The Green Bay Packers (0-1) will attempt to get back to winning ways when the Chicago Bears (1-0) arrive at Lambeau Field for the home opener and a primetime matchup on Sunday night.
Going back to last year’s regular-season finale and counting the playoff loss to the 49ers, the Packers have now lost three straight games.
Sunday night’s meeting will mark the 17th straight season that the Packers and Bears play in primetime and the 205th meeting overall in the NFL’s longest-running rivalry.
Here are five things to watch and a prediction for the Packers’ primetime showdown with the Bears:
Will Elgton return?
Green Bay Packers offensive guard Elgton Jenkins (74) after after an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Monday, Sept 20. 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Elgton Jenkins, the presumed starter at right tackle and a Pro Bowl-caliber player at all five positions, could make his season debut after getting in a full practice on Friday. It’s no guarantee, and he’s still questionable to play, but Jenkins’ return could stabilize the entire offensive line and provide a valuable boost for the offense as a whole. The Packers need a better showing up front in Week 2, but it’s hard to know what the starting five is going to look like with Jenkins, David Bakhtiari and Jon Runyan Jr. (concussion) – three preferred starters – all listed as questionable. The inactive list released 90 minutes before kickoff will be big.
The rookie WRs
(AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Allen Lazard, who missed Week 1, might return, but it’s hard not to be more intrigued with the maturation and development of the two rookie receivers after flashing in their NFL regular season debuts. Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, despite their inexperience, still hold the keys to maximizing the passing game. Watson can fly, and he’s going to run past a lot of defensive backs for big-play opportunities. Doubs might be the best route-running separator on the team. As much as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers probably want to lean on the vets, Watson and Doubs need to play. Maybe the pair will become household names with a breakout performance on Sunday night.
Rectifying for Week 1
(AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
Two glaring issues from Week 1 must be rectified: Aaron Jones needs more than eight touches on offense, and the veteran secondary needs to rebound in a big way on defense. Jones is a dynamic weapon who should be approaching 20 touches every week, especially in an offense searching for playmakers early in the year. In the secondary, it’s hard to imagine the five starters playing a worse game than Week 1. Fortunately, the Bears have an inexperienced quarterback and a receiving corps lacking game-breakers. This should be a terrific opportunity for Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas (who had a pick-six of Justin Fields at Lambeau Field last year), Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage to get their groove back.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Jakeem Grant (17)
In this matchup last year at Lambeau Field, Bears returner Jakeem Grant returned a punt 97 yards for a score to highlight one of the worst showings by the Packers’ terrible special teams all year. In fact, by expected points added, it was the worst overall (even worse than the playoff game). Grant is no longer in Chicago, and special teams personnel change year to year, but Sunday night’s visit from the Bears will provide a good look at Rich Bisaccia’s revamped special teams in primetime. New Bears punt returner Dante Pettis can be dangerous. The goal here, remember, is mere competency.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Packers are 6-0 in games against the Bears in the Matt LaFleur era. Over the six games, Green Bay is plus-12 in the turnover category – with 13 takeaways and just one giveaway. It’s time to get back to winning football. In Week 1, Aaron Rodgers had two uncharacteristic turnovers and the defense didn’t get its hands on the ball. LaFleur always says: Win the ball. Last season, the Packers were 10-0 when forcing at least two turnovers. Getting a couple from Justin Fields could be the engine behind a bounce-back victory.
Prediction: Packers 24, Bears 14 (0-1)
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Packers have scored 40 or more points in two straight games against the Bears at Lambeau Field. I’m not sure that streak continues, but I do think the offense converts more opportunities and does enough to get past a young Bears lacking playmakers. This should be a simple script for the Packers in the home opener: Get the ball to the running backs, hit a couple of deep shots, and take the ball away. If they check all three boxes, a comfortable win should follow.