The Green Bay Packers played poorly in their Week 1 game in Minnesota last week, the second straight year the team looked bad in the season opener after not playing most of their starters throughout the entire preseason.
Packers fans were obviously frustrated and disappointed by their team’s poor play. To make it more painful, this was a division loss and one that gave the team expected to be the Packers toughest competition in the division, the Vikings, a boost of confidence under their new head coach.
But the season is far from over. The Packers played even worse a year ago in the season opener against the Saints and finished the season 13-4.
Here are five reasons for optimism heading into the Packers Week 2 game with the Chicago Bears:
- The Packers Still Have Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers didn’t look sharp against Minnesota. He often held the ball too long and tried to force things downfield, even when he was under pressure.
But Rodgers is still the two-time reigning NFL MVP and he remains one of the best quarterbacks in the game. The rust he suffered because he didn’t play in the preseason will be gone and Rodgers’ competitive nature will fully kick in.
Rodgers will likely bounce back and have a good game on Sunday on national TV in front of the home fans. That will help the Packers in Week 2 and beyond.
- Matt LaFleur Has Never Lost Two Straight Regular Season Games
Since Matt LaFleur took over as the Packers head coach in 2019, the Packers have never lost two consecutive regular season games in the same season. The Packers have lost 11 times thus far under LaFleur but never twice in a row.
While LaFleur sometimes struggles with in-game adjustments, he has done a good job bouncing back after a poor performance. It usually starts with the coach taking full responsibility for his team’s poor performance. Then he devises a better game plan for the following contest. The average margin of victory for the Packers after a loss under LaFleur is roughly 14 points.
LaFleur also has a 22-2 home record thus far as Packers head coach and is 6-0 against the Bears.
- The Bears Rushing Defense Is Vulnerable
The Packers are aware they got away from the running game too quickly against the Vikings. The Packers two most dangerous weapons on offense, outside of Aaron Rodgers, are running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.
The duo carried the football only 15 times (combined) against the Vikings with Jones getting only five rushes all game. Despite the limited action, the Packers gained 111 rushing yards on just 18 carries (including a kneel-down by Rodgers at the end of the half), an impressive 6.2-yards per rush.
LaFleur acknowledged he got away from the run too quickly and that he needs to get Jones more than five rushes all game.
That can only be bad news for a Chicago defense that gave up 176 yards on the ground to the 49ers in Week 1 and an average of 4.8-yards per rush.
The Packers should be able to run the football on the Bears which will open up a lot of possibilities for Rodgers and the pass offense as well.
- The Packers Receivers Were Often Open Against the Vikings
You may not realize it by having watched the game on TV, but after watching the coach’s film, the Packers wide receivers were open often against the Vikings in Week 1. There were reasons the Packers offense was unable to translate that into points, but Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and even Sammy Watkins were open on many plays.
The pass protection didn’t always hold up, especially the right side of the offensive line with Jake Hanson and Royce Newman starting and Rodgers didn’t seem to trust his young receivers, especially after Watson dropped what would have been a sure touchdown on the Packers first offensive play.
But after watching the film and realizing the talent he has to work with, Rodgers should be able to adjust.
The fact that the Packers receivers were getting open is a positive for the offense. When Allen Lazard returns to the lineup, that will give Rodgers another weapon to work with and one that he knows well and trusts.
- Rodgers Owns the Bears
Aaron Rodgers has simply owned the Chicago Bears. There’s no way around it and he even yelled that to the fans in Chicago after scoring a touchdown against them last season.
In 27 career starts against Chicago, Rodgers has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 6,549 yards, thrown 61 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions. His quarterback rating is 109.2. He has lost only twice in his career against the Bears at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers has enjoyed some of the best performances of his career against Chicago including five games in which he threw four touchdowns and no interceptions, a five-touchdown game with no picks and a game that saw him throw six touchdown passes in the first half in a 55-14 win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.
Rodgers will be ready to attack the Bears and beat them again Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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