GREEN BAY, Wisconsin – The Green Bay Packers are 11.5 favorites for Sunday night’s home game against the Chicago Bears, the biggest gap on the slate of Week 14. That doesn’t mean a win, let alone a resounding victory, is guaranteed. Here are three reasons to be concerned.
A: Bears are not bad
Despite the points spread and the standings, Chicago is not that great. Last week, Arizona won at Chicago 33-22, but the Bears had big advantages in yards (72) and possession time (9:30), and the Bears limited the attack by passing them. Cardinals led by Kyler Murray just 120 yards.
“We know we’re going to have a great opponent from NFC North in the Chicago Bears, a team that’s going to be very motivated,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur, the first part of that statement being coaching hyperbole. “His Sunday night football, at Lambeau, and we know we’ll get their best shot, and we have to make sure we prepare the way we’re capable of and bring our ‘A’ game on Sunday night.
Chicago’s last four losses have come against Arizona, Baltimore (16-13), Pittsburgh (29-27) and San Francisco (33-22 but the Bears led before the fourth quarter). So, it’s not like the Bears hit punching bags. It will be their Super Bowl.
“I just think a lot of the time teams don’t respect us or give us credit,” Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields said. “I mean, you can’t blame them. We pretty much messed up in a lot of games. So, I mean, it’s fine. We’re going to attack every game like it’s our last game and we’re going to play it all. “
Two: Bearly Rushing the Passer
Chicago’s defense leads the NFL in sack percentage. Yes, outside linebacker Khalil Mack is in the injured reserve, but that statistic holds true even with Mack limited to seven games and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is set to miss a fourth straight game. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn is tied for fourth in the NFL with 12 sacks and added three forced fumbles. He will face Green Bay No.3 left tackle Yosh Nijman. Nijman played well, but it only takes one or two bad snaps for a player like Quinn to change the game.
On his way to claim the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November, Quinn had 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in just three games.
What’s odd is that Chicago’s pass rush is No.3 for sacks but No.32 for presses, according to SportRadar. An all-or-nothing pass rush isn’t ideal, but again, it only takes a game or two to knock a game down. A few key sacks could turn the tide against Rodgers, who has owned the Bears throughout his career – a fact the Bears have remembered over and over again this week.
“When you go up against guys who’ve been in this league for so long and had the success he’s had, they’ve seen pretty much it all,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said of Rodgers. . “They have met everything. They have answers in their arsenal for everything. He’s a threat, obviously, with his arm, he’s still a threat with his feet, and obviously with his mind. You have to play the mental game with him.
Three: fields full of potential
Overall, Fields’ rookie season has been miserable. This is not a blow to Fields and his potential. It’s been a tough job for most of the rookie quarterbacks this year. Mac Jones of New England threw 16 touchdowns on eight interceptions. All the other rookies have 29 touchdowns against 38 interceptions.
Out of 33 qualified quarterbacks, Fields is 32nd in passer rate (69.0), 30th in completion percentage (58.1), 33rd in touchdown percentage (2.0), 32nd in interception percentage (4, 0) and 24th in yards per attempt (6.87).
However, he has shown his tantalizing potential enough to make him a threat to Green Bay’s high-quality pass defense. Bottom Line: In his last three games, Fields has completed 53.3% of his passes from over 20 yards down. Only Justin Herbert of the Chargers was more specific. And Fields likes to go deep. His average pass covers 10.53 yards; no other quarterback averages even 9.50 yards per attempt.
“He’s a very elusive player,” said Packers linebacker Krys Barnes. “It’s a double threat that can use his legs very well. He is a strong player who can tackle and make scoring plays. Watching the film and having the chance to play it in this first game, you can say that it is very decisive in the direction it wants to take. With guys like Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, anyone else that’s mobile, I think we’ve got a good plan right now.
In an almost overwhelming Baltimore, Fields became the first quarterback in Bears history with at least 175 passing yards and 100 rushing yards. A week later, he threw for 291 yards against Pittsburgh and led the Bears to 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the dying moments.
“I like being the underdog,” he said this week. “It just gives me an extra chip on my shoulder. I like it when people doubt me. It just gives me a little more motivation, so I love it.