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The Chicago Bears (3-2) will host the Green Bay Packers (4-1) on Sunday, where Chicago will be looking to take a lead in the NFC North. But it won’t be easy against a Packers team that’s gone 19-3 against them since 2011.
When it comes to determining who wins football games, there are a number of factors that contribute to a victory. Solid quarterback play, winning the line of scrimmage, protecting the football and taking it away, controlling important situations and overcoming or taking advantage of an injury situation.
In our weekly preview series, Alyssa Barbieri from Bears Wire and Zach Kruse from Packers Wire went deep into the matchup to determine who has the advantage at the five key factors for winning football games in the NFL.
AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski
Bears Wire: While rookie quarterback Justin Fields hasn’t been exploding off the stat sheet, he’s been quietly developing at a rate the Bears are comfortable with. They haven’t asked him to do too much, leaning on what’s been a solid run game and asking Fields to make plays when needed, which he’s done. Eventually that’s going to change, and that might just be this week against the Packers, especially if Green Bay jumps out to an early lead. Through his first three starts, Fields has shown his mental toughness in bouncing back from a horrific Cleveland outing and physical toughness against the Raiders, and he’s earning the respect of his teammates. Fields was able to get the downfield passing game going back in Week 4 against the Lions. With Green Bay missing Jaire Alexander and Kevin King, look for him to take his shots, where Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson will have their chances.
Packers Wire: After an ugly start in Week 1, Aaron Rodgers has completed 68 percent of his passes with 10 touchdown passes and just one interception over the Packers’ four-game win streak. The reigning NFL MVP is playing decisively and helping out a makeshift offensive line. Can the Bears pressure him enough on Sunday? That’s the key to slowing him down. If Rodgers is consistently playing from clean pockets, he’ll pick the Bears secondary apart. In terms of a quarterback comparison, Rodgers and rookie Justin Fields are on opposite ends of the experience spectrum. Rodgers is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in league history, and he’s seen just about everything, while Fields is three starts in and still learning the pro game. The Bears rookie does have intriguing traits. Like most weeks, the Packers should enjoy a massive advantage at the game’s most important position on Sunday.
Line of scrimmage
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Bears Wire: The Bears’ defensive front remains an impressive unit through the first five weeks led by Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, along with edge rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Chicago has done a great job getting after the quarterback notching a league-best 18 sacks on the season, where Mack and Quinn have combined for 9.5 sacks through five weeks. If the Bears are going to find a way to stop Rodgers, they need to bring some pressure against an offensive line that has held up well despite missing starting left tackle David Bakhtiari and battling other injuries. While Chicago’s offensive line was made a laughing stock following a brutal Week 3 loss to the Browns, they’ve had their best two games of the season against the Lions and Raiders, which has included clearing the way for what’s been a solid run game and protecting Fields. While the Packers are without Za’Darius Smith, the O-line needs a strong effort if they hope to move the ball against Green Bay.
Packers Wire: Here’s where the game will be won and lost. The Packers won’t have David Bakhtiari (PUP) and they still don’t know if they’ll have Elgton Jenkins (ankle, questionable), but the offensive line has played well despite several backups in the lineup. Can they survive against a talented Bears front? If they do, the Packers should score plenty of points, but the Bears could even this game in a hurry if Rodgers is under constant pressure. The same goes for Justin Fields and the Packers defensive front. The rookie has been sacked 14 times. The Bears will attempt to run the ball to protect him, so the Packers need big games from Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. Chicago probably needs to dominate the game at the line on both sides of the ball to win.
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Bears Wire: Protecting the football on offense and taking the football away on defense have been points of emphasis for the Bears this season, and they’ve done a good job of that through the first five weeks. The Bears have a +3 turnover differential through five weeks, where they have seven takeaways and have turned the ball over four times. Last week against the Raiders, Chicago added another takeaway to the takeaway bucket with a DeAndre Houston-Carson interception of Derek Carr. The Bears offense didn’t turn the ball over against a ferocious Raiders defense. The Bears are going to need another mistake-free game by the offense and find a way to get a rare turnover against the Packers to help their chances in this matchup.
Packers Wire: The Packers have only two giveaways and eight takeaways over the four-game win streak. Matt LaFleur’s team prides itself on taking care of the ball and winning the turnover battle every week, and having a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers certainly helps. Joe Barry’s defense has two takeaways in each of the last four games, too. The Packers should have the advantage here, especially with a rookie quarterback under center for the Bears. Keep this in mind: The Packers have won the turnover battle each of the last four games against the Bears, and are 4-0 in those games.
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Bears Wire: The Bears defense has been spectacular in the red zone, whether it’s holding teams to a field goal or forcing a turnover on downs. They’re allowing teams to score a touchdown on just 37.50% of trips inside the red zone, which ranks third in the NFL. For how uninspired the Bears offense has been this season, they’ve been decent in the red zone this season, scoring a touchdown on 61.54% of their trips inside the 20 (17th in NFL). Third down conversions remain a struggle for Chicago, where the offense has converted on just 32.76% of third downs (28th) and the defense has struggled to get off the field allowing teams to convert on third down 43.94% of the time (24th). While the Bears offense also struggles on fourth down, converting 14.29% of the time (29th), the defense has the eighth-best fourth-down defense allowing 36.36% of conversions.
Packers Wire: The Packers are having well-documented issues in the red zone. The offense has failed to score a touchdown on nine different red-zone trips and currently ranks 27th in red-zone touchdown percentage through five games this season. Last season, the Packers only failed 12 times and led the NFL in the red zone. The defense is having bigger issues. Opponents have scored touchdowns on all 13 trips into the red zone this season. Can the Packers finally get a stop and force a field goal on Sunday? On third down, the Packers are middle of the pack on offense (11th) and towards the bottom on defense (27th). Situational football is one area where the Bears could find an advantage on Sunday, although the numbers in Chicago aren’t significantly better.
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Bears Wire: There was some concern about whether outside linebacker Khalil Mack, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and receiver Allen Robinson would be available for Sunday. While they didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, Hicks and Robinson were limited while Mack didn’t practice again. Still, all three have been deemed questionable and should be good to go on Sunday. While quarterback Justin Fields experienced some soreness from taking shots to his ribs and hyperextending his knee, he was a full participant in practice and will play. Running back David Montgomery remains on injured reserve with a knee sprain, and it doesn’t help that Damien Williams has landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That means it’ll be rookie Khalil Herbert getting most of the reps.
Packers Wire: The Packers ruled out starting cornerback Kevin King, and starting offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins is questionable once again. More importantly, the Packers have All-Pro edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander and deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling on injured reserve, and All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari remains on the PUP list for at least another week. That’s a lot of talent missing. The Bears are a little banged up entering Sunday, but there will be a lot of key players on the sideline for the Packers in Chicago. To their credit, Matt LaFleur’s team has done a terrific job overcoming injuries this season.
Verdict: Advantage Packers
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When you look at this matchup, it’s clear the Bears could definitely win this game. Actually winning it is something else entirely. Green Bay has had their number for the last decade, and Chicago hasn’t won since 2018. In that game, the Bears defense overwhelmed Aaron Rodgers and the offense put 24 points on the board. Chicago is going to need that kind of complete, mistake-free effort if they want to pull an upset. While the Packers have a slew of injuries and the Bears will likely have Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Allen Robinson at their disposal, it’s a matter of doing enough to win. The defense needs to confuse and pressure Rodgers. The offense is going to have to open things up in the passing game. If Chicago can play a complete game like they did against the Raiders, they can win this game. But until they can prove they can beat the Packers, they won’t have the advantage in this matchup.