There are two very clear ways this clash between the Bears and Packers could play out — with the first of these being a game we have already seen this year, way back in Week 1. In that matchup, the Packers won a somewhat ugly, 10-3 game that offered very little in the way of offensive fireworks; and while it’s tough to see another game coming in at quite such a low score, there are a number of elements that could tilt this game in a similar direction this week. The Bears — while not the same world-beating unit as last year — have a strong defense, ranking seventh in DVOA, 10th in yards allowed, and fourth in points allowed, while allowing the seventh lowest drive success rate and the seventh lowest third down conversion rate. The Packers, meanwhile, are an inconsistent offense — with only one pass game weapon of note and a hit-or-miss run game — while their middling-but-aggressive defense will have opportunities to make life difficult on Mitchell Trubisky at Lambeau Field. If we played out this game a hundred times, there would be at least 25 games that would go in this lower-scoring direction (again: not as low-scoring as Week 1 — but low-scoring enough that this game could be largely avoided), and this cannot be discounted when building rosters.
The other side of the game environment spectrum, however, is much more interesting. Aaron Jones is explosive enough and Davante Adams is good enough that the Packers could get going in this game. (The Packers scored only 10 points against the Bears in Week 1 and have games of 11 against the Chargers, eight against the 49ers, and 20 against Washington; but they have also scored 27+ in six games this year.) If the Packers get going in this spot, there is still a chance the Bears fail to respond (in which case, this Packers team will be perfectly willing to kill this game down the stretch — sitting on their lead and taking the win); but if the Bears are able to keep up their strong recent play, this could develop into a really nice game environment. The Packers rank a respectable 13th in points allowed, but they rank 20th in DVOA and 22nd in points allowed, while Trubisky has looked more like the raw game-manager-with-upside from last year than like the bench fodder from earlier this year.
Last week, we saw that this Matt LaFleur offense is willing to not feature Davante as the central piece of their offense if they are able to control this game on the ground (Davante saw six targets last week, after having seen double-digit looks in five straight) — though while the Bears rank 21st in DVOA against the run and have been generally attackable in this area, they are returning Akiem Hicks to the field this week. Hicks is not going to solve all their problems, but it was when he went down that the Bears’ run defense began to fall apart, and his return will certainly help in that regard. The matchup still isn’t great for Davante, but he does have a solid shot at returning to high volume this week.
Aaron Jones followed up touch counts of 9 // 13 // 14 // 17 with a 22-touch showing last week (including six receptions — more than he had posted in his previous four games combined), though it should be noted that his role didn’t change so much as the usage changed, with Jones seeing 35 snaps and Jamaal Williams seeing 25 (roughly their standard split). Explosiveness is the best bet for production here vs a Bears defense that is tough to churn out steady production against, making Jones a “low floor with big-play and Touchdown upside.” Jamaal is a back-burner option given his less explosive skill set, with pass game work and/or touchdowns providing his best shot at upside. Williams has only five carries inside the 10 and two carries inside the five this year (compared to 18 // 12 for Jones).
The Bears’ occasional ineptitude on offense should be a bigger obstacle this week than the matchup, as Chicago can put up points in this spot if their players show up to play. The Bears have been making a concerted effort over the last month and a half to lean on the ground, and given that the Packers rank 26th in DVOA against the run and have allowed three running backs to top 100 yards against them (while another three have gone for 80+ and two touchdowns), it’s safe to assume the Bears will try to remain balanced for as long as they can keep this game close. Unfortunately, the Bears’ offensive line has been ineffective all season, and David Montgomery seems to have hit a rookie wall — with a poor 3.43 yards per carry across his last five games. It’s difficult to see an elite score from Montgomery without the help of multiple touchdowns (i.e., he’s unlikely to blow up for a big yardage game), though the workload (15+ touches in seven straight, with 17+ in five of those) keeps him in the conversation.
The central focus of the Bears passing attack, of course, is Allen Robinson, who has seven or more targets in all but two games this year, and who has recently seen target counts of 9 // 6 // 10 // 12 // 8. Only six players have seen more targets in the red zone than Robinson, and only three players have seen more targets inside the 10. Robinson went 7-102-0 in this spot in Week 1, and while a monster (“have to have it”) game isn’t likely in this offense, a strong game is very much in the mix. Behind Robinson, it will be “mix and match” if Taylor Gabriel gets cleared in time for this game; though if Gabriel is out once again, Anthony Miller will stand out as a player to also consider, as he has 11 and 9 targets in his last two games played with Gabriel, and 13 // 4 targets in these two recent games without. Miller has gone for 50+ yards in six of his last nine games; and while he requires broken plays for big gains, his aDOT of 10.1 is perfectly respectable if the volume is there.
JM’s Interpretation ::
This game is an interesting addition to this slate, as it has a “stay away” Over/Under of only 40.5, on a slate with plenty to like in other spots. The chances of this game going higher-scoring are higher than that Over/Under indicates, however, which turns this into a game that should be kept in mind in tournaments for the alternate ways this spot could play out — with potential for explosive plays from Davante or Aaron Jones to shoot the Packers out to a lead, and with potential for “Good Mitch” to keep the Bears in this game from there. There is obvious risk in this spot, but there is enough potential reward available that I won’t be chopping this game off my list just yet.
On the Packers side, Davante is a “usage and talent over matchup” piece, with a long history of hitting in difficult spots. If I roll out 19 builds this week, I won’t be surprised to find a bit of Davante mixed in. I’ll likely have fringe interest in Aaron Rodgers and maybe even in Aaron Jones as well.
Montgomery is also a fringe option — and while the Bears passing attack is certainly not a central piece, I imagine this group will push its way onto a small number of my builds, with at least one Mitch, and with a small amount of A-Rob and Anthony Miller as well. If I end up unexpectedly focusing on this game as a more central piece of my builds, I may branch out to Tarik Cohen for untapped upside (while almost certainly leaving the rest of the Packers alone, as they are just “hoping for big plays or unpredictable spikes off low volume”) — though I imagine I’ll keep my exposure to this game fairly tight: taking some shots on the potential for this game to tilt differently than Vegas expects, while not opening myself to too much carnage if both defensive units show up instead.