speed if he lets Mooney get behind him.

Bears offensive coordinato Bill Lazor took over playcalling duties for head coach Matt Nagy (unfortunately) after their abysmal offensive showing against Cleveland. Since then, the Bears put up respectable offensive outputs of 24 and 20 points against the Lions and Raiders.

I think Lazor will really shake things up and go all-out in front of their hated rivals. With a depleted running back corps, I'd expect Lazor to attack a Packers defense that's missing both of its starting cornerbacks as well as its best pass rusher. If Stokes isn't on Mooney, I'd bet they take some shots. If Robinson plays, he'll probably get plenty of looks regardless of who's on him because the Packers don't have a big body to match up with.

The Packers will need to have safety help in coverage, especially over the top with Mooney going deep (Mooney has led the team in targets in both games where Lazor has handled playcalling). If they can't get pressure with four, the young Bears quarterback might have a breakout performance.

Fields is also a threat to run. In his 3 starts, he only has 9 rushes for 25 yards, but he's highly capable of running the ball and the Packers have shown the ability to allow even the most pedestrian of quarterbacks to run for yards.

The Packers will need to maintain gap discipline and will be heavily dependent on their linebackers to help with underneath coverage and contain Fields if he scrambles.

Luckily, the Packers have been playing well at inside linebacker for roughly the first time in a decade. De'Vondre Campbell has been pretty stellar all-around, Krys Barnes has played well when healthy, and now Jaylon Smith has been added to the mix. I wouldn't be surprised to see all of them get heavy snaps as Joe Barry tries out some new formations and inside blitzes to harass the young Bears quarterback. 

 

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

Aaron Rodgers looks to have hit that place in his career where he can't quite do all the amazing things he used to do with the same level of consistency that he used to... but he still wants to try... because he can do it more often than not. It's made for an interesting season so far.

He's got in some trouble when he's forced the ball, but Davante Adams leads all receivers in catches and yards while Randall Cobb has exceeded my (albeit low) expectations already and is re-establishing himself as a 3rd down security blanket.

Meanwhile, the Bears defense has done a good job limiting #1 receivers this year. Cooper Kupp is the only receiver to get more than 83 yards against Chicago so far this year. Kupp had 108 yards against the Bears, the most they've given up. Meanwhile, Davante Adams is averaging over 115 yards per game.  

It will be a great matchup in the passing game. The Bears lost Kyle Fuller in the offseason, but second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson has been an ascending player. This is a week where it sure would be nice to have MVS taking the top off the secondary.

The Packers will be as good in the passing game as their protection. The Bears lead the NFL in sacks, so it will be another stiff test for the Packers patchwork offensive line. Rookie center Josh Myers looks set to return, but 5-position superstar Elgton Jenkins is still questionable, swing tackle Dennis Kelley is doubtful, and David Bakhtiari is still out.

The Bears are dealing with their own injury issues, though. Khalil Mack didn't practice all week (which is typical) and Akiem Hicks missed most of the week and just put in some limited work on Friday. Both of them are listed as questionable. With the division lead at stake against their biggest rivals, I'd expect both to play. 

Yosh Nijman and Billy Turner have been performing well as a tackle tandem, but Bears edge rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn both rank in the top 10 in the NFL for sacks and each of them has twice as many sacks as anyone on the Packers (where Preston Smith leads the team with 2).

The Packers may have to figure out a way to make the passing game work, though, because rushing yards may be hard to come by. The Packers, despite having talented running backs, have only exceeded 4 yards per carry one game this season - and that was last week on the strength of a 57 yard breakaway by Aaron Jones.

With talented backs and a surprisingly effective line, the problem may be playcalling. Last week, the Packers stubbornly ran the ball up the middle on first down seemingly every drive, despite it pretty much never working. Matt LaFleur has talked about how important it is to get rushing attempts even if the yards aren't coming, but it's also silly to run the same play over an over again without success.

This is the week to show some creativity in the running plays, because Chicago will not roll over and let vanilla run plays beat them.

The Bears, despite their injuries, have held 4 of their 5 opponents under 3.7 yards rushing.  Their line features Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, and Khyiris Tonga, who are all  built to stop the run. Behind them, inside linebacker Roquan Smith has great run fit instincts to go with teleport speed.

The Packers will need an all around creative game plan to get an edge on offense. The good new is, even with injuries, they have the players to do it.

 

OTHER NOTES

Last week was such an incredible disaster on all facets of special teams that this week can't possibly be worse (I don't believe in jinxes).

It sure would be great if Jaylon Smith learned enough of the playbook to come in and chase Justin Fields around - I'm curious to see if the Packers use him on the edge at all, too.

