Packers: Five keys to opening with a win vs. Bears in Week 1

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Aaron Rodgers
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Aaron Rodgers /

Five keys for the Green Bay Packers to defeat the Chicago Bears in Week 1.

After four weeks of tryouts, decisions, and big moves around the league, the wait is over. There are no more meaningless football games, at least until the Jets reach Week 11.

There is not a more fitting way for the Green Bay Packers to open the season than a Sunday Night