The Bears were eliminated from postseason contention last week, but have a chance to return the favor to the Packers in Green Bay this afternoon. No game this season means more to either franchise. The Packers will earn the sixth or seventh NFC seed if they beat the Bears today. Meanwhile, Matt Eberflus and his coaching staff are playing for their jobs, while Justin Fields gets his final shot of the season to prove he’s Chicago’s alpha dog at quarterback. Darnell Mooney, Jaylon Johnson, and Eddie Jackson are among several starters who may not return in 2024.
This is the second straight season that the Packers are fighting for a playoff berth in the season’s final game. They lost a heartbreaking game to the Lions in Week 18 last year, the last game that Aaron Rodgers played for Green Bay. Jordan Love is their signal-caller now, and he beat the Bears 38-20 back in Week 1. Both teams are vastly different from those that met in Chicago in September.
That hasn’t stopped Rodgers from popping off about the NFL’s longest-running rivalry.
“Is it a rivalry anymore?” Rodgers asked Tuesday during his weekly appearance on ESPN’s “The Pat McAfee Show.”
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 2, 2024
Raise your hand if you’ve had enough of Rodgers and McAfee. Bears and Packers fans have, no doubt.
Yes, Green Bay’s circumstances are the same as last year, even down to a hot opponent looking to spoil their playoff aspirations. This game will also send a message that the Bears will be a team to contend with in 2024. The Lions used their strong finish last season and victory in the finale at Lambeau to springboard themselves to the NFC North title this season. Eberflus hopes to do the same thing. I expect today’s game to be much more competitive than the ugly and excruciating 2023 season opener.
The Bears are penned as 2.5-point road dogs today, with the over/under at 43.5. Chicago is +136 on the money line (bet $100 straight up to win $136). Both teams are -100 on the point spread.
It will be 33 degrees at game time under partly cloudy skies. The turf at Lambeau Field is in good shape, and the weather shouldn’t help or hurt either team. Winds will be WNW at 10 to 12 mph.
- Chicago is 8-6-2 against the spread this season.
- The Bears are 4-1 straight up and ATS in their previous five games. However, they’ve lost nine of their last 10 games against the Packers.
- The Bears totaled 432 yards against the Falcons last week after gaining 420 against the Cardinals in their previous game. Their only other 400-yard games came in Weeks 4 and 5 when Chicago put up 471 in a loss to the Broncos and 451 in a win against the Commanders in Washington.
- Chicago is 1-9 against top-10 defenses since 2022, but the Packers are ranked 13th this season.
- The Bears have the league’s top rushing defense but are ranked 12th overall.
- Montez Sweat is tied for 10th in the NFL with a career-high 12 1/2 sacks — six since a trade from Washington. He leads both teams, making him the first player in NFL history to do that at any point in a season.
- As electrifying as Fields can be with his arm and legs, he still ranks 22nd in the NFL in passer rating and 29th in completion rate.
- Khalil Herbert set season highs in the past two games, running for 124 yards last week after rushing for 112 in the win over Arizona.
- D.J. Moore has 92 receptions for a career-high 1,300 yards. He had a personal-best 93 catches for the Panthers in 2021.
- Cole Kmet is tied with Martellus Bennett for third all-time among Bears tight ends with 208 receptions. Hall of Famer Mike Ditka (316) and Desmond Clark (242) hold the top two spots.
- The Bears lead the NFL with 22 interceptions, including four apiece by Johnson, rookie Tyrique Stevenson, and Pro-Bowler Tremaine Edmunds.
- Edmunds has 103 tackles and has at least 100 in every season since he was drafted by the Bills in 2018.
- Yannick Ngakoue has played for six NFL teams since the last time the Bears beat the Packers.
- The Bears are 5-2 in their last 7 games after an 2-7 start.
- Matt LaFleur has beaten the Bears every time he’s faced them. He enters today’s game 9-0 against Chicago.
- Green Bay is 106-95-6 all-time against Chicago.
- The Packers are 52-42-2 all-time against the Bears in home games.
- Packers WRs Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed have eight TD catches each, putting them in a tie for eighth in the league in that category.
- Love’s 30 TD passes rank him third in the league, behind Dak Prescott (32) and Brock Purdy (31). The Packers QB is the only first-round draft pick among those three. He was chosen 26th overall in 2020. Prescott was a fourth-round pick in 2016 and Purdy was Mr. Irrelevant in 2022.
- Love threw three touchdown passes in his first meeting with the Bears and has been particularly effective lately with 16 touchdown passes and only one interception over his past seven games. He is 157 yards shy of passing the 4,000-yard mark on the season.
- Green Bay has just eight interceptions on the season, and safety Rudy Ford leads the team with two.
- Packers offensive line coach Luke Butkus is the nephew of the late Dick Butkus.
