Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears: Prediction, matchups for NFC North slugfest

The Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears game will be an ugly slugfest. Both offensive lines are battered, making this a survival game.

It’s always exciting to watch the Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears. No matter where it’s at, we know it’ll be an open-air game with psychotic NFC North fans rooting for their teams. The only unfortunate part is the weather. It looks like it’ll be in the mid-60s and sunny.

That’s not very NFC North-like, is it, Mrs. Mother Nature?

Green Bay Packers offense vs. Chicago Bears defense

Don’t get this twisted — this Packers offense isn’t what it was last season. In fact, this offense is only roughly one-third as efficient as it was in 2020. The simple truth? It’s not easy playing football without David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, and rookie standout Josh Myers.

Green Bay currently ranks in the middle of the pack in advanced metrics such as EPA (12th) or DVOA (10th), and their rushing attack isn’t near the unstoppable force it was for large portions of 2020.

Conversely, I’m continually wondering if the Bears are cursed or blessed. They can’t seem to find a quarterback to save their lives (this should change with Justin Fields), but they continually make Don Julio 1942 out of lemons on defense.

The Bears rank seventh in EPA/play allowed, despite facing the Rams, Bengals, Browns, and Raiders offenses. Furthermore, they rank fifth in DVOA. And it all comes down to one thing — sacks. Chicago is first in the NFL with a 10.1% sack rate.

Curiously, the Bears rank 24th on third down. That’s intriguing given the next two highest teams in sack rate — the Panthers and Vikings  — are first and fourth, respectively, in third-down defense.

This feels like one of the more evenly-matched games of Week 6.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Bears defense

In news that should surprise absolutely no one after 2020, Aaron Rodgers is still very good at football — even if he appeared disinterested in the sport all summer and now appears in more commercials than Baker Mayfield.

Though he lacks high-end options aside from Davante Adams, Rodgers is not struggling to pick apart defenses through the air. Things have been more difficult given that his protection isn’t what it was last season, but he’s still as sharp as a tungsten needle.

The Bears’ defense is full of guys that swarm to the football and communicate well both pre- and post-snap. Chicago runs both man and zone, and they match extremely well. And they do this despite fielding names like Duke Shelley, Tashaun Gipson Sr., and Kindle Vildor in the secondary.

Still, A-a-ron is the reigning MVP.

Advantage: Rodgers

Packers weapons vs. Bears defensive backs

Don’t forget — we’re looking at the positional matchups independent of their surroundings. We’re trying to separate them from what may make them tick or hold them down. In this case, it’s Rodgers elevating the talent around him. The only situation we truly cannot separate is QB and OL.

These are the weak spots on these two units, at least when both are relatively healthy. Adams is the only receiving weapon that truly threatens a defense. Aaron Jones is a solid pass catcher out of the backfield, and Robert Tonyan is a usable tight end. But the rest of Green Bay’s skill players are simply satisfactory.

That might sound a bit harsh on Randall Cobb, but Adams is receiving a target share of nearly 38%. That’s staggering.

Meanwhile, Bears DB Eddie Jackson flashed early in his NFL career, but his play hasn’t remained as outstanding over the past few seasons. Jaylon Johnson is playing some exceptional football, but he’s a side corner and doesn’t often travel in Chicago’s defense. Johnson stays on the right side of the defense, allowing offenses to game plan against him more readily.

The Packers don’t have a considerable advantage here, but it’s there.

Advantage: Packers

Packers offensive line vs. Bears front seven

The Bears led the league in sack rate, but their overall pressure statistics are pretty putrid. This means that while they aren’t often getting pressure, they capitalize and finish with the QB on the ground with the ball still attached to his body.

That type of results-based pressure is difficult to maintain, but it’s working for now — and it could very well work against the Packers. Against an offensive line riddled by injuries, there’s a good chance Chicago gets to Rodgers a few times on Sunday.

It looks like the Packers will have Myers back at center on Sunday, but Jenkins was still limited through Thursday with an ankle injury. We saw what the Bears did against a struggling Raiders offensive line. This could be a similar day.

Advantage: Bears

Green Bay Packers defense vs. Chicago Bears offense

Suppose you wake up on the struggle bus Sunday after a long day watching college football. In that case, you might want to grab a nap during Chicago’s offensive possessions — unless you’re a Bears fan interested to see how Justin Fields does with a bunch of backups everywhere except wide receiver.

Somehow, the Bears do not have the worst offense in football. The Jets and Dolphins are currently worse, which would be surprising if televisions didn’t exist and we couldn’t watch Miami run roughly three passing concepts, each one as vanilla as the next.

The Packers’ defense is pretty underwhelming as well. Nevertheless, against Chicago’s battered offensive line, they should be able to affect the pocket with relative ease come Sunday.

Justin Fields vs. Packers defense

Fields has struggled to start his NFL transition, but the same could be said for every rookie quarterback in 2021. Even more than natural talent, landing spot might be the most critical factor in a quarterback’s early success. Heck, there may be no better example than Davis Mills, who survived one game, looked like one of the worst quarterbacks of all time in the next, then absolutely torched the New England Patriots in Week 5.

Amongst his peers, Fields’ situation is possibly the worst.

The Packers’ defense has struggled, particularly at linebacker. It’s partially why they signed former Cowboy Jaylon Smith. De’Vondre Campbell has been outstanding, but it’s been a massive struggle to find him a Robin. One plus for Fields is he doesn’t have to deal with the NFL’s resident gnat Jaire Alexander, who unfortunately went to the IR this past week with a shoulder injury.

Still, with the downfield passing attack being his bread & butter, it’s tough to envision much success behind an offensive line fielding Elijah Wilkinson and 40-year-old Jason Peters (even though he’s playing out of his mind for a geriatric lineman).

Advantage: Packers

Bears weapons vs. Packers defensive backs

The Bears saw the fun Baltimore was having missing their top-two running backs and decided they wanted to have a go at it as well! However, having Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney helps the rookie QB quite a bit, given they’re both adept intermediate and downfield pass catchers.

Kevin King and rookie Eric Stokes paired with an underperforming Darnell Savage is not a recipe for success against receivers of Robinson and Mooney’s ilk. They’re going to struggle, but with the depletion of the Bears’ offensive line, we may not get to see it lead to passing production.

Advantage: Bears

Bears offensive line vs. Packers front seven

It’s almost too depressing to talk about. Chicago has three offensive tackles on IR right now. Fortunately, that’s the extent of any serious offensive line injuries. Unfortunately, the rest of the offensive line is utterly underwhelming.

Meanwhile, what was an MIA pass rush in Green Bay to start the season has turned into something resembling a serviceable unit. The only way the Bears hang in this game is if they protect Fields.

Advantage: Packers

Betting line and game prediction

The Packers vs. Bears game currently favors the Packers by 6 points as of Friday morning. That seems a bit low, given the Bears’ inability to score points, which is essential in the game of football.

Yet, if Chicago’s defense continues to perform at a high level against a depleted Green Bay offensive line, this game could be ugly, and in turn, lower scoring. Lastly, Vegas knows what they’re doing, making it even more uncomfortable to pick this game.

Prediction: Packers 24, Bears 17

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch

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