First & Long: Packers Week Arrives, Fields and Eberflus Seeking Prove-It Week 18 Efforts, NFL Dominates Television’s Top Broadcasts

Old-timers like me used to call this Packers Week, which is right up there with VJ-Day, D-Day, and Pearl Harbor Day. Back in the mid-to-late-1900s it sure felt like a war whenever these two teams met on the gridiron, too. That hysteria died when Mike Ditka was dismissed as head coach following the 1992 season. Subsequent coaching staffs and regimes have placed less importance on beating the Packers until GM Ryan Poles arrived. I do miss those contests that featured Ditka and Forrest Gregg, however.

“We’re taking the NFC North and we’re not giving it back.”

That’s what Poles said at his introductory presser nearly two years ago, though he’s yet to back that up. Chicago is 0-3 against their north Wisconsin rivals since Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus took over, and though there have been some positive moments, the games weren’t very close. The NFL’s oldest franchise hopes to get on the winning side of that ledger on Sunday while knocking the Packers out of playoff contention in one fell swoop. Can they do it?

The Bears are 4-2 since Justin Fields returned from a midseason injury. Fields has all but sealed his fate with his performance in those games and should be starting for Chicago next season. Then third-year signal-caller has completed 60% of his passes for 1,213 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception (three if you count picks on Hail Marys). He’s also rushed for 393 yards and three touchdowns in those six tilts. If you scale those stats across a full season, that’s 3,436 passing yards with 17 TDs, 3 INTs, and 1,114 yards, and another nine scores carrying the ball. Tell me again why Fields doesn’t deserve an extension, please and thank you.

The current argument is that Fields is not capable of carrying the Bears to the Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, Joe Namath, Jim McMahon, Brad Johnson, and Nick Foles would like a word. Others say he targets D.J. Moore too much. Moore has a career-best 3.1% drop rate on 131 targets so he’s been open. Cole Kmet has 70 receptions, too, so that’s a dead narrative.

The Packers have a quarterback controversy of their own, but not at the Civil War-like level that rages across Chicago fandom. Jordan Love has settled in nicely, and though he’s no Aaron Rodgers, he’s no Lynn Dickey, either. That means Love and Fields will be the focal points of Sunday’s game, though Green Bay is much more of a running team than you might expect. If the Bears can stop Aaron Jones they should win the game.

The defense has been as much of the story for Chicago as Fields. The Bears didn’t get a takeaway against the Packers in Week 1 — and had only two through four games — but now have 27 takeaways, including a league-leading 22 interceptions, thanks to increased chemistry and the addition of Pro Bowl defensive end Montez Sweat. A Bears defense that gave up 31 points to the Packers — the other seven coming on a Green Bay pick-six — has allowed just 15.2 points per game over its last five games.

In the meantime, the only person on the hot seat from my vantage point is Bears’ offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. Eberflus appears safe as does Fields. Call me crazy, but I don’t see Poles selecting a first-round quarterback whether he keeps the top pick or trades it. The GM previously stated that he would have to be “blown away” to take a quarterback first overall, so that just seems a little off-brand for a guy who wants to build through the trenches.

Bears News & Notes

There’s a Flag…On the Play

The odds favor Eberflus staying with Fields as his quarterback. Jussayin’.

Scout Team

  • Love earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. The first-year starter torched the Vikings to the tune of 24 completions in 33 attempts for 256 yards and three scores.
  • The quarterback’s coming out party gives Green Bay fans reason for optimism going forward.
  • Love could earn a potential $2 million in incentives based on this weekend’s performance.
  • Rodgers, who will do or say anything to remain relevant, questions whether a Bears-Packers rivalry still exists.
  • A win against Chicago guarantees the Packers will make the playoffs. Green Bay will need the Vikings to lose to the Lions if Chicago wins Sunday’s game. That Minnesota-Detroit contest starts at noon, while the Bears-Packers game kicks off at 3:25 PM CT.
  • Running back AJ Dillon will not play on Sunday, and Christian Watson is questionable as he has been unable to practice.

Film Room

Laurence Holmes gets it. Caleb Williams has been called a “generational talent” by men with no real skin in the game. Last year it was Bryce Young, and the year before that it was Trevor Lawrence. “Generational” is an overused word and its meaning has been diluted by draft analysts who carry zero accountability for incorrect projections.

