Behind Enemy Lines: Packers at Bears Week 1 Preview

Dec 4, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) breaks away for a long touchdown run in the first quarter agains the Green Bay Packers during their football game Sunday, December 4, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) breaks away for a long touchdown run in the first quarter agains the Green Bay Packers during their football game Sunday, December 4, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports /

No more talking or pontificating on what might happen – okay, maybe just a little more – between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears; week one of the regular season is here.

The Packers are, of course, transitioning to quarterback Jordan Love and have a lot of inexperience with the youngest roster in football. The Bears, meanwhile, are in their second season under Matt Eberflus and, with an abundance of cap space, made a number of new additions to this roster over the offseason, including trading for wide receiver DJ Moore and addressing their front seven on defense.

To help provide some insight into this Bears team, as I often do, I called on Vinnie Parise, who covers Chicago sports for Da Windy City. Vinnie was kind enough to answer five of my questions about the Bears, and I provided some takeaways along the way as well.

Heading into the new season, what is the expected strength of the Bears?

Vinnie: The expected strength is the ability to score some points. Their defense was bad last year and should be improved, but the offense is expected to take way more steps forward.

The offense wasn’t horrific last year, but Justin Fields obviously needs to be less one-dimensional. We will learn about his passing development now that he has more receivers. If he hits his stride as a quarterback, the offense will be awesome.

Takeaway: The Packers are now going to have to contend with DJ Moore at wide receiver, who posted three straight 1,100-yard seasons with Carolina from 2019 to 2021. Darnell Mooney is now fully healthy as well after missing the last several games of the 2022 season, including a Week 13 matchup with Green Bay. However, as Matt LaFleur said earlier in the week, the Bears are still going to want to run the football.

Justin Fields rushed for almost 1,200 yards last season. Khalil Herbert averaged 5.7 yards per carry, and the Bears also added Roschon Johnson in the draft. The play of the Packers’ interior defensive line unit has looked improved this summer, but this group will be tested right away. Earlier in the week, Kenny Clark mentioned that this unit would look different this season.

Of course, he didn’t specify how, but a few noticeable differences I spotted throughout training camp and the preseason are that this group looks much faster, emphasizing penetrating gaps rather than eating up space. This group is more versatile, and we’ve seen Clark taking more defensive end snaps, hopefully leading to more one-on-ones. We’ve also seen more post-snap movement upfront as well.

On the flip side, what is a potential weakness?

Vinnie: The aforementioned defense. It was so bad in 2022 that it is hard to see some of the additions making it a straight-up good defense.

It may be improved, but it was so bad last year that it is impossible not to be better. Of all the areas on the team, this will still be the weakness.

Takeaway: Statistically, this was one of the worst defenses in football last season that really struggled to defend the run. However, LaFleur mentioned this week that while he knows what the numbers show, the tape shows a Bears team that plays hard and did a really good job of scheming up pressures.

The scheming up of pressures, whether through stunts or blitzes, is something that not only do I expect the Bears to deploy against Green Bay but most teams. It’s meant to cause chaos and confusion, which can lead to mistakes for a young quarterback and create pressure. Jordan Love had said that the Packers’ offensive line handled these schemed-up pressures well over the summer and that how to handle them was a point of emphasis for Green Bay.

What are the expectations for Justin Fields this season? How did he look in the preseason and training camp? 

Vinnie: Fields had his ups and downs in the preseason. We know his running game as a quarterback is elite. That’ll surely be a big part of his game again.

His passing game will take more time to fully develop, but taking small steps each week is the key.

With his new weapons, things could go well if he keeps working to address his weaknesses while embracing his strengths.

Takeaway: The Bears have improved their weapons in the passing game for Fields, but making sure that Green Bay keeps him in the pocket so he’s limited in extending plays with his legs will still be priority No. 1–a task that’s much easier said than done. Steady push from the interior, the edge rushers setting strong edges, and all 11 defenders swarming to the football will be crucial if the Packers are going to limit Fields’ playmaking abilities.

Throughout training camp and the preseason, we’ve seen the Packers cornerbacks challenging the receivers more at the line of scrimmage. I’m curious to see if that translates over to the regular season against Moore and Mooney. Doing so will be a must if the Bears are going to lean on the quick passing game.

"“He’s extremely talented,” LaFleur said. “I think he’s gotten better and better in the passing game. He’s just a threat to score on every play because he’s so dynamic."

What can the Packers expect to see from the Bears defense week one?

Vinnie: A slight improvement over last season. The pass rush should be improved, and the linebackers are much better.

If Jordan Love has a good season debut, however, it won’t be that much of a surprise.

They aren’t going to go from the worst in the league to top-10 in one off-season. If they completely shut down the Packers’ offense, Green Bay fans have bigger things to worry about.

Takeaway: This becomes especially true if the Packers are without either Christian Watson or Romeo Doubs, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears’ defense crowding the line of scrimmage in an effort to take away the run game, and daring Love and his young group of pass-catchers to be the ones to beat this team.

We saw last season with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, particularly in the first half of the year, how challenging it can be to move the ball on the ground or through the quick passing game when defenses aren’t afraid of getting beat over the top and the field is condensed.

If the Bears win, what does that path to victory look like for them? How does the game likely play out?

Vinnie: If the Bears win this game, it will mean that Justin Fields had a much better day than Jordan Love.

Neither team has an elite defense, and both teams should be able to score some points. Whoever makes that extra play on offense should come out on top. It will likely be a very fun week one matchup to reignite the rivalry.

Jones & Dillon should play key roles v. Bears. dark. Next

Takeaway: On the flip side, if the Packers win, a big reason why will be that they found success in the run game. Doing so will keep the offense ahead of the sticks, along with Love and the young receivers out of predictable passing situations. It should also open up play-action and opportunities in the passing game for Green Bay to take advantage of, not to mention it will help them control the time of possession as well. I’m also going to guess that if the Packers win, while they may not completely contain the Chicago run game, to a degree, they were probably able to slow it.