It’s one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports: The Chicago Bears will face the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night when they kick off the National Football League’s historic 100th season at Soldier Field.
The Bears hope to build on their success last season when they made the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Last year’s defense led the NFL with 36 takeaways while giving up a league low 17.7 points per game. The offense made strides too under first-year head coach Matt Nagy with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and running back and return specialist Tarik Cohen making the Pro Bowl for the first time.
The season fell short in a heartbreaking 16-15 playoff loss against the Philadelphia Eagles when kicker Cody Parkey missed a potentially game-winning 43-yard field goal with the infamous double doink – a kick Bears fans would soon like to forget.
A double doink teddy bear? Da Bears fans aren't feeling that.
MORE. Coming soon... pic.twitter.com/nScv28Kdzm
— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) August 26, 2019
To bolster the position this season, the Bears brought in several kickers during training camp. The revolving door left one kicker standing: Eddy Pineiro, who has yet to kick in a regular season NFL game. The 23-year-old has had his ups and downs during training camp. In a preseason matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, Pineiro drilled a 58-yard field goal. Pineiro also hit all three of his field goal attempts in the Bears’ final preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, but missed an extra point attempt.
The Bears will need to be solid in all phases of the game when they meet the NFC North rival Packers for the 199th time on Thursday. Former Bears offensive lineman and WTTW News football analyst James “Big Cat” Williams gives us three key takes on what the Bears need to do to pull out a win in week one.
Big Cat Take #1: Trubisky on Track
Bears third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s decision-making will be key. Trubisky’s ability to keep his eyes downfield when he’s under pressure instead of tucking and running will help get the offense going.
Big Cat Take #2: Defensive Line Domination
The Bears’ defensive front seven need to pick up where they left off last season and pressure quarterbacks early and often. If they can take advantage of the Packers’ offensive line to get pressure on two-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers they’ll control the game.
Big Cat Take #3: Pagano’s Playbook
Bears’ first-year Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano’s work is cut out for him in this matchup, where he’s tasked with keeping Rodgers guessing for four quarters. There’s not much the 15-year veteran hasn’t seen, but if Pagano can keep Rodgers out of rhythm it will go a long way to securing a win.
Bold Prediction: 27-20 Bears win
NFL watch party
The NFL is hosting a watch party Thursday in Grant Park that is free and open to the public. Activities, which begin at noon, include photo opportunities with the Super Bowl trophy and all 53 Super Bowl rings, NFL combine drills, a Madden NFL tournament and more. Bears alumni Jim McMahon, Matt Forte and Charles Tillman are scheduled to sign autographs throughout the day. There will also be live musical performances by Rapsody, Meghan Trainor and Meek Mill leading up to the game. Game coverage in Grant Park begin at 7 p.m. on 17-foot-tall screens.
Kickoff is at 7:20 p.m. Thursday. Fans attending the game at Soldier Field are encouraged to arrive early; parking lots open at 3:20 p.m. Be aware of street closures in the area.