Green Bay Packers

Packers RB Aaron Jones suspended by NFL, will miss Week 1 vs. Bears

Packers RB Aaron Jones suspended by NFL, will miss Week 1 vs. Bears

The Chicago Bears will face a depleted Green Bay Packers running game in the 2018 season opener. Second-year running back Aaron Jones was suspended two games on Tuesday for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.

Jones had a surprisingly productive rookie season in 2017, rushing for 448 yards and four touchdowns despite only starting four games. He finished the year averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Jones had 16 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Bears.

Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams will carry the load in Jones' absence, something Bears fans may wish wasn't the case. Montgomery shredded Chicago for 162 yards and two touchdowns back in 2016.

The Packers will use all three running backs in a committee this season, but it's Jones who flashed the most upside in his limited opportunities last year. The Bears may have caught an early break to start the season.

Matt Nagy can make a statement with Bears opening 2018 season in Green Bay

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Matt Nagy can make a statement with Bears opening 2018 season in Green Bay

The Matt Nagy era will begin with a primetime Sunday night game at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers, according to multiple reports. And while it’s true that the Bears’ last four coaches — John Fox, Marc Trestman, Lovie Smith and Dick Jauron — all won their first trips to Lambeau Field, none of them had to make their Bears coaching debuts in Wisconsin. 

Fox’s was on Thanksgiving, Trestman and Jauron’s were in early November and Smith’s was Week 2.  Fox’s first game as Bears coach came against the Packers at Soldier Field — a game which the Bears lost. The last time a Bears coach lost his first game at Lambeau Field was on Oct. 31, 1993, when Dave Wannstedt watched his team lose, 17-3, to the Packers. 

So beating the Packers in a coach’s maiden voyage to Green Bay with the Bears isn’t an indicator of future success. But for Nagy, opening the season with primetime win over the Bears’ longtime rival that’s been far more successful in the last few decades would be about as good a beginning as could be imagined. 

The rest of the Bears’ schedule:

Week 1: At Green Bay (Sunday Night Football)—7:20 p.m.
Week 2: Seattle (Monday Night Football)— 7:15 p.m.
Week 3: At Arizona— 3:25 p.m.
Week 4: Tampa Bay— Noon
Week 5: Bye
Week 6: At Miami— Noon
Week 7: New England— Noon
Week 8: New York Jets— Noon
Week 9: At Buffalo— Noon
Week 10: Detroit— Noon
Week 11: Minnesota— Noon
Week 12: At Detroit (Thanksgiving)— 11:30 a.m.
Week 13: At New York Giants— Noon
Week 14: Los Angeles Rams— Noon
Week 15: Green Bay— Noon
Week 16: At San Francisco— 3:05 p.m.
Week 17: At Minnesota— Noon

There’s not much use in evaluating where these games fall in the schedule, given last year the Bears’ “difficult” stretch of the schedule turned out better — with three wins in the first eight games — than the “easier” part of it — two wins in the final eight games. 

If the Bears are a good team, they’ll be able to navigate ostensibly difficult stretches, like the season’s final four games. 

Remember last year, when the Bears’ had a “difficult” first half of the season and won three games? Then, in the “easier” portion of the schedule, only won twice? What matters more than the order of opponents is the quality of the team playing them. If the Bears aren’t a bad team, it won’t matter when any of these games are played — they’ll be a bad team. 

Kyle Fuller believes he's a Top 5 cornerback in the NFL

USA Today

Kyle Fuller believes he's a Top 5 cornerback in the NFL

Kyle Fuller caused a bit of a panic late Friday afternoon when a report dropped that he signed an offer sheet with the Green Bay Packers. For a few hours, the prospect — even if it was always unlikely — of the Bears losing their best cornerback to their arch rivals to the north loomed over Chicago. 

For Fuller, though, he said he barely had time to think about the possibility of cashing in on his breakout 2017 season with the Packers. The Bears quickly matched the offer sheet, officially announcing the four-year deal Tuesday that makes Fuller one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL. 

“It was crazy not really knowing what to expect,” Fuller said. “I would have never expected it. But when (the Packers’ offer sheet) came, it was definitely something to consider, just on the business side of it. At the end of the day, how it all played out, I’m definitely happy.”

Fuller sounded like someone who took a more passive role to his quasi-restricted free agency that was set about when the Bears placed the transition tag on him, allowing them to match any offer sheet that he were to sign. Fuller said he didn’t know all the details of what was going on with offer sheets coming in and negotiations with the Bears.

“I kinda was just getting the information from (my agents) and going with the flow of everything and knowing that at the end of the day it would end up working out,” Fuller said. 

The $14 million average annual value of Fuller’s contract ranks fifth among cornerbacks, behind only Washington’s Josh Norman ($15 million), New York’s Trumaine Johnson ($14.5 million) Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes ($14.02 million) and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson ($14.01 million), according to Spotrac. 

Fuller said he considers himself a top-five cornerback in the league, and he played like someone who could wind up in that discussion in 2017. The 2014 first-round pick was one of four players to break up 20 or more passes last year, and he picked off two passes in December while providing excellent support against the run. 

“We could not be happier to have Kyle under contract for four more years,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “We feel he is an ascending player on our top 10 defense and we look forward to him having many more productive seasons here in Chicago.”