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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: What's the key matchup for Packers vs. Bears?

Editor Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his live chat

RB AJ Dillon
RB AJ Dillon

Hey everybody, thanks for logging on. Welcome to the first mid-week chat of the 2023 season. Go ahead and start sending in your questions and I'll get rolling momentarily.

With such a young team, will they run out of gas?

I don't have that concern necessarily. The grind of training camp isn't what it used to be. I think all the young players on this team have a chance to grow up quickly and this should be a team finding itself as November and December roll around. Can it stay in the hunt until then? That's the intriguing question, because there are going to be ups and downs.

What's the key matchup you're looking for?

I think it's the Packers' running game -- Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon -- against that trio of Bears linebackers -- Edwards, Edmunds, Sanborn. Can Aaron and AJ break some tackles? Can the second-level blockers get them out of the way? The efficiency of GB's offense as a whole hinges on this, in my view.

Does "optimism without expectations" apply to this season more than others?

Bingo. I said several months ago I was taking the same mindset into this season as I did in 2019 when LaFleur got here. There's plenty of reason for optimism, but there's really no foundation to "expect" this or that to occur.

With Jordan Love struggling vs. the blitz in his first start two years ago, and with the Bears not as stout up front as they've been in the past, does that mean they're going to blitz a lot come Sunday?

It'll be interesting to see how the Bears approach it. I'm sure they'll try to come after him here and there. As for that KC game in 2021, LaFleur has taken the blame multiple times for not giving Love the answers to the blitz he needed to be effective against it that day. He won't get caught in that bad a spot again.

How are the tight ends coming along, with blocking as well as catching?

They're young with plenty of work to do. There were promising signs as far as the blocking in the preseason games, but it was a pretty small sample, and it wasn't always against front-line defenders. Now we'll find out.

Wes made me cry. Tell him to stop it.

That was a heck of a piece by Wes. Enjoyed reading it during the editing process yesterday. If you haven't checked it out, I'd encourage you to do so.

Are the young players given an introduction to the Packers-Bears rivalry before Sunday's game?

LaFleur hasn't really done that here, to my knowledge. He takes the approach that every game is its own entity, and they all mean a heck of a lot. The rivalry part of things is really for the fans now, not so much the teams and players.

I hope this fan base exercises some patience with such a young team.

I've mentioned as many times as reasonable this offseason that the Packers were 10-14 through 1 1/2 seasons under Rodgers before things got going. Everyone is certainly hoping for a better start than that with Love, and the potential is there, but regardless, patience will be required. Some games could be very roller-coaster like from one quarter to the next.

Who is a player you think is an x-factor for Sunday besides the Packers RBs?

Jayden Reed. Love what I've seen from him all through training camp and can't wait to see how he's used in the real games.

Since we don't "own" the Bears anymore, can we at least acquire a long-term lease on them?

Ha, just a win for now would be plenty.

Does the fact we aren't facing elite QB's early factor into the PUP and roster choice of going light on DBs?

Not at all. The Packers kept the DBs they felt were deserving of making the 53. They're only light at CB, not safety, and the practice squad will provide game-day elevation opportunities.

Do you see this game to be a high-scoring or a low scoring affair? I can't get a feel for the team this warly.

I honestly don't know what to expect. Teams bring all sorts of unscouted looks into openers, and whether games start fast with a lot of scoring or not usually depends on whether they can execute those new looks and surprise the opponent.

The last couple of seasons it seams the were adjusting to what the players do well and coordinating the defense to their strengths. I am hoping the learning period is over and the defense can be more consistent this year.

That's everyone's hope. The defense had way too many peaks and valleys last year, not only game to game but within games as well. Nothing is ever a fully smooth ride, but that side of the ball needs to be reliable for the Packers while the offense figures some things out. I have to believe some lessons were learned from last year and the way it went.

The chat for me isn't showing questions, only Spoff's answers. FYI. I'm on desktop.

That's why I'm trying to do things this way for now. No idea what's going on, just trying to deal with it. Appreciate your patience.

Hey Mike. Win or lose, what's something Jordan Love can show you on Sunday that would boost your confidence in him heading into the 2023 season?

If he bounces back from a turnover and goes and puts points on the board the very next drive, that would stand out. Also, if the game does come down to the wire and he executes in crunch time to do what's needed, that'll go a long way. He can't control what happens when he's not on the field, but there will be big moments in this game he'll have to respond to.

I remember being overly critical of Aaron during his first season. I felt like his interceptions were just a continuation of Brett's penchant for INTs. At this point, my hope if simply for excitement. Is that a good approach?

Jordan Love is going to be his own man at quarterback, and we don't really know yet what that means. He apprenticed for three years under a future HOFer who put taking care of the ball as the No. 1 priority, so you'd think at least some of that would rub off. He's also being coached by Tom Clements, who has the same view of turnovers. But he just has to get out there and play, see what chances he can and can't take.

What is one matchup you will be keeping an eye on during the pack bears game? Ill be watching Tom v opposing rushers

That one, along with whoever for the Packers is rushing against Bears rookie RT Darnell Wright.

First chat of the season gremlins?

Something like that, yeah.

Would you say that it would be a shock if we started 3-1 or 4-0, would people chalk it up as easy wins, or would you say that we are a serious contender for the North title? And if so would looking for veteran help on the D-Line and a veteran WR would be necessary?

