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Week 1 Preview: Packers at Bears

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Green Bay Packers (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Soldier Field, Chicago – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

*Keys to the game: Chicago was woeful against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers last season – 40 of 55, 10 touchdowns, zero interceptions – because the pressure didn’t get there. But with Jordy Nelson (ACL) on the sideline, the Bears’ new-look secondary might stand a better chance. Critical to the Bears’ ability to slow Rodgers is FS Antrel Rolle, a ball hawk unlike the replacement-level rotation Chicago featured in recent seasons.

For the Bears to keep up, they’ll try to control the line of scrimmage and the ball with RB Matt Forte and short, risk-averse passing. The health of QB Jay Cutler’s top receivers remains in doubt, but Alshon Jeffery (ankle) is expected to give it a shot. Still, new addition Eddie Royal – a teammate of Cutler’s as a rookie in Denver – might get more targets because of his rapport with Cutler and offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Turnovers have buried Cutler and the Bears against the Packers, who led the NFL with a plus-14 turnover margin last season.

*Matchup to watch – Packers LB Julius Peppers vs. Bears RT Kyle Long: Teammates describe Long, who started 31 games at right guard in making the Pro Bowl his first two seasons in the NFL, as a physical freak, the same label applied to the 6-7, 300-pound Peppers. Sunday is likely to be Long’s first start at tackle in the NFL, but he drew raves in preseason cross-training at multiple positions.

*Player spotlight – Packers WR Randall Cobb: Cobb tied Nelson with 71 receptions for first downs, good for third in the NFL in 2014, and will operate mostly from the slot. Green Bay’s collection of receivers isn’t what it was with Nelson, but Cobb, expected to play with a dinged shoulder, leads a young group that could develop rapidly. Davante Adams replaces Nelson in the three-wide formation.

*Fast facts: Rodgers is 12-2 all-time against the Bears in games he started and finished, including four consecutive wins at Soldier Field. … Of the 53 players on the Packers’ Week 1 roster, 43 are age 28 and under as of Sept. 13. … No NFL teams have met more than the Bears and Packers, who play for the 191st time Sunday.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Until the Bears prove otherwise, the Packers are the alpha in the rivalry and NFC North because of two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers’ run of dominance.

*Our pick: Packers 38-20.


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