The Mitch Is Back.Posted:Nov 27th, 2020 5:44 pm
2020 has turned into a year unlike any we have ever experienced, but there are a few welcome constants, including a Packers-Bears prime time game. The NFL's oldest rivals meet on Sunday night at Lambeau--the 15th straight season these bitter rivals have played under the lights.
Here's an opportunity for the Pack to put the NFC North to bed and re-establish a little Lambeau Field swagger, with four of the next five games at home. The last two home games have been, how should I say this, less than inspiring. As you know, the Bears have been gracious visitors over the years, losing 10 of their last 12 in Green Bay, though I was there for one of those wins, five years ago on Thanksgiving night--the night the Pack retired Brett Favre's #4.
Once again, Green Bay faces another team coming off its bye, though the Bears haven't won off their bye since 2013 (a rare victory over the Pack). The biggest change will be familiar face, Mitch Trubisky at quarterback. With Nick Foles still nursing a hip injury suffered against the Vikes, Trubisky has taken all of the practice snaps and appears ready to try to reclaim his job--at least as an audition for another team, since you would assume Chicago will bring in yet another guy under center next season.
So Green Bay will face a motivated Trubisky, who will have his hands full on an offense that looks putrid, even by Bears standards. They'll be helped by the return of David Montgomery at lead running back, but are still dealing with massive injuries on the offensive line. Mitch will likely use his legs a lot to try to frustrate the Pack's aggressive pass rush. The Pack needs to shut down Montgomery and Cordarelle Patterson on the ground and force Mitch to make his customary questionable decisions.
I can see him converting a handful of third downs by running for his life. He'll likely look early and often for WR Allen Robinson, who should draw Jaire Alexander's attention all night long, which means he can look all he wants. That will leave opportunities for rookie speedster Darnell Mooney and Packer castoff Jimmy Graham. But make no mistake, the Packers defense should dominate against this team.
One thing that would be nice would be to see the special teams group elevate to that of a competent unit. The Bears always seem to have good return guys and if Green Bay doesn't contain Patterson on kick returns and Anthony Miller on punt returns, they will be giving the Bears offense the only thing that gives it life: short fields. Make them go 70 yards and they're sure to break down at some point. But give them good field position and you keep them in the game. On the positive side, it appears Tyler Ervin will be back, so we can all breathe a little easier after watching Darrius Shepherd and Josh Jackson the last couple of weeks.
Like last week, the heavyweight matchup is the Pack's offense against the Bears D. The biggest question is the availability of D-lineman Akiem Hicks, who is the heartbeat of that defense. He left the Vikings game with a hamstring injury and has not practiced this week (Friday's practice has not yet happened as I write this). Dalvin Cook found no footing while Hicks was in there and ran loose once he exited. Aaron Jones needs to be a major factor in this game and if Hicks is out, he has a good chance to do just that.
Billy Turner will likely have to deal with Khalil Mack for most of the night, but should get help from the tight ends. Their entire linebacking corps is elite and all the others need to be dealt with: Roquan Smith, Danny Trevaithan and Robert Quinn. The Pack expect center Corey Linsley to play through his back injury. As good as Elgton Jenkins looked last week, they're at their best with their preferred starting five on the field, obviously.
On the back end, the Bears get their leader back: safety Eddie Jackson was activated Friday from the COVID list (he did not test positive). If CB Kyle Fuller is tracking Davante Adams all night, Allen Lazard will face impressive rookie Jaylon Johnson. That's a matchup Rodgers figures to test frequently. We'll have to watch MVS's availability; he pulled up in practice Thursday with an Achilles injury and missed practice on Friday (other than riding a bike).
Watching Aaron Rodgers duel against this defense is always worth the price of admission and he'll likely be the ultimate difference in this game. He's 18-5 against the Bears with 47 TDs and 10 picks and a passer rating of 104, against defenses that are usually among the league's best.
That said, I don't expect it to be easy. The Bears come in with their season hanging by a thread. They've lost four straight and are in desperation mode. I think they keep it close in a relatively low scoring game (caveat: if Hicks is out, the Pack could put 30 on the board), ultimately they'll take a commanding three game lead in the division.
Pack 23 Bears 16