The Packers young interior of Runyan, Myers, and Newman have not faced a stout group of run-stuffers like this and I want to see what they're made out of.

The Bears have been taking away number 1 receivers all year - I'm sure the Packers will force the ball to Adams, but Lazard is a great dark horse to come up with a big game against a team without a lot of cornerback depth.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Bears are the first team to give the Packers a run for their money in the injury department. I expect hurt guys to play and this great rivalry (the greatest rivalry in sports, in my opinion) to show us another gritty battle.

The Bears will pull out all the stops one offense, but I think the Packers defense has just enough to limit a desperate team. On offense, the Packers should be able to pencil-whip Chicago, but I don't think it will be that easy, especially with special teams putting them in tough positions. In the end, I think the Packers, led by a great quarterback who has a command of his offense and comfort with his receivers will overcome a Bears team that has a lot of talent on offense, but is still figuring out how to put it all together.

This should be a battle.

Packers 23, Bears 17

 

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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Comments (8)

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Cubbygold's picture

October 17, 2021 at 06:30 am

Rodgers last game in Chicago wearing a Packer uniform? I expect nothing less than a Cobb/Rodgers domination.

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NickPerry's picture

October 17, 2021 at 07:04 am

"In the end, I think the Packers, led by a great quarterback who has a command of his offense and comfort with his receivers will overcome a Bears team that has a lot of talent on offense."

Okay, okay...This is the 2nd time in 2 days I've read where a CHTV author suggested the Bears have a "Talented Offense". I was in Ohio for the Past 10 days and just returned to Los Angeles yesterday morning. Did I stumble into some alternate universe? Because the Bears POSSIBLY drafted a QB who MIGHT be decent or even good SOMEDAY, has everyone totally lost their minds?

Montgomery isn't playing so the Bears will play Herbert. Sorry, Herbert doesn't scare me. Yes they have Robinson, a WR I actually had wished the Packers had drafted instead of Adams, but that was a LONG time ago. Yes, Allen Robinson is a awesome WR and he's big. BUT Fields just doesn't scare me to get him the ball consistently. They faced a hell of a lot tougher challenge last week. A HELL of a lot tougher. The Bears won't score 17 points.

On offense as long as Meyers and Jenkins are back I think it's simple, at least IMO. Even with Just Meyers back this should happen. In week 3 the Packers deployed a quick passing game and Rodgers threw the ball ON TIME most of that game against IMO a better defense, at least front 7. Start with that, include Lazard, Big Bob, Cobb on plays OTHER than 3rd down and I think they can have a lot of success. That's also assuming the Packers continue to run Jones and Dillon. Lets see a lot of pre-snap motion. For Gods sake lets try a touch pass or jet sweep with Amari Rodgers or fill in the blank. Hill? Jones? Cobb? Rodgers? Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

This is a game Rodgers finds his groove. The Bears aren't a great team, hell the Bears aren't a very good team. Matt Nagy is still the HC and a ROOKIE is still the QB. Pound their ass, pound his ass and fly home with a 34-16 victory.

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BruceIrons's picture

October 17, 2021 at 10:09 am

I can't speak for anyone else, but I chose the word "talented" for a reason.

Just Fields has talent.
Darnell Mooney has talent.
Khalil Herbert has talent.
Cole Kmet has talent.

These guys were all good prospects coming out of college, but none of them have put together a solid body of work yet.

This is why I said "talented" instead of "great" or "productive." I think it's the best way to describe where they're at.

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NickPerry's picture

October 17, 2021 at 05:12 pm

Hey Bruce, I was just busting balls...No hard feelings I hope.

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BruceIrons's picture

October 18, 2021 at 11:04 am

Not at all - didn't mean to come off as defensive, just explaining my thoughts.

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PeteK's picture

October 17, 2021 at 10:01 am

Bears lead the league in sacks and we have an O line while playing well is still young and inexperienced. Rogers will have to get rid of the ball on quick hitters, roll out, and mix in some runs especially after a few completions. Fields will have some success against our depleted backfield, but it won't be enough against our good safeties. As important of a game at this point in the season in which a two game lead will be needed with our upcoming schedule.

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BruceIrons's picture

October 17, 2021 at 10:04 am

I agree. I think Rodgers needs to throw in rhythm for this offense to get moving.

The Bears defensive line is full of bullies and their edge rushers a top-shelf. Even with how well the Packers line has been playing, the quarterback needs to be quick and decisive today.

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Archie's picture

October 17, 2021 at 05:08 pm

Great article previewing the game.

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