Game Preview: Bears, Packers, 9/11 Pictures & Some Prognostications for the 2023 Campaign

| September 8th, 2023

There will be column writing from me throughout the season, but I am going to relegate most of my work to these game previews. I’m incredibly proud of the consistently excellent work being produced under the Schmitz regime at DBB and I hope I’ll now be able add some of my own flavor to the mix.

Why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?







Three Things the Bears MUST Do on Sunday

  • Win the ground game.
    • The Bears had one of the league’s best rushing attacks in 2022, while also fielding one of the league’s worst rush defenses. In their two meetings with the Packers last season, they were outgained on the ground 203-180 and 175-155. Matt LaFleur is going to do everything in his power to make Jordan Love’s debut easier and that will include a healthy dose of the run game, putting pressure on Chicago’s weakest unit, their DL. If the Bears can’t slow Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon down, it’s unlikely they’ll slow down the Packers writ large.
  • Catch interceptions.
    • Barring a few nice throws, Love has looked nervous this preseason, and that’s unlikely to change come the opener. When he gives the secondary opportunities, they must take advantage of them. For too many years we have watched the Bears drop easy interception after easy interception, often originating from the right hand of a Packers quarterback en route to the Hall of Fame.
  • Get the fans excited early, and often.
    • This is going to be a Soldier Field ready to celebrate the dawn of a new era and the Bears have to meet the moment. Mount some promising early drives. Get points from those drives. Show that the Chicago Bears are finally ready to join the ranks of modern offensive football. (If the team comes out and runs it unsuccessfully on first and second down to open the game…well…it would be about the most tone-deaf play calling one can recall.) Too often the Bears have sent the home crowd into a lethargic malaise. Big, exciting moments on offense change that.

September 11th on Screen

Paul Schrader argues, in his seminal essay on film noir, that the “genre” is unique to America, and specifically to a post-war period (mid 40s to late 50s) that found a generation of heroic men returning from war to an uncertain future, and unsure identity. But as we commemorate the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 on Monday, it is interesting to look at a series of films made in New York City in the years after those attacks as questioning not only what it means to be a man in a post-traumatic environment, but also what it means to be the city unfairly targeted as representative of a national political identity to which it often did not and does not ascribe.

There are four films I would recommend looking at in this regard.

25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)

Unfaithful (Adrian Lyne, 2002)

Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007)

Before the Devil Know You’re Dead (Sidney Lumet, 2007)

As this is a topic for a broader research project of mine, I will not wallow in the weeds here. But these are four films that I consider four of the best of this century. If you’re interested in the aforementioned discussion, feel free to email me: jeff@dabearsblog.com.

Five Season Projections

  • 2023 DJ Moore will be 2021 Deebo Samuel. 
    • Deebo’s 2021: 77-1,405-6.
  • Robert Tonyan will have 5+ touchdowns.
    • A strange one, I know, but it just seems the Bears have kept Tonyan’s role purposely invisible for the last few months. And it would be surprising if that role is not concentrated around the goal line. (For those of you who have Cole Kmet on your fantasy teams, I think this is going to be a frustrating development.) In Tonyan’s five seasons, he has scored two touchdowns or less four times so, yes, this is a bold prediction. But his 11-touchdown 2020 campaign proves that he’s capable of being a dominant force in the red zone.
  • Even with Yannick Ngakoue, the lack of pass rush will doom this season.
    • The Bears had only 20 sacks a season ago, the worst in the NFL. Even if the club added 15 sacks to that total, it would only have moved them from 32nd in the league to 26th. The pass rush should be improved in 2023, but there just isn’t enough talent at the position to be among the league’s top-15. And with a very good offensive line in Green Bay, and borderline-prolific passing attacks in Minnesota and Detroit, the lack of a top pass rush will be incredibly difficult to overcome.
  • The Bears will have the best return duo in the NFL.
    • Velus Jones is a frustrating player, but he’s a brilliant kickoff return man. (With that speed how could he not be?) Waiver claim Trent Taylor led the league in punt returns over 20 yards a year ago. While this roster project is still incomplete, Ryan Poles is giving the club advantages wherever he can, and they will have a significant advantage when it comes to the return game.
  • The Bears will finish 8-9, just missing the playoffs, but playing relevant games in December.
    • I struggled with this prediction, but I see the range of outcomes for this campaign anywhere between 7-10 wins. So, because a win increase from three to eight is quite sizable, I’ll err on the bottom half of that range. But with a grotesquely weak NFC, it would not surprise me in the slightest to see the Bears in the tournament.

Three Haikus

Opening Sunday,

and the Packers come to town.

Been a long nine months.

Hey, Mister DJ,

are you still taking requests?

“Six Points” by Offense.

(You can be honest.

You missed reading the haikus.

It’s okay. I’m here.)

Video of the Week

It is my favorite “Bear Down” video, and I’ve been sharing it for a decade. So why not keep the tradition alive?

Understanding Justin Fields

Fields is a special, if unconventional, talent. And as such, Fields needs to be understood and evaluated through unconventional means. After an incredibly dicey season and a quarter, I have become very much pro-JF. But what does “pro” entail?

  • Production. If you spend too much time on social media, you’ll see an endless debate about which benchmarks Fields needs to hit in 2023. For me, they are meaningless. Fields needs to lead an offense that scores and scores often. He needs to do it with his arm. He needs to do it with his legs. He needs to do it with his head. And he needs to lead the huddle. If the Bears score north of 25 points a week, it doesn’t matter how many yards Fields accumulates through the air at the end of the campaign.
  • Protection. Fields needs to be on the field, and that mean he needs to absorb less unnecessary contact. His ability to extend plays with his athleticism is his most exciting asset but sometimes it’s worth taking a page out of the playbooks of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and just throw the ball into your center’s ankles with the pressure is closing.
  • Projection. The questions have to end. At the conclusion of this season, Fields has to unequivocally be the guy for two reasons. (1) The roster is going to be ready to contend for things in 2024. (2) The Bears will have the first-round draft capital next off-season to replace him.

Game Prediction

I think the Packers will run it with ease. I think the Bears will do the same. To me, that means the game comes down to what it has always come down to in this rivalry: the quarterbacks. Do the Bears finally have an advantage? They better.

Chicago Bears 27, Green Bay Packers 24

Next Week: A look at some of the “important” cinema of 2023.

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