CHICAGO – It’s Packers-Bears in Week 1 for the fifth time in the last 13 years.
Here are five performances to watch at Soldier Field.
1. Safety swap: The Packers and Bears essentially traded starting safeties in the offseason, with Green Bay signing Adrian Amos as a free agent after four years in Chicago, and with the Bears signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix after 3½ years in Green Bay. Amos is considered a key piece, and a key communicator, for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as he continues to revamp Green Bay’s unit in his second season. Clinton-Dix is going to one of the top defenses in the league that led the Bears last year to their first playoff appearance in eight seasons.
2. On the edge: Chicago edge rusher Khalil Mack was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half of last year’s opener, almost singlehandedly staking the Bears to a big early lead in Aaron Rodgers’ absence with a pick-six and a sack, forced fumble and recovery (all in the blink of an eye). At that time, he had just arrived in Chicago via trade a week earlier. Now starting his second season with the Bears, Mack might move around and line up different places, but if anyone on the Packers’ offensive line is going to see him the most, it’s probably right tackle Bryan Bulaga. That matchup on the edge will be one to watch from start to finish.
3. Turnover talk: The Bears led the league in takeaways last year, and the Packers were third from the bottom. It’s no secret a big key for Green Bay in this game is to protect the football on offense and generate turnovers on defense. Mack’s pick-six in Week 1 was the first of six defensive touchdowns for Chicago in 2018, and even though the Packers came back to win, the play set the tone for the type of defense the Bears were going to be. Meanwhile, the Packers didn’t have a multi-takeaway game on defense until Week 4 last year, and had only four on the entire season. They need to set their own tone in 2019.
4. New arrivals: The Packers’ potential high-impact rookies are on the defensive side in first-round picks pass rusher Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage, while the Bears’ is on the offensive side in third-round running back David Montgomery, who was actually their first pick. Speed is the calling card for all three when they’re on the field.
5. Exorcising demons: The Packers have missed the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 2005-06, and a strong start will go a long way to returning to the postseason. The Bears’ first playoff appearance since 2010 ended in heartbreak on a double-doink missed field goal. Both teams have plenty from which they’re trying to move on, and that process starts in this game.