Sunday, September 13, 2015

Packers vs. Bears in 2015 NFL Season Opener: Preview and Prediction

This is it, Packers fans: the Pack's journey to Super Bowl 50 (substitute Roman numerals if you are a literalist) begins today in Chicago...against...Da Bearz.

What could be a better kickoff than notching the first win of the 2015 NFL season against the divisional rival from south of the border? (That would be the Wisconsin-Illinois border for those not up on their U.S. geography...which, if recent studies are accurate, is most of you. A-hem.)

So what can we expect today? Well, everyone always says that you can throw out the record books when divisional rivals play...and especially when it's the first game of the season. After all, starters really haven't played that much in the preseason, so perhaps timing is off a bit. It might take a while for new players to get their groove on, so to speak. Well, you get the idea. Who knows what will happen?

Well, apparently, the oddsmakers think they know what will happen. And it's not good for Da Bearz. The Packers have been installed as 7-point favorites (6.5-points in some places...but that half point is hard to come by, even with the new extra point rules). That ties with the biggest projected winning spread of this weekend's games. And the projection for total points scored -- 49 -- is among the top three for Week 1.

Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy, and 2-time NFL MVP QB, Aaron Rodgers (Photo from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

What can Chicago bring to the field today? Well, there's a new coaching staff, a few new folks on offense and defense. The best thing they have going for them today will be veteran RB Matt Forte, one of the best in the league. They'd be wise to get the ball in his hands as often as possible today; after all, the Packers defense had issues last year and we really have no idea where it sits going into the season. There's been some big personnel changes. Can Forte exploit those? Sometimes. So will WR Martellus Bennett. He could take advantage of a very young and relatively untested Packers' defensive backfield if QB Jay Cutler can get him the ball. Wait, what was that we just said? Oh, yeah. Cutler. Enough said. Let's move on. Defensively, Da Bearz will be nothing special, especially this early in the season.

What will the Packers bring today? Well, QB Aaron Rodgers, of course. Eddie Lacy and James Starks...Randall Cobb, James Jones, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers...a starting offensive line that's intact from last season and ready to roll once again. Defensively, NT B.J. Raji is back. That's huge...and no pun intended there. DT Mike Daniels will also come up big, as will some up-and-comers on the line such as Mike Pennel. The Pack brings two of the best linebackers in the league to bear (pun intended): Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, the latter of which should definitely not be underestimated despite his 14 years in the league. There's no arguing that the Packers defense needs to find solid replacements for D-backs Tramon Williams and Davon House who exited the team in free agency. We'll begin to see how well that is sorted out today. As for the Packers special teams...well, they were ranked 32nd in the league last year and until we see evidence to the contrary, we have to keep our fingers crossed in that respect.

The Prediction
Bottom line: the home field opening energy and divisional rivalry will likely keep Da Bearz close until probably half time or so. But over the course of the game, despite some first-game miscues, the Pack is just too much for Chicago to handle.

We're calling this in favor the Packers 34-24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Last Call for Contest Entries!
You have one last chance -- until noon CT kickoff today -- to get in your entry for our Packers house flag giveaway. See this post for details. Get your entry in NOW!!!

My Season Dedication
On a personal note, I am dedicating this season of PackersFansUnited posts to one of my best friends, Marty, who passed away unexpectedly this summer. We'd known each other since we were 5 years old and were lifelong friends...which I consider my very good fortune. Marty was a star athlete in football, wrestling and track-and-field in high school, and went on to have a successful career as a builder and remodeler. Marty was one of the biggest Packers fans on the planet. The area over his barn-sized garage was like a mini-Packers Hall of Fame. He could have charged admission to that place, honestly. He even hand-build a bar in the shape of the Packers' logo. He and his partner, Peggy, called this place the "G Spot," and so it was. Just so you have an idea how well-known and loved Marty was in his community, more than 2,000 people attended his wake; it was epic. Rightly so. He touched so many, many lives. He was a gentle giant, and any time spent with him was filled with so much laughter your stomach hurt from laughing so hard at the jokes and comments. I'm convinced that if the Packers go on to win today and to go to the Super Bowl, it will be because of some unseen block or tackle that seemed to come out of nowhere to give the Pack the win. He'll help the Packers take care of business. Here's to you, Marty. We miss you, but know you are enjoying the biggest and best tailgate party ever...the one that never ends.