Bears

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Packers

Bears

1. Keep Aaron Jones in check. Aaron Rodgers is going to get his yards through the air, most likely. Stopping him would, of course, be great — but this is a guy who’s only thrown one interception in 495 attempts this year. The better way to key defensive success is to stop running back Aaron Jones, who’s averaging 5.6 yards per attempt in 11 games this year. Drilling deeper: Jones is averaging 6.5 yards per carry in the five four wins in which he’s played; in seven losses, he’s still averaging 5.0 yards per carry. 

Perhaps, then, the best way to look at this is holding Jones to below 4.5 yards per carry, which the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals each did during Green Bay’s three-game losing streak. Also worth noting: The Bears have lost two of three games when an opposing running back averages over 4.5 yards per carry with at least 10 attempts (losses to Miami and New York, win over Detroit). And this defense just held Todd Gurley to 26 yards on 11 attempts, so it’s certainly up for the challenge. 

2. Efficient play from Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky was frustrated with his play against the Los Angeles Rams last weekend, which statistically was the worst game of his career. The Bears’ defense might be good enough to repeat its performance this weekend, but that’s a tall task with Rodgers on the opposite sideline. So the point here being: Trubisky will have to play significantly better than he did against the Rams for the Bears to be in a position to win. That means keeping his footwork sound and not overthrowing open receivers, and making smart decisions as he goes through his progressions. 

 

The good news: Those are two points Trubisky brought up during his media session this week, and in the four games before he injured his shoulder he had a 98.9 passer rating. More likely than not, Trubisky’s game against the Rams was an aberration, but he still has to prove it was on Sunday. 

3. Get the lead, and don’t give Rodgers a chance. The Bears have steadily improved when it comes to finishing games in the fourth quarter since blowing a 20-point lead in that Week 1 loss, to the point where the Rams were entirely ineffective in the final 15 minutes of last weekend’s 15-6 win. But Rodgers remains a bogeyman of sorts — the Bears’ defense is mentally strong, but still has something to prove if it gets a fourth quarter lead and has to keep Rodgers from leading a comeback. 

The same goes for Matt Nagy and the offense: While Rodgers led that comeback, the Bears’ offense sputtered behind conservative playcalling and poor play by Trubisky. If given the chance on Sunday, that can’t happen again.  

Prediction: Bears 24, Packers 20. The Bears are a better team than the Packers, plain and simple. But until this franchise proves it can reliably beat Rodgers, who’s won 16 of his 20 regular season meetings with the Bears, these rivalry games shouldn’t be met with overconfidence. We'll say Rodgers keeps it close, but the Bears this time make enough plays down the stretch to win, clinching the NFC North and effectively eliminating the Packers from playoff contention.