You're already one-quarter of the way through the season, bro, and the first game hasn't kicked off.

Mason Crosby kicked for us for 16 years. In 7 of them he hit for less than 80% on FGs. Almost half of his tenure. This is why we need to give Anders Carlson some patience. With his leg I can see us trying FGs from 60+ yds. Those are hard to make.

I'm not sure about trying 60-yarders unless it's the very end of the half or game. That's a huge risk to take field-position wise, no matter how strong your kicker's leg is.

The one veteran I really wish the Packers would have re-signed was Marcedes Lewis - especially given the youth of the TE room. I know you're not privy to why management decisions are made, but do you have any speculations on why he wasn't brought back?

Gutekunst addressed this in a general sense, saying sometimes when you have young players, they just need to play. There are benefits to having veterans around to mentor and show the ropes, but if they don't play enough early, their development just takes longer. Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft need to be key pieces to this offense, pretty much right away if possible. They need all the snaps they can get.

Do you think the Brewers can wrap up the division before the final series with the Cubs?

I hope so, but the season sure seems to be pointing to the division coming down to those last three games, doesn't it?

It's kind of interesting that the Packers have been so stable at the Kicker position for so long, but Punter is changing nearly every year

When I was looking things up at roster cut-down time, I found that I think this is the fourth time in the last 20 years when the Packers have had a different punter in a fourth straight season. Punter turnover is nothing new around here. Tim Masthay had a heck of a run compared to everyone else around here the last two decades.

Is De'Vondre Campbell going to be ready to go against the Bears?

I'm headed out to practice right after signing off on this chat, so we'll see what's up. The first injury report of the season comes out later today.

Do you think that Keisean Nixon can recapture his magic for special teams again this season? I believe that he can be a real xfactor for this team.

He certainly can, but opposing teams are going to be much more wary of him now. They'll try to kick away from him or use other strategies to mitigate his impact. It'll be a cat-and-mouse kind of game all season I suspect.

Good to have this back! What is the biggest match up nightmare on offense and on defense when it comes to the Bears?

I don't know if I'd classify anything as a nightmare, but Fields' running ability and the addition of DJ Moore to the receiving corps are the biggest concerns when you look at Chicago's offense. Contain Fields in the pocket and make tackles on the short throws are two keys to the game. If the Bears take short throws, like bubble screens, and are able to bust big plays, it's going to be a long day.

A little off topic, but ... There was some noise earlier in the season about the NFL experimenting with putting special chips in the footballs that could track their location and help with things like line to gain and whether the ball had crossed the goal line. Anything ever come of that?

As far as I know, there are chips and trackers in the balls now, but to what extent the league is using them, I have no idea. It might be they're going to compile all the data and then study how best it can be used, I don't know.

1st possession for the packers, 1st play: run, pass, punt, or kick fg?

Why would anyone punt on the first play? This is 2023, not 1923.

I'm excited for our new TEs where I feel like that position has needed a spark in the pass catching threat category since Jermichael Finley was our guy. What position are you excited to watch this season for the Packers?

That counts as one for me. Another is defensive line, with T.J. Slaton and Devonte Wyatt taking on much larger roles, and two rookies behind them.

And early season tackling can be suspect.

Exactly. It's a big challenge as well as a big unknown.

What roles do you see Emanuel Wilson and Malik Heath having in this offense? Even if its not much of an impact I think they will be given opportunities to shine early on

I don't see those guys getting a ton of snaps unless injuries warrant. Potential injuries aside, Heath is probably in line for more work early on than Wilson.

Any key injuries on either the Packers or Bears that might bring an advantage or disadvantage to either side?

Still waiting to find that out.

Just wanted to give you all of the options. And make you chuckle (not chortle).

All good my friend. I don't know about the first play, but I know what the best second play is: the PAT. Ha.

Not a game question, but please tell Kenny Clark not to wear Vikings purple for interviews anymore. It's visually very disturbing.

Ha, I wondered if someone would comment on that. I'm sure he won't wear that sweatshirt in Weeks 8 or 17 this year.

Do you think GB will assign a spy LB to help keep Fields running in check or at least prevent any long gains?

That's a good question and I'm curious myself. The Packers have the speed on defense to make a spy effective, but that means taking one player out of the pass rush or out of the coverage plan, so it's a numbers game in the end. Personally, I don't care how many times they sack Fields, I'm more concerned with how many yards he might rush for. I'd make him prove he can beat me with his arm first.

Jordan Love's outward demeanor just fascinates me. He seems absolutely unflappable -- at least in every interview I've ever seen. Is he really that controlled or have you seen instances out of camera view where he seems more .. . I don't know ... "human"?

I suspect he cuts it up with his teammates quite a bit when the media aren't around. He's playing things pretty straight in public for now, and I don't blame him. Everything is so ultra-scrutinized these days, there's no upside to letting people in until you've established yourself as a proven player in this league, especially at that position.

How much can unseen tape be used to offset what they lack in experience?

You mean as far as unscouted looks? Those can get you an important play here or there, but you can't manufacture an advantage like that for four quarters. Nobody's got the time to practice that much. Young guys have to play and learn as they go.

All right, I guess with that I'll sign off. Gotta head out to practice. Thanks for the participation, and sorry for the technical issues. Have a good rest of the week everyone and enjoy the game on Sunday. Best, Mike

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