Why the Bears Will Win
Tyrique Stevenson's improvement has been great to see #Bears
Per game stats First 9 games:
53 PFF coverage grade
Last 6 games:
69.8 PFF coverage grade pic.twitter.com/NfabWcGna2
— Chicago Football Connection (@CFCBears) January 1, 2024
Chicago has become a takeaway machine since trading for and extending Montez Sweat in November. The Bears have also totaled 17 sacks with 18 takeaways in their last six games. The defense picked off Atlanta quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Desmond Ridder four times last week.
On offense, the Bears have major issues up front with their blocking and have no quality weapons besides Fields and Moore. The third-year quarterback has shown flashes of brilliance at times but remains wildly inconsistent as a passer. Fields is fighting to prove that he is still the answer in Chicago, and is coming off one of the best games of his professional career. If he has another big game the Bears will win, but look for Getsy to rely more on the ground game. Fields has a 72.2 quarterback rate in five games against the Packers with four touchdowns and seven INTs. Herbert has rushed for 165 yards in four games against Green Bay, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
The game may very well come down to the kicking game, where Cairo Santos holds an edge over Anders Carlson. Santos has hit 32 of 35 field goal attempts this season. Carlson is 26 of 31 but has missed five extra points.
Why the Packers Will Win
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) January 1, 2024
Love is one of the league’s hottest quarterbacks right now and if he avoids turning the ball over, he’ll lead Green Bay to the playoffs in his first season as a starter. LaFleur should be sharp today, too. He’ll want to avoid missing the playoffs with a Week 18 loss for the second consecutive season.
While it appears that Reed will miss this week’s game, Love should get Christian Watson back and the speedy receiver should open up the middle of the field for the likes of Doubs, Bo Melton, and TE Tucker Kraft. The Bears are just 21st against the pass and, while they have been opportunistic in creating turnovers, the Packers are a top-five team in giveaways this season.
Green Bay will also rely heavily on its ground game. Aaron Jones has rushed for 120+ yards in his last two games and scored two touchdowns against the Bears in Green Bay’s Week 1 win over Chicago. He has seven rushing TDs in 12 career games against the Bears and another four on pass receptions.
- Packers CB/KR Keisean Nixon is averaging an NFL-leading 26.2 yards per kickoff return.
- Chicago has won four of their last five games and five of seven and has allowed just 71 points (14.2 PPG) in those wins. The Packers have also won five of seven, scoring 145 points (29 PPG) in those victories.
- Santos is tied with Paul Edinger for fourth on the franchise list with 110 field goals, behind Robbie Gould (276), Kevin Butler (243) and Bob Thomas (128).
- While the Packers are 26th overall against the run this year, they are ninth in their last three games and allow nearly a yard less per carry at home.
- Green Bay is 23rd in the NFL at creating turnovers.
Did You Know?
The Packers lost to the Bears in 2017 with Brett Hundley starting at quarterback for Green Bay. It’s the only game in the rivalry since 1991 in which the Packers started a quarterback other than Love, Rodgers, or Brett Favre. Including the playoffs, Rodgers was 25-5 against the Bears. Favre was 22-10. Love beat the Bears earlier this year in his only start against them.
Game Day Quote
“It looks like [Love] is very comfortable. The [Green Bay] coaches have done a good job coaching the rhythm and timing of what they are asking him to do. They are on the same page with the receivers. You can feel that chemistry there. That’s what I notice most. They are playing some good football, and we are too. We’ll see where it goes..” – Eberflus
- Bears: Mooney will not play today (concussion) and Johnson (shoulder) is doubtful. Herbert (back), Kmet (knee), LS Patrick Scales (foot), OL Lucas Patrick (calf), and CB Kyler Gordon (calf) are all questionable. RB D’Onta Foreman (personal reasons) has been upgraded to probable.
- Packers: Ford (hamstring) and RB AJ Dillon (stinger) are out, while Reed (chest) and LB Isaiah McDuffie (concussion) are doubtful. Watson (hamstring), LB Preston Smith (ankle), G Elgton Jenkins (ankle), CB Eric Stokes (hamstring), T Luke Tenuta (ankle), and TE Luke Musgrave (kidney) are all questionable. CB Jaire Alexander returns after a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.
Players of the Game
A DASHING THROW THROUGH THE SNOW ❄️
— NFL (@NFL) December 31, 2023
I expect the Bears to pick Love off three times, including two more picks by Stevenson. Fields and Moore will have big games and if Fields surpasses 225 passing yards or 100 rushing yards and/or Moore catches at least two touchdown passes Chicago will win. If the third-year QB turns the ball over, Green Bay will win. Expect another big game by Herbert, Edmunds, Sweat, and T.J. Edwards. They must stop Love for the Bears to pull off the upset. Equanimeous St. Brown will be Chicago’s X-factor if he plays.
Our own Sean Holland analyzed today’s game and predicted a 28-24 upset win by the Bears. I think the Bears have a legitimate chance to win but I’m taking the Packers 27-23 in a game decided by a touchdown on Green Bay’s last possession.