In a season that proved the importance of Aaron Rodgers, last year the Green Bay Packers went from a Super Bowl contender to a patsy following the talented quarterback’s injury. The Packers were atop the NFC North Division with a 4-1 mark and favored over division rival Minnesota, then Rodgers went down with an injury that would sideline him more than two months and their season fell apart.
Without Rodgers, the once division leading Packers slipped from first place to a losing mark, their first losing season in eight years and rare absence from the playoffs.
Tonight, Rodgers is back and healthy, and the Packers look to start their season on the right foot when they host the Chicago Bears in the NFL’s oldest rivalry. But, all the talk around Lambeau Field tonight is not focused only on Rodgers’ return, but on the Bears recent acquisition of linebacker Khalil Mack.
One of the most dominant defensive players in the game, Mack was a force in the Oakland Raiders defense until a contract dispute left the team unable to negotiate an agreement to keep him in the Bay Area. The Bears saw an opportunity to add to their rich history of linebacking excellence, which includes Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher, all member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The trading price was high, two first round draft choices and other considerations, but the rewards could be significant for the one time Monsters of the Midway. The Bears have shown steady improvement in their personnel in recent years, but Mack adds that impact player with game changing skills.
So, that is the matchup for this first Sunday Night Football primetime telecast of the season. The return to the Packers lineup of one of the most important players to his team and a sure future Hall of Fame enshrinee, and the insertion of a defensive force to the Bears lineup.
Who will win?
In his first game with the Bears, as with the first game when most super stars join a new team, there can be a dip in performance of the overall squad. The reason for this is that the responsibility to get the job done can lasp with most players on a team while they expect big plays from their new star and get caught watching.
With that as a template, we note that the point spread on this game has dropped since the Bears acquired Mack. Before the trade, Green Bay was an eight point favorite. After the trade, the line has dropped to seven points. With this in mind, what we can have tonight is a motivated Green Bay team at home and geared for a big effort from Rodgers while challenged by the new force in the Bears defense.
Mack will no doubt be a great addition to the Bears long term prospects, but tonight I think his presence is just as much a motivator for the home team and with the reduced point spread provides a slight lean to the Packers.