The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears kick off their 2023 seasons with an NFC North showdown at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The Jordan Love era begins for the Packers, while Justin Fields looks to start hot in what many expect to be a breakthrough season.
The betting odds favor the Bears, but this game is essentially a pick’em as Chicago is laying just -1 points on the spread, while the over/under is set at 43. Let’s dive into the key matchups, injuries, and depth charts to know for this game, and make a Packers vs. Bears pick and prediction.
Packers vs. Bears Prediction
If it’s possible for a week 1 game to be considered a must-win, then this game might be one for Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears. Entering a season with such high expectations for their emerging star QB and his new #1 WR DJ Moore, the Bears simply cannot afford to lose to the Packers at home in the first game of the post-Rodgers era.
What a gut punch that would be.
Maybe it’s just the rivalry that’s been brewing on Twitter all offseason between both fan bases. Maybe it’s the anticipation of Jordan Love’s first game as a full time starter. Maybe it’s just because it’s Packers/Bears. But Sunday feels like a playoff game.
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) September 5, 2023
The good news for Bears fans is that we expect them to beat their division rivals for the first time since 2018. Chicago GM Ryan Poles made some solid moves this offseason, highlighted by the acquisition of Moore. His presence as a legit alpha wide receiver could have a similar impact for Justin Fields’ development as Stefon Diggs had for Josh Allen and AJ Brown had for Jalen Hurts.
Chicago is setting up Fields for success this season as they also solidified the offensive line by acquiring guard Nate Davis in free agency and selecting Tennessee right tackle Darnell Wright with the 9th overall pick. The injury to starting guard Teven Jenkins was a big blow, but the O-line overall should be better this season, which will allow Justin Fields to continue developing as a passer. He should have more time to diagnose defenses and improve his decision-making and accuracy if he doesn’t have to run for his life on practically every dropback.
The Packers will put that revamped O-line to the test with one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, led by Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark and Preston Smith. Gary is reportedly on a “pitch count” as he continues his recovery from the ACL injury he suffered in week 10 last year. He is also entering a contract year and his agent and the Packers have yet to work out an extension that will likely make him one of the highest-paid edge defenders in the NFL.
The biggest wild card in this game is Jordan Love, as we simply don’t know what to expect from the Packers’ new franchise QB. What little we have seen in his first three seasons and in the preseason this year has been encouraging.
Jordan Love’s preseason:
• 21 of 33
• 193 passing yards
• 3 TD
• 0 INT
• 109.8 passer rating#GoPackGo
— GBP Daily – Rob Westerman lll (@GBPdaily) August 26, 2023
Even if Love builds on his strong preseason and looks the part of a franchise QB, we still like the Bears’ chances to begin the season with a signature win. We are buying the hype on a big step forward for Justin Fields and backing the Bears -1 in week 1.
Game pick: Bears 24, Packers 21, Bears cover -1 (-108), over 43 total points (-112)
Packers vs. Bears Betting Odds
This game opened with the Bears as -2.5 favorites but that line has dwindled down to Bears -1, so it appears there has been some heavy action on the Packers side of that line.
The total in this game has come down from an opening line of 44.5 and is currently at 43 across most sportsbooks.
Packers Injuries: WR Romeo Doubs (Q – hamstring), WR Dontayvion Wicks (Q – hamstring), CB Jaire Alexander (Q – groin), LB De’Vondre Campbell (Q – ankle), OT Luke Tenuta (IR – ankle), RB Lew Nichols (IR – shoulder), LS Broughton Hatcher (IR – undisclosed), CB Eric Stokes (PUP – foot)
Bears Injuries: WR Chase Claypool (Q – hamstring), RB D’Onta Foreman (Q – chest), S Jaquan Brisker (Q – undisclosed), OL Teven Jenkins (IR – leg)
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Packers vs. Bears below.
Bears’ offensive line vs. Packers’ defensive front
We broke down some of the key players in this matchup above, so let’s zero in on why this is such a critical matchup in this game.
First, as noted above, is that Justin Fields looks poised to make a big leap this season if he just has time in the pocket to go through his progressions, not to mention the threat he is with his legs. Simply put, if the Bears’ offensive line performs better against the Packers’ defensive line than they did all last season, then Fields should have a big game both passing and rushing in a winning effort.
Of course, that will be easier said than done against the Packers’ stacked front seven.
The other big factor here is the Bears’ rushing attack beyond Fields. They lost David Montgomery this offseason but added D’Onta Foreman and drafted Roschon Johnson. Along with Khalil Herbert, they have a trio of talented running backs and they already led the league in rushing and yards per attempt last season (though Fields’ huge chunk plays had a lot to do with that).
If the offensive line allows both Fields and the running backs to be just as effective on the ground, while improving through the air, then this Bears offense should be explosive enough to end their 4-year drought against their division rivals.
Bears WR DJ Moore vs. Packers CB Jaire Alexander
DJ Moore could prove to be one of the most impactful acquisitions that any team made this offseason. If he has a similar impact on Fields’ development as Stefon Diggs had for Josh Allen or AJ Brown had for Jalen Hurts, then that will most certainly be the case.
We will get a very early indicator from this matchup against Jaire Alexander, one of the top cornerbacks in the league and PFF’s 5th highest rated cornerback. Alexander allowed a 66.2 passer rating when targeted last season and had a career-high five interceptions.
If Fields is able to connect with Moore for a few big plays in this game, then that will go a long way towards a Bears victory. It could also signal big things to come for this QB/WR duo for the rest of the season, making it a critical matchup to watch not only in this game but for the season outlooks of these two teams.