Instant classic may be just the start of a Packers-Bears rivalry reawakening

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Dating back to 2011 Youth Aaron Rodgers Jersey , the Green Bay Packers have won 15 of their last 17 games against the Chicago Bears. In a decade in which the Minnesota Vikings have played the Packers competitively, even winning four of the last five meetings, it’s easy to forget sometimes that the Bears are considered Green Bay’s biggest rival. But after an improbable 24-23 Packers win last Sunday, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the NFL’s most-played rivalry is close to being competitive and reawakened.For starters, the hype around the Bears from their fan base is as strong as it’s been in quite a long time. Throughout Lambeau Field, there were more “Let’s go Bears” chants heard through television Sunday night than this author can remember. Combined with a chorus of “Go Pack Gos” that would not be outdone during an intense comeback, Bears-Packers football was must-see TV. Changes undergone by both franchises may help ensure that trait continues for years to come.The Packers, no longer content with just making the playoffs, made widespread coaching changes in the offseason and hired a new General Manager in Brian Gutekunst. They signed Aaron Rodgers to a “lifetime deal” while revamping a porous defense. To the south, Chicago has pretty much gone all-in over the past two offseasons, sacrificing draft collateral to grab key pieces in Mitch Trubisky and Khalil Mack. With these moves comes excitement and increased expectations. The Bears also tabbed Matt Nagy as the leader of their new movement.A season of growth a year ago in Chicago received an unexpected lift in the form of Mack earlier this month, who is set to create havoc for Aaron Rodgers and irritation for Packers fans through at least the 2024 season. The league’s highest-paid players squaring off against each other directly for the considerable future is sure to heighten the bad blood and affect outcomes, as Mack almost single-handedly did last week. But a once-feared Bears defense that dropped significantly back in the pack after the departures of players like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman has more reasons for optimism than just Mack. Second-year safety Eddie Jackson stepped into the starting lineup a year ago after falling in the draft and is a blooming star in the secondary. With the athletic but inconsistent Leonard Floyd on the opposite edge from Mack and Akiem Hicks destroying interior offensive lines (ask Justin McCray), the defensive front is one of the strongest in the league. Oh yeah, and first round pick Roquan Smith recorded a sack on his first professional snap after a long rookie holdout. Adding to the defense and rivalry is Kyle Fuller, a cornerback the Packers clearly valued after briefly signing him to an offer sheet this summer. Though he had a rocky game against Green Bay in week one, he has become a Pro Bowl-caliber defender and is paid like one after Packer management forced the Bears’ hand in giving Fuller a long-term deal. Whether purposefully or not, Brian Gutekunst wasted little time in competing with a divisional rival for talent.Offensively, the Bears are a work in progress but have shown flashes of development. Trubisky had an eye-popping first half with the help of Nagy, a creative playcaller. Though the second-year quarterback dropped off in the second half, his first series of the game was the kind of statement drive that made Packers fans collective let out a “whoa.” Even as a glorified game manager, Trubisky has the talent around him to succeed that other former Bears quarterbacks like Jay Cutler, Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton have not.With a true thunder-lightning tandem in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, Chicago also has a 1-2 punch on the ground that it hasn’t really had since the 2006 days of Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones that gave Green Bay fits. With a Brandon Marshall-like weapon at receiver in Allen Robinson, the Bears are close to becoming a balanced, efficient offense not seen since the 2010 season that ended at the hands of the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.While the Bears still will not be favored to make the playoffs in 2018 Womens Jimmy Graham Jersey , the possibility is becoming more realistic for the very near future. Like the Milwaukee Brewers knocked on the Chicago Cubs’ door last season before walking in this year, the Bears are beginning to even out the talent level in a similar timeline and fashion. As a Packers fan, one finds this trend rather frightening yet entertaining. A rise from the Bears makes the road to the Super Bowl tougher and filled with more drama and misery than needed. But the emotional ties to this border battle game that were once felt in a childhood with troublesome Bears players like Urlacher, the A-Train, and Marty Booker have subsided. As a more experienced Packers fan mentioned privately:Packers-Bears should never be just another game on the schedule. And with another exhilarating chapter in the series last week and a talented crop of newcomers on both sides, the twice-a-year meeting is on its way to becoming a true rivalry once more.Packers Week 3 Preview: Washington by the numbers The Packers face the team that will not be named and which sells this in their pro shop.Washington also employs despicable, unrepentant child abuser Adrian Peterson. There are a lot of reasons to actively dislike Washington, and fortunately, the Packers will likely take out their frustrations by beating them soundly. OffenseAfter jerking Kirk Cousins around with the franchise tag for a few years the Washington football team let him get away to Minnesota, and replaced him with Captain Checkdown Alex Smith. Andy Reid actually coaxed a few good deep passing seasons out of Smith, but Jay Gruden is unlikely to have similar success. While the Chiefs relied on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, both outstanding downfield