When the 2018 NFL season kicks off for the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers on Sunday, each side will have its first opportunity of laying claim to the NFC North, and each side will be banking on very different things to do so.
With Aaron Rodgers back healthy at the quarterback position, the Packers are a popular NFC playoff pick despite a 7-9 finish and porous secondary a year ago. And while their defense is now stocked with some fresh talent, including rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, all eyes will be on A-Rod and his return under center. Even if Green Bay's "D" takes a big leap forward in 2018, everyone knows that QBs often hold the cards when it comes to serious contention, and Rodgers will have a chance to prove the Packers are serious with a capital "S" by opening 2018 with a bang at Lambeau.
The Bears, meanwhile, are relying on a little bit of a different formula. Quarterback is key, yes, and probably the most exciting part of Chicago's new team under first-year coach Matt Nagy is the retooled offense -- a combination of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel that should accelerate Mitchell Trubisky's growth in the pocket. But if this week's headlines were any indication, the Bears' real strength lies on defense, where they already had a wealth of up-and-coming talent but are now featuring a potential Hall of Fame-caliber talent in Khalil Mack. The division is as tough as they come, as is Rodgers, but with Mack in the fold, who's to say Chicago can't at least look like a challenger on Sunday night?
Here's how to catch this week's anticipated prime-time NFC North showdown:
How to watch, stream
- Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 9, 8:20 p.m. ET
- TV: NBC (Check local listings)
- Streaming: fuboTV (try for free)
Who will win?
The Bears may have gained a whole lot of support with their acquisition of Mack (or swindling of Jon Gruden, depending on how you look at it), and Trubisky should take a step forward with more weapons at his disposal a la the 2017 Eagles and Rams. But none of this Chicago promise is fooling the CBS NFL experts polled for Week 1 predictions. Every single analyst likes the Packers to take this one, and that Rodgers is 15-4 with 42 touchdowns and just nine picks vs. Chicago in his career.