The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers will have the national spotlight on their game as they kick off the 2018 NFL season on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
Both teams have made some high-profile moves on the offensive side of the ball, but the defenses will also play a key role in the game Sunday, and we’re highlighting what to watch for on that side of the football.
The Bears’ defense, one of the top units in the league last year, could be even better this season, but some injuries and absences in their front seven could lead to a tough slog against Green Bay.
For starters, linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive end Khalil Mack, two of the biggest-profile additions to the team this season, are both expected to be limited in the game, and although they are both healthy, their lack of game reps this preseason could lead to some rust when they hit the field against Green Bay.
Injuries are also a concern for the Bears, as Leonard Floyd could be hampered by a club on his hand after breaking two fingers during the preseason. Aaron Lynch will also be trying to get back into form after missing the entire preseason with a leg injury.
Fortunately for the Bears, they do have plenty of healthy options, especially in their secondary. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara have both looked outstanding during the preseason, and Eddie Jackson is poised to solidify himself as one of the top safeties in the NFL as he enters his second season.
Another player to watch out for, naturally, is Akiem Hicks, as the defensive lineman has established himself as one of the most underrated pass rushers in the NFL.
The team’s defensive line could have a big day against a Bears’ offensive line that has looked weak at times during the preseason. The addition of Muhammad Wilkerson is huge for the team, and they’ll hope he can open up some space for players like Dean Lowry and Kenny Clark to get at Mitchell Trubisky in the game.
Injury questions have plagued the Packers’ linebacker group throughout the preseason, with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry both coming back after missing a lot of preseason work due to injury. The Packers also lost linebacker Jake Ryan during the preseason, meaning they’ll be a starter down from the get-go this season.
The secondary for the Packers is an area where the Packers got a lot younger this preseason, drawing Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, but they’ll also have some veterans as safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and cornerback Tramon Williams, who signed with the Packers after spending the 2017 campaign in Cleveland, will hope to give Trubisky problems in the passing game.