GREEN BAY – Make no mistake about it, the schedule-maker wasn’t trying to promote the Packers’ dominance of the NFC North when he decided the Packers would open their 2015 season at Chicago.
Nope, the league doesn’t think that way. As impossible as it might seem, not everybody is a Packers fan. The league is a fan of the league. It’s especially a fan of big, signature markets having playoff-contending teams driving fan enthusiasm and spending.
You might remember the expectation was Chicago would have that kind of team in 2014. The Bears were being picked to win the division. Remember that? I personally heard no less an authority than Brian Billick pick the Bears to win the NFC North.
Since then, the Bears have won five games and they’ve made changes in the franchise’s top two football positions, general manager and head coach. I guarantee you, the league wants the change to spark success in Chicago. Why? Because what’s good for Chicago is good for the league, and the league loves what’s good for the league.
So, with that logic in tow, I submit the schedule-maker was trying to favor the Bears when he penciled in the Packers for opening day. He’s hoping for an upset win over the Bears’ biggest rival. The schedule-maker knows nothing would energize the Bears’ fan base as would a win over the Packers.
Do I have your attention now?
I thought that might do it.
Here are 10 things the Packers must do to beat the Bears.
1. Stop the run – Matt Forte has only hit the 100-yard mark against the Packers three times in his career. The Bears won one of those games, and they’d tell you they should’ve won another one of those games (season finale in 2013). In other words, the Packers’ mastery of the Bears hasn’t just been about stopping Jay Cutler, it’s also been about stopping Forte. It’s never been more important than it will be this Sunday.
2. Rush Jay Cutler – That’s how the Packers have kept Cutler off his game.
3. Achieve balance – When you can run, you can do anything you want.
4. Win special teams – Mike McCarthy made improvement on special teams his priority of the offseason. The offseason is over.
5. Protect Aaron Rodgers – Bears Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio had all summer to devise strategies for sacking the Packers quarterback.
6. Focus on this game – Not on the Seahawks game.
7. Beware of unscouted looks – Bears Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase will give the Packers plenty of them.
8. Play as champions – That’s what the Packers are, the four-time defending NFC North champions. They are the target of the other three teams in this division. It’s how it should be.
9. Double Martellus Bennett – He’s the Bears’ red-zone threat.
10. Hydrate – The preseason is over. This is the 60 minutes season. The team that’s freshest in the fourth quarter will likely be the team that wins the game.
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