As the Chicago Bears season opener against the Green Bay Packers draws nearer with every day, there is a growing excitement coming from the fans. Most of that stems from the absolute monster trade with the Oakland Raiders to acquire elite pass rusher Khalil Mack. Chicago’s defense, which finished in the top-10 last season, is expected to be among the best of the best, thanks to the Mack trade and arrival of their number one pick from the draft, Roquan Smith.
They’re going to have to be good if they want to compete in the NFC North. The division is stacked with three quarterbacks that can sling the ball at any given time. Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit are going to have to adjust their practices to get used to the new, and hopefully dominant, Bears defense. However, it’s the first game that has most fans shaking with anticipation.
The Bears and Packers rivalry is well-known, as it is arguably the most famous rivalry in all of professional sports. Green Bay has owned Chicago during Aaron Rodgers’ tenure; in 19 games, he’s 15-4 against the Bears. However, the young Chicago defense is starting to believe that will change. According to ESPN.com‘s Rob Demovsky, Akiem Hicks, a defensive end for the Bears, believes that the Green Bay Packers are going to struggle immensely against Mack.
“I know those five guys can’t block Khalil Mack,” Hicks stated. However, he didn’t just limit it against the Packers. “I think the question every team is going to ask is, how do you block Khalil Mack? So him being there, it just gives me more freedom to have one-on-ones.”
There’s no doubt the Bears, and their fans, are excited about the Mack addition. He’s arguably one of the top three defensive players in the game. Chicago knew this, as nearly immediately after acquiring him in a trade, Mack was signed to a six-year, $141 million extension with $90 million guaranteed.
His prowess has been noted for quite some time; Mack has 40.5 sacks in his first four seasons. The unfortunate part is that while Mack was holding out with the Raiders for a new contract, he missed all of training camp and the entire preseason. That could make Chicago cautious about using him the entire game, as he is most likely not in game shape.
That doesn’t seem to matter to Hicks though. He continued his comments by speaking about how the Green Bay offensive line, most notably Bryan Bulaga, didn’t really have a chance. Bulaga, coming off an ACL tear, is expected to block Mack. “I think it affects guys when they come back from an injury, especially older guys like Bulaga. But I don’t think he had a chance to block Khalil Mack in the first place.”
Green Bay’s starting offensive line are established veterans, minus Justin McCray, but their backup plans are problematic, to say the least. That doesn’t seem to bother head coach Mike McCarthy in the slightest.
“I’m the optimist. I think you have to just believe in the men, and I think it’s obvious that we haven’t practiced a whole lot together — the offensive line that’s projected to start in this game. So hopefully, the good Lord has touched us and we’ve got our injury phase out of the way. That’s all part of the challenge,” McCarthy stated.
They had better be ready because Mack has already set his goal. When speaking to reporters, Mack made one significant statement. “I know I was to try and get to Aaron [Rodgers] on Sunday.” Even a less than 100% Mack is dangerous. Green Bay had better prepare. One thing is for certain; the rivalry just got even more intense.