January 21, 2021

Three things to know about the Bears’ Week 12 opponent, the Green Bay Packers

The Bears and Packers will meet in prime time on “Sunday Night Football” from Lambeau Field on Sunday. Once again, the Packers are a first-place team and the Bears are struggling to stay afloat.

This will be the first meeting between the Bears (5-5) and Packers (7-3) this season. Here’s three things to know about the 2020 Packers:

Aaron Rodgers is playing at his best

More than the New Orleans Saints, more than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, more than a surprisingly effective Minnesota Vikings passing attack, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will be the toughest test the Bears secondary has faced so far.

Despite an overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the Packers piled up more than 300 passing yards against one of the NFL’s top defenses. Rodgers is in the midst of one of his best seasons.

The 36-year-old sports his highest completion percentage since his first MVP season in 2011, his total QB rating is nearing 2011 levels, and 40 touchdown passes is not out of the question (he has 29 with six games remaining). Rodgers has thrown for 40 touchdowns only twice in his career.

Receivers Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be tough to deal with. McHenry native Robert Tonyan has carved out a role for himself at tight end.

Eyes on Za’Darius

Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith continues to play at a high level for the Packers after setting a career high with 13.5 sacks in 2019. That was the fifth-highest single-season sack total in Packers team history.

In 2020, Smith has eight sacks in 10 games, which is tied for fifth in the NFL. Smith has had a sack in all but one of the Packers’ seven wins this season. In all three losses, he failed to record a sack.

If the Bears can find a way to slow Smith, they will give themselves a chance. Smith is the best pass rusher the Bears have seen since Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams made life hard on Bears quarterback Nick Foles. The Packers pass rush is similar in that nobody else should scare the Bears as much as Smith.

The Packers defense is beatable

While the Packers offense is rolling, the defense has vulnerabilities. It’s not much better than average against the run or the pass. It has totaled only nine takeaways in 10 games, which ranks tied for 29th in the league.

The average team should score on the Packers. The Bears, though, are much worse offensively than the average team. It has to start with the battle up front. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook ran all over the Packers on Nov. 1 following a great push from the offensive line up front. It’s a blueprint that the Colts followed last week, keeping the ball on the ground 37 plays, and throwing it 36.

A balanced approach might be what it takes against this Packers defense – and it keeps Rodgers off the field. Questions remain about whether the Bears’ offensive line is good enough to get the job done.

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.