The oldest rivalry in the NFL is renewed this weekend when the Chicago Bears travel north to take on the Green Bay Packers. The Bears are coming off an upset victory over the San Francisco 49ers to open up the Matt Eberflus era, while the Packers are reeling following a drudging by the Minnesota Vikings to start 0-1.
Recent history has not been kind to the Bears when it comes to this matchup. They haven’t won since late 2018 and have been outscored 176-101 since the start of the 2019 season. But with a new staff, a new mentality, and perhaps a bit of injury luck, a win might just be in the cards. That alone is enough to be a bold prediction, but here’s what else we can see happening on Sunday night.
1. Darnell Mooney goes off for over 100 yards
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – SEPTEMBER 11: Darnell Mooney #11 of the Chicago Bears warms-up before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on September 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Darnell Mooney was a nonfactor in the Bears victory last weekend against the 49ers, catching just one pass for eight yards. But given the terrible weather conditions, it’s understandable and should be an outlier. Now he’s going up against a defense that was just torched by Justin Jefferson. Mooney is a good player and while he isn’t close to being on the same level as Jefferson, it does show the Packers defense is vulnerable to the passing attack if the Bears can create the right matchups.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy spent years with the Packers and should know how to get Mooney in favorable spots. Expect him to be the focal point of the passing attack and to get his first 100-yard game of the season.
2. Equanimeous St. Brown gets revenge on his former team
Sep 11, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (19) catches a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports
For his entire career with the Packers from 2018 through 2021, wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown had just one touchdown catch. In one game with the Bears, he already matched that total. Now St. Brown gets the chance to face his former team that didn’t give him much of an opportunity to contribute on the field and I expect him to let them know what they’re missing.
St. Brown tied Mooney for the most targets among wide receiver for Fields last week. He’s once again going to be relied upon to deliver and with his large frame, he could be a mismatch in the redzone. I think St. Brown finds the end zone once again to stick it to his former team.
3. Braxton Jones doesn't allow a sack
Chicago Bears offensive tackle Braxton Jones (70) lines up for a play during an NFL preseason football game against the Cleveland Browns, Saturday Aug. 27, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)
The Bears rookies had a ton of praise after last weekend’s win, most notably defensive players Jaquan Brisker and Dominique Robinson. But let’s not forget about tackle Braxton Jones, who made his NFL debut at left tackle. Jones didn’t have a perfect day, but he allowed just one sack to star pass rusher Nick Bosa and played solid football for much of the day.
Now, Jones gets his first regular season action on the road in Green Bay. The Packers only notched one sack last weekend against the Vikings, coming from rising star Rashan Gary. Jones will be tested but if he held up well against the 49ers front, he should do even better against a Packers front that is dealing with a number of injuries,
4. Kyler Gordon forces a turnover
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – SEPTEMBER 11: Cornerback Kyler Gordon #6 of the Chicago Bears and linebacker Roquan Smith #58 of the Chicago Bears tackle wide receiver Jauan Jennings #15 of the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at Soldier Field on September 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
The Bears secondary stepped up when they needed to most in week one, but it was up and down for the team’s first draft pick of 2022. Cornerback Kyler Gordon struggled at times in pass coverage, but was solid as a run defender. With Jaylon Johnson not even getting a pass thrown his way, Gordon was busy last week and will likely see quite a few targets come his way.
Pass defense is still a work in progress for Gordon, but he’s showing he’s great at defending the run or the flats. Green Bay will utilize their two-headed monster backfield of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon quite a bit on Sunday, giving Gordon a great opportunity to make some plays in the backfield. I see a turnover coming from the rookie. He does have to keep up with his fellow second-round pick Brisker after all.
5. The Bears win against Green Bay
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – DECEMBER 12: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass before being sacked by Robert Quinn #94 of the Chicago Bears during the first quarter of the NFL game at Lambeau Field on December 12, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Perhaps my biggest bold prediction of all! How can you pick the Bears to beat the Packers when it’s been a one-sided butt kicking for the last decade? So much can change with a new voice in the building and it was clear that the former regime’s tone had grown stale. The Bears are playing hard, smart, and physical football under Eberflus. It was evident in training camp, the preseason, and now the regular season. It’s not a fluke and while they’re cautious and aware of what the Packers can do, they’re not cowering or afraid.
Even if the Packers weren’t reeling after an 0-1 start and dealing with injuries, there would still be reason for optimism. Green Bay is still looking for a new identity following an offseason of massive change. The Bears, meanwhile, are well on their way to establishing theirs. And playing in Green Bay is usually a good opportunity for new Bears coaches.
Since 199 when Dick Jauron became head coach, Bears coaches in their first season are 4-1 when playing the Packers at Lambeau Field. I’m expecting that number to go to 5-1 when the final whistle sounds.