Northern Exposure

Around the NFL

Baker Mayfield and Geno Smith also have a lot of incentive money riding on Sunday’s games.

This is a crazy stat but 93 of the 100 top-rated television broadcasts in 2023 were NFL games.

NFL executives and coaches believe the league’s officiating system is “broken.”

As many as eight teams may be looking for new head coaches beginning Monday morning. Ron Rivera of the Commanders is a virtual lock to be dismissed. Here are my predictions:

  • Washington will fire Rivera, trade with the Bears for the top pick in the draft, and acquire Bill Belichick from the Patriots. I’m not a fan of ex-Bears returning as coaches, but I’d make an exception for Rivera as DC.
  • Ben Johnson will rebuff the Panthers, and accept the head coaching job with the Chargers, replacing interim coach Giff Smith.
  • Carolina will settle for Bills OC Joe Brady.
  • The Raiders make a bold move and hire Getsy to be their next head coach after turning Jim Harbaugh away. Rodgers will join him in Las Vegas.
  • The Cowboys will surprisingly court Harbaugh before ultimately deciding to stick with Mike McCarthy.
  • Harbaugh repaces Belichick in New England.

Are you ready for mock draft season? I could live without it. Nobody ever gets it right, so it’s nothing more than a fun but unessential waste of time.

Two-Minute Drill

The Bears are No. 1 in the NFL in run defense with 84.0 yards allowed per game and No. 4 with 3.72 yards allowed per carry. Since Week 11, Love is No. 2 in the NFL with a 109.9 passer rating but Chicago is No. 1 with an opponent passer rating of 61.5. The Bears also haven’t allowed more than 20 points in any of their last five games. Over those five games, Chicago is No. 1 in points allowed (15.2), opponent passer rating (60.3), interceptions (13), takeaways (14) and stopping teams on fourth down (20.0 percent), No. 6 in completion percentage allowed (59.0 percent), No. 7 in total defense (299.8 yards per game), rushing defense (93.8 yards per game) and third down (33.3 percent) and No. 8 in sacks (14). It’s going to be one helluva game if both teams play to their strengths.

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust

  1. Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur (9-0) has never lost to the Bears.
  2. The Eagles led the NFL in sacks with 70 last season, two shy of a league record. They’ve recorded just 11 sacks in their last seven games.
  3. Antoine Winfield Jr. is the only NFL player with 10 or more sacks, 5+ passes defended, and 5+ forced fumbles this season.

From the Podium

  • “We know it’s going to be a tremendous challenge. Chicago is as improved as any team when you look at them from Week 1 to where they are now. They’ve done a really, really good job the last few weeks, in particular, kind of gotten on a roll. We know it’s going to be a great challenge, we know we’re going to get their best shot, and I’m sure they’d love nothing more than to knock us out of the playoffs.” – LaFleur
  • “We’re grateful to have Moore. He’s come in here and set a really cool standard of work ethic and mentality and what kind of teammate you hope everybody in the room is. You’re setting a culture and he’s a culture driver. We’re really appreciative of not just the player he is; the player is going to help you win games, but the man that he is has been really cool to help make this place a better place.” – Getsy
  • “It’s been a fun journey. We’ve experienced a lot of different things. But the coolest part about it is the foundation that ‘Flus’ has set within our entire organization. We all lean on that. That’s our foundation. We all fall back to that. Every time there’s any type of challenge, I think everybody is falling back to that. We stick together. The coolest part is that any time there was any type of adversity, this team just kept getting closer and closer together. I think that’s been a huge key to why we’re able to continue to grow and go where we want to go and be sustainable.” – Getsy
  • “I feel really good about where this team is,” he said. “This team is on the rise. I feel really good about the second half of the season with where the whole football team is going right now and I love the camaraderie, and the relationships that we built, and you can certainly see the progress. So yeah, I feel good about it.” – Eberflus
  • “As we’ve said all along, we just continually will stay focused on finishing the season strong, take a big-picture, methodical look at everything. I’m looking forward to heading to Green Bay tomorrow. Hopefully, the team can keep playing well.” – Warren


Back to top button