Three keys and prediction: Bears-Packers


1. Sack Aaron Rodgers. In 2016, Rodgers’ last full season, he led the NFL with a 93.8 passer rating and only threw one interception when under pressure, per Pro Football Focus. So while pressures are important, Sunday night will be a game in which the Bears need to hit home on the pressures they get. The Packers are 32-34 in Rodgers’ career when he’s sacked three or more times; they’re 16-20 when he’s sacked four or more times. Those may not seem like much, but the Packers are 94-48 in Rodgers' starts, so it is a decent starting point. 

Much more goes into a win or loss than sacking the quarterback, of course. The point, though, is: Rodgers is going to get his yards and first downs, but the best way to get him off the field is to not just affect him, but sack him — preferably on third down or in the red zone to force a punt or a field goal. 

2. Capitalize on early aggression. One of the more interesting sub-plots to Sunday night will be how Matt Nagy scripts unscouted looks early in the game, and how aggressive those scripted plays will be. That could mean something as simple as a deep shot to Allen Robinson on the first series, or something as complex as unleashing Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel in space at the same time. 

Whatever it looks like, though, expect it to be aggressive with the mindset of throwing the first punch, so to speak. And if Mitch Trubisky can execute those plays that’ve been honed behind the closed doors of Halas Hall — and not on the field during preseason games — the Bears could make a statement and give themselves an early chance to take control of the game. 

3. Finish, finish, finish. Six of Trubisky’s first eight starts last year were decided by eight or fewer points, with the Bears winning only one of those games (the overtime win in Baltimore). Beyond the second-year quarterback’s completion percentage or yards or touchdowns or interceptions is this lingering question: How will he perform if confronted with another close-and-late situation? 

The Bears believe they’ve surrounded Trubisky with the right coaches and skill players to give him the best opportunity to succeed; moreover, they believe they drafted a quarterback who’s capable of making those big plays that win teams games. There will be no better test of Trubisky than a nationally-televised Sunday night trip to Lambeau Field against the team that’s completely dominated this rivalry over the last decade. Expect this to be a close game, and if it’s Trubisky making the plays down the stretch and not Rodgers, that would be as encouraging a sign as any that the gap between the Bears and Packers has narrowed. 

Prediction: Packers 21, Bears 20. 
Explanation: As much as I wanted to pick the Bears for everything they’ve done leading up to and including last weekend’s Khalil Mack blockbuster, until this team proves it can make a statement against a team led by one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game that’s beat them 16 out of the last 19 times…the pick is the Packers. But it’s close. Really close. 

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