CHICAGO – The Packers and Bears just played 6½ weeks ago, but this matchup looks nothing like the first one.
Here’s a rundown of what to watch for.
1. New quarterbacks: Rookie Mitchell Trubisky gets the first of what could be many, many starts against Green Bay as Chicago’s quarterback of the future, while Brett Hundley becomes the first Packers QB other than Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers to start in this rivalry since 1991. The Bears have staked a lot on Trubisky, trading up to draft him No. 2 overall this past spring, and he’s won two of his four starts with a strong running game and defense behind him. The Packers are still working toward their first win with Hundley at the helm and are looking to avoid a four-game losing streak for a second straight season, which has never happened in the Mike McCarthy era.
The Packers know they’ll see plenty of Bears RB Jordan Howard, who is on pace for a second straight 1,300-yard rushing season. The 2016 fifth-round pick out of Indiana has given Chicago a big, powerful running back to rely on as Trubisky is brought along slowly. The Packers have allowed a respectable 3.9 yards per rush this season, but they’ve had some rough fourth quarters against the run. The Bears are 2. Ground and pound:counting on wearing Green Bay down with Howard and turning shorter runs into longer ones as the game goes on.
3. Protect the ball: In his two starts against the Saints and Lions, Hundley has thrown just one interception, and the Packers haven’t lost a fumble. That type of ball security will be paramount against the Bears, who won a game a few weeks ago with two touchdowns on interception and fumble returns. Chicago’s defense has generated eight takeaways in its last three games.
4. Tight end production: With Martellus Bennett gone, the Packers will turn to veterans Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers to get the job done at tight end. Kendricks has posted some explosive gains here and there so far, and his opportunities are almost certain to increase. Rodgers’ playing time has been sparse to date, but he knows the offense and has worked plenty with Hundley.
5. All-time series: With their win back in Week 4, the Packers took the lead in the all-time series against the Bears for the first time in 84 years, at 95-94-6 overall. The Bears have an opportunity to make that lead awfully short-lived, while the Packers can assure themselves of keeping it for at least roughly a calendar year if they can go up two games heading into 2018.