The Green Bay Packers are set to kick off a new era of football on Thursday night against the Chicago Bears. Matt LaFleur is bringing a completely new offense to the field in the latest installment of one of the biggest rivalries in the wide world of sports. Both of these teams are viewed as contenders in the NFC and need to get off to a quick start this season.
There are quite a few media members and fans who think the Bears are a much better football team. While they did win the division title last season, the Bears lost some key pieces. Among those pieces were defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, safety Adrian Amos (who signed with the Packers in free agency), and Bryce Callahan.
Brian Gutekunst went out this offseason and made improving the defense a focal point. He spent big money to sign Amos, Preston and Za’Darius Smith, and also drafted Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage. All of those players are expected to have big roles for the Packers this season.
Looking ahead to Thursday night’s matchup, there are quite a few players who must step up. Green Bay has the talent, now they just need to put everything together.
All of that being said, let’s dive in and take a look at the three players for the Packers who are facing the most pressure against the Bears.
3. Aaron Rodgers
There is no question that this list would not be complete without adding Rodgers to it. While he is one of the best signal callers in the game, he still has a lot of pressure to deal with. He went through an offseason full of drama, especially from the media.
Rodgers is entering a season with a new head coach, a new offense, and a ton of expectations. The Bears have a top-notch defense and will give the Packers a major test. Green Bay needs a big game from Rodgers and they need him to play like the MVP caliber quarterback that he has been throughout the majority of his career.
2. Za’Darius Smith
Next up, the Packers gave a big contract to Za’Darius Smith this offseason in free agency. Gutekunst knew that Green Bay needed a better pass rush to get back into Super Bowl contention. Smith is without question capable of being a star pass rusher and he’ll have a great chance to prove that this week.
Mitchell Trubisky is an improving quarterback, but he still has major flaws. Those flaws will show themselves if he is pressured. Mike Pettine is going to throw a lot of pressure at the Bears’ quarterback and Smith needs to find a way to make a major impact.
1. Jimmy Graham
Green Bay’s offense is going to utilize tight ends much differently than they have in years past. Jimmy Graham joined the Packers last offseason and ended up catching 55 passes for 636 yards and two touchdowns. His numbers were viewed as disappointing by most, but they were actually very solid outside of his touchdown totals.
Graham has been adamant this offseason that he is looking to make a major jump this year. LaFleur and company have a big plan for the former superstar. If Graham can have a big game against the Bears, the Packers are going to have a very good chance of coming out with a win.