The 2019 NFL season kicks off tonight at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears–and Vikings’ fans will be watching.
Besides the obvious joy of beginning an NFL season again, the game tonight should have Minnesota Viking fans paying attention.
The Vikings play the Packers in week two at Lambeau Field and the Bears in Chicago two weeks after that in week four.
So let’s find out who these teams are in 2019.
Different Plans Of Action
The Bears and Packers are following formulas quite dissimilar to one another.
Chicago has a head coach (Matt Nagy), from the Andy Reid coaching tree. Nagy’s playbook has a “gadget” feel to it, using smaller, skilled players to create mismatches. The perfect example of which is First Team All-Pro RB Tarik Cohen, whose 1169 yards from scrimmage lead the Bears.
The Bears unloaded their number one running back Jordan Howard, trading the big back’s tepid power for the shifty legs their third-round draft pick, RB David Montgomery from Iowa State.
QB Mitchell Trubisky remains a quarterback who likes to run, compiling 442 yards last year with his feet while throwing for only 3223.
The Bears are standing pat with their platoon of unremarkable but reliable wideouts, lead by Allen Robinson, with 55 catches for 754 yards in 2018.
However, added to the ‘Pantone 665’ was one Cordarelle Patterson.
Patterson will no doubt offer information on Mike Zimmer’s defense and undoubtedly burn the Vikings on a play or two during the year, but let’s just hope he doesn’t return a kickoff for a touchdown.
That’s hitting too close to home.
Defensively, the Bears are the Bears, the returning number one unit in the NFL with a bullet.
The not-so-obvious exemption to that unit will be defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, a 19-year veteran of the league, who has now left Chicago to take the head coaching job in Denver.
In his place will be good old Chuck Pagano, head coach of the Indy Colts between the years of 2012 and 2017.
Pagano’s defensive units in his last three seasons as head man there were ranked 25th, 22nd, and 30th. Go figure.
If there’s something that Vikings’ fans can hope for realistically here, is that Pagano’s tenure may take some teeth out of Fangio’s 2018 Bears.
Unfortunately, that still leaves us with a Bear defense with four Pro Bowlers and three First Team All-Pros on it, and a squad that is young and hungry for the 2019 season to begin tonight in the Second City.
Top billing among those stars goes, of course, to Khalil Mack , who took this team to new heights in the instant he came aboard.
Mack is listed as a linebacker, but plays more of a DE/LB role in a stand-up position, usually given reign to get to the ball however he sees fit.
That “scheme” will suit the Bears’ defense for as long as Mack, now 28, can dominate by pure physical ability.
How’s The Cheese Tasting?
The Green Bay Packers, on the other hand, are holding cards we cannot see just yet.
This 2019 preseason, a few NFL teams decided not to play their starters virtually at all, including the Steelers, Rams, and Green Bay.
Was this a stratagem on the Packers side?
Why not? Green Bay’s new head coach, 39-year-old new head coach Matt LaFleur, considered by the Packers’ brass–and no doubt QB Aaron Rodgers–as an inventive offensive mind, probably wants to use any element of surprise he can get against Chicago’s tough D.
But here’s the thing about LaFleur. After being considered a Sean McVay “disciple” after serving with McVay in Los Angeles for one year, LaFleur was off to Tennessee to become their offensive coordinator in 2018.
The Titans ranked 27th in total offense last season–after ranking 19th the previous year with basically the same players.
Anyway. Let’s just say that it’s pretty easy to deduce that LaFleur’s playbook will blend McVay’s vertical and varied passing attack with Aaron Rodgers’ unique passing skills.
With one of the NFL’s elite receivers (Davante Adams), at his flank, Rogers will be ready to illustrate a positive change in an offense ranked only 14th in the league last year.
Who’s Running Here?
With third-year man Aaron Jones handling the ball primarily for Green Bay, the Packers can’t expect much of a ground game against 2018’s number one defense against the run.
After a few futile attempts in the first half, chances are they’ll stop trying.
That means it’s going to be business as usual watching Aaron Rodgers vs. Chicago–wait, I mean Green Bay versus Chicago.
Defensively, the Packers drafted Rashan Gary out of Michigan with the number 12 pick of the 2019 draft, and signed three players for a combined $154M in new contracts; one of them the Bears starting safety of 2018, Adrian Amos.
They also decided not to resign Clay Matthews, who left to play for the Rams.
There goes all that beautiful hair.
Orange And Blue Plate Special
The one element of this game that may go unnoticed is revenge.
Anyone watching week one in the NFL one year ago saw the Bears dominate the Packers for almost a full three quarters in Lambeau Field on a Sunday night, enjoying a 20-0 lead and coasting along on a seemingly breezy season-opening victory.
Then a giant rock under the water tore into that pleasure craft, and Chicago went down under a deluge of Packer offense that will rank somewhere up top in the great rivalry’s history.
80,000 strong, Lambeau Field watched Rogers pull off the win, 24-23.
With the world watching tonight, the Chicago Bears might be placing that chip on their shoulders.
View From Up North
This game should establish, at least in part, the team that Minnesota may find as their chief adversary in trying to win back the NFC North title in 2019.
Of course, neither team will be an easy win no matter this game’s outcome, but the writing may be on the wall after it’s over.
The problem for Green Bay is that they have things to prove on both sides of the ball to beat a Bears team at home that was 12 -4 last season.
The Bears do not, most especially on defense.
I’ll take the Windy City in this one. Let’s just hope they don’t blow the house down and show some chink in their hide that Minnesota can take advantage of.
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