The Green Bay Packers don’t need any extra motivation when it comes to facing the Chicago Bears. However, both teams have something meaningful to play for at 786 wins a piece. That means the winner of Sunday’s game will have the most regular season wins in NFL history.
Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a conciliation prize with the Packers and Bears both in the middle of underwhelming seasons. At the beginning of the year, Green Bay had expectations of making the postseason, but a Week 12 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles may have crushed any hope they had left. Meanwhile, Chicago has a far less talented roster and considered this a rebuilding year.
Regardless of records, there’s enough bad blood between these two teams for both to want to walk out of Sunday’s game with bragging rights. As always, here are four key matchups that will help decide the winner.
Green Bay’s run defense vs QB Justin Fields
Last week, the Packers had their worst tackling performance of the Matt LaFleur era. Earlier this week, LaFleur said he counted 22 missed tackles during their 40-33 loss to the Eagles. Many of those were forced by quarterback Jalen Hurts, who gashed Green Bay’s run defense to set a new franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 157. This week could be just as bad if the Packers aren’t prepared. The Bears have struggled to throw the ball this season, which has forced Fields to make plays with his feet. Judging by his 834 rushing yards this season, Fields may be even more dangerous than Hurts when breaking the pocket. Green Bay needs a better plan to prevent the opposing quarterback from running all over them for the second straight week.
Over the last few weeks, Watson has emerged as the Packers’ most dangerous receiver. During his impressive three-game stretch, he’s totaled 12 catches for 265 yards with six touchdowns. Watson’s speed has added a new element to offense and is tough to account for as an opposing defense. As Chicago’s best corner, Johnson may be responsible for covering Watson most of the day. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson is allowing 14.7 yards per catch and a reception percentage of 62.5. Johnson may have to raise his game a tick to prevent a big day from Watson.
OLB Preston Smith vs LT Braxton Jones
Smith recorded two sacks against the Bears back in Week 2. He also added six QB pressures, which remains his most in a game this season, per PFF. However, since Rashan Gary went down with a season-ending ACL injury, Smith has had to carry the load as Green Bay’s best edge rusher. Fortunately, he has a favorable matchup this week against Jones, who has allowed five sacks and 32 pressures. Against a struggling left tackle, Smith could boost the defense with a similar performance to the one at the beginning of the season.
RB Aaron Jones vs Chicago’s run defense
Jones also had a big game the last time he faced the Bears. He rushed for 132 yards on nearly nine yards per carry and added 38 receiving yards with two touchdowns. Much like Green Bay, Chicago’s 27th-ranked run defense has been an issue for most of the season. Even though Aaron Rodgers has been the Bear killer for over a decade, his broken thumb and banged-up ribs should make the Packers want to put the ball in the hands of their best playmaker. Jones should lead the way for the Packers’ offense on Sunday.