weapons, the Washingtons lack talent at the receiver position. They signed vertical threat Paul Richardson from Seattle in the offseason, and with 12 targets, 8 catches, and 85 yards over 2 games, he is their leading wide receiver. Former first round pick Josh Doctson has been a bust, and Jamison Crowder is a strictly average, but reliable slot player.The passing game runs through running back Chris Thompson, and tight end Jordan Reed. Thompson is secretly one of the NFL’s best weapons, and best running backs. He can hurt you on the ground if called upon to do so, with a career 5.3 yards per carry average, but his real value is as a receiver where he averaged over 13 yards per catch last season. That’s an outlier that is likely to come back to earth, and has early on this season, but Thompson has caught over 90% of his targets for over 8 yards per reception while leading the team in targets. Reed is a good tight end when healthy, but if anyone thinks he can replicate what Travis Kelce did for Alex Smith, they need to think again. Reed hasn’t averaged over 11 yards per catch in a season since he was a rookie, and is generally much closer to 10. Kelce Youth Antonio Morrison Jersey , on the other hand, has never averaged under 12 yards per reception. What this all adds up to is a conservative offense based primarily on Alex Smith checking down to safe throws and not beating himself. Smith did a nice job finally breaking that mold over the last two campaigns, and it’s a bit of a disappointment to see him land with such a stereotypical Alex Smith team. He won’t be helped on the ground. With running back Robert Kelley lost until at least week 11 and rookie Derrius Guice out for the year, Washington picked up Adrian Peterson, who, as I so often end up writing, is nearly as bad a football player as he is a person. Peterson has dominated the backfield with a hugely ineffective 37 carries for about 3 yards per carry. He boasts gaudy receiving numbers in the early going, but don’t be fooled by the small sample size success. Peterson averages 20 yards per reception, on 5 receptions, but the bulk of that came on a dump-off that turned into a 52 yard gain. The only problem with that gain is that Peterson fumbled at the end of it, and the defense recovered. He has two other decent catch-and runs, but both were more a result of poor tackling, and in the case of the Cardinals, seemingly uninterested defenses. Peterson remains a sure path to a poor offense as a two down back who struggles in pass pro, telegraphs plays, and puts the ball on the floor. Hope for a lot of him on Sunday.DefenseWashington’s defense has been, in terms of production, a carbon copy of last year’s version; unable to stop the run, but very good against the pass. By DVOA Washington is 4th against the pass, and 28th against the run, which is a fairly common split in the modern NFL as teams realize that there is some strategic advantage to luring your opponent into running. Last season Washington had an underrated defense ranking 6th against the pass and 29th against the run, but there is some reason for skeptical of their early success. For one thing, they beat a truly horrific Arizona team that can’t seem to get out of its own way, and ranks 31st out of 32 teams as a passing offense. They played a nice defensive game against Indianapolis, but the Colts are hardly offensive juggernauts as this point. The other reason to be skeptical is that Washington shed a ton of secondary talent in the offseason. While Josh Norman is still an excellent corner, the rest of the secondary is average at best. DJ Swearinger is the only reason I’m willing to concede “average,” as he had a career year in 2017, but I suspect there was some “Clinton-Dix” to that career year as the safety job was easy last season. Slot corner Kendall Fuller was one of the NFL’s best Youth Jimmy Graham Jersey , but he moved to Kansas city in the Alex Smith trade. Bashaud Breeland paired with Norman to form one of the best outside duos in football, but Breeland wasn’t re-signed, and then suffered an unusual foot injury in the Dominican Republic which became infected, causing him to fail a physical with Panthers. Quinton Dunbar is his uninspiring replacement, and having shed so much talent, it’s unlikely that this secondary retains its lofty ranking once they face competent offenses.The Washingtons are productive upfront, where they are very talented when healthy. In fact, last season, of their 42 recorded sacks, only 4 were charted as “coverage sacks” by Football Outsiders. That means that 95% of their sacks were purely generated by pass pressure alone, which was the highest percentage in the NFL. The line gets the 2017 draft’s 17th overall pick, Jonathan Allen, back this season, to pair with 13th overall pick Da’Ron Payne. That young talent should blend well with stalwarts like Ryan Kerrigan, and former Bear Pernell McPhee to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. The secondary isn’t likely as good as its numbers, but the front seven is likely better.The recipe for the Packers on offense should be very similar to the Bears’ game. The key to scoring on Washington is to get the ball out quickly, before the pass rush can impact an immobile Aaron Rodgers. Like the Bears, Washington employs exactly one good defensive back in Norman, and getting production from Geronimo Allison and Jimmy Graham is a must. While the Packers correctly value Jamaal Williams as one of the premier pass-blocking backs in the league, this is also a game that calls for more Aaron Jones, fresh off suspension. Washington is vulnerable to an explosive back. Early season numbers, advanced or otherwise, aren’t terribly reliable as the sample size is miniscule. Washington, superficially, looks a lot like they did in 2017, but the combination of a more conservative quarterback with inferior weapons paired with a far less talented secondary makes Washington one of the weaker teams in the NFL. They are Arizona/Buffalo bad, but this is a game the Packers should win.
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