By Lucy Rendler-Kaplan // @Lucyrk78
The NFL is kicking off their 100th season with a Packers-Bears game. One might think that the NFL would choose to have their Super Bowl Champs, the New England Patriots, to kick-off such an anniversary. Instead, one of the league’s most storied rivalries will mark the start of what promises to be a momentous celebration.
Green Bay narrowly holds the edge in this matchup at 97-95-6. For Green Bay Packers fans, this game is counting-down-the-hours-call-off-work-Friday level excitement. For Chicago Bears fans, it’s also a celebration of their 100th season.
The 2019 NFL Kickoff Game will mark the 199th time these two rivals have faced off and the second year in a row they’ve met in their season-opener. (This is the fourth time the Packers and Bears have faced off in prime time to open a season.) While the Packers took the win in this game last season, no one has forgotten that the last time we faced Chicago, they won, clinching a playoff berth and eliminating Green Bay from a run in the postseason.
There is a LOT to watch in tonight’s game, but I think what fans want to see most is more protection for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a boost to the defensive line. I, along with every other Packers’ writer, could fill libraries with the number of articles we’ve written about how Aaron Rodgers has had to carry Green Bay for years. How one player doesn’t win games, but with the team surrounding Rodgers, he’s often the exception. However, GM Brian Gutekunst was aggressive in the offseason, picking up players that should help take some of the burdens off Rodgers.
This is most noticeable in Green Bay’s defense. More often than not, we’ve seen the Packers’ defense struggle – whether it’s stopping the run, the lack of pressure on the quarterback…we’ve seen the offense shine while many defeats can be pinpointed on the defense. To hopefully combat this, Gutekunst has added defensive ends Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency, defensive linemen Rashan Gary and Kingsley Keke in the draft, and safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage to the secondary.
That was the debate over the offseason – who got the better safety? The Packers brought on Bears former safety in Amos, and the Bears took former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Personally, I loved Clinton-Dix, but I do acknowledge that his play dropped significantly prior to the trade. Where Clinton-Dix lacked consistency, Amos provides more reliability. Yet, I believe Clinton-Dix is an overall better player. Will the Packers go after him more, knowing his weaknesses?
And of course, the Packers have a new coach. It’s a pretty intense inaugural game for Matt LaFleur. And while there have been plenty of practices, LaFleur chose not to play any starters during the preseason. You have to imagine that with a new coach, new schemes and new players, it will take a while for the team to gel. But c’ mon, this is a Packers-Bears game. There’s no time to ‘wait and see’ what happens. It might be the first, but this is one of the season’s most important games.
Realizing I’m in the minority, I’m taking the Packers tonight, 23-20. Tweet me @lucyrk78 and let me know YOUR score predictions?
Discuss Lucy’s opinions with her on Twitter @LucyRK78