The Bears have been on the wrong side of the rivalry for the last decade-plus, where they’ve gone 3-23 dating back to 2011. That includes an eight-game losing streak, which Chicago last defeated Green Bay in Dec. 2018.
But Sunday’s opener presents an opportunity for the Bears to get on the right side of the rivalry as a new chapter begins. Aaron Rodgers is now with the New York Jets, and it’s Jordan Love time in Green Bay.
Before Sunday’s season opener, we’re sharing our season preview (as previously shared with Packers Wire and their “Reintroduce a Rival” feature). We’ll look at what’s new, what’s the same, newcomers to know and share an outlook for the 2023 season.
Last season was a brutal one for the Bears, who finished the year with a 3-14 record in GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus’ first season. While Chicago started off 2-1 with wins against the 49ers and Texans, they went on to lose 13 of their final 14 games, including a 10-game losing streak to close out the year. While the record doesn’t show it, the Bears were a competitive team under Matt Eberflus. They played in eight games that were decided by one score, winning just one of them. Justin Fields emerged as arguably the most dangerous running quarterback, which made things exciting in what was otherwise a disappointing season. While Chicago finished with its most losses in team history, it did ultimately lead them to the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, which defined their offseason.
There was plenty of change this offseason, where Poles overhauled positions of weakness on offense and defense. When looking at this roster, there isn’t a position that got worse this offseason, which wasn’t too hard to accomplish considering how bad the roster was a year ago. The focal point this offseason was building around Fields, where the Bears upgraded his supporting cast, trading for wide receiver DJ Moore and adding Nate Davis and rookie Darnell Wright to shore up the right side of the offensive line. Running back David Montgomery is now with the Lions, which means it’s Khalil Herbert as the lead back. On defense, Chicago upgraded several positions, including most notably linebacker, cornerback and the defensive line, which returns just one starter. Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards highlight a new-look linebacker corps while Yannick Ngakoue and DeMarcus Walker are the new additions to a pass rush that ranked dead last in the NFL last season. The Bears also upgraded at cornerback with rookie Tyrique Stevenson, who will start immediately opposite Jaylon Johnson on the outside.
What's the same
The Bears have continuity on offense and defense under Luke Getsy and Alan Williams, which is huge for this team. Fields is in his second season in Getsy’s offense, where he’s already showing a greater understanding that should help him take the next step in his development. While there are some new offensive additions, players like Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet are also feeling more comfortable in the system. Chicago had the league’s top rushing attack last season – thanks in large part to Fields – and they’ll continue to utilize Fields’ athleticism and a running back committee approach. While Herbert will be the lead back, he’ll be joined by veteran D’Onta Foreman and fourth-round rookie Roschon Johnson. While there was some shifting (and new additions) along the offensive line, there are some core pieces in place with Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins (currently on IR), Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick. The Bears defense returns a talented secondary group led by cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon – now in the slot – and safeties Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker.
Newcomers to know
The Bears have a ton of notable new additions, starting with DJ Moore, who gives Fields the No. 1 receiver he hasn’t had in Chicago. Fields and Moore’s chemistry developed quickly this offseason, and Moore has already become Fields’ favorite target. While Poles waited it out, he did acquire Yannick Ngakoue to help a pass rush that managed just 20 sacks last season. Ngakoue has recorded at least eight sacks in each of his seven NFL seasons, which is double what safety Jaquan Brisker led the team with in 2022. The duo of Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards at linebacker will be huge for a defense that struggled mightily against the run last season, and they also happen to be strong in coverage. Packers fans are already familiar with tight ends Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, who followed Luke Getsy to Chicago. Tonyan will be a red-zone threat while Lewis serves as a key blocker. The Bears have some new additions in the running back room, including rookie Roschon Johnson and D’Onta Foreman. Foreman rushed for nearly 1,000 yards with the Panthers last season, after they traded Christian McCaffrey. Meanwhile, Johnson stood in the large shadow of eighth overall pick Bijan Robinson at Texas, and Johnson is the team’s most complete running back.
There should be noticeable improvement from this Bears squad during the 2023 season. This roster is night and day better from last season, where the team has improved at nearly every position group. But Chicago’s success will depend on Justin Fields’ development in his third season, second under Luke Getsy. We know what Fields can do with his elite rushing ability, but he needs to prove himself as a passer. If Fields can do that, he can develop into a true dual-threat quarterback that will help his team win games. Now, how many games? That remains to be seen. Chicago has a favorable schedule, but there are some challenges there, including six division games. I expect the Bears to be “in the hunt” for a playoff berth, although I don’t expect them to actually make it. I liken this 2023 Bears team to the 2022 Lions, who had some key pieces in place but were still a year away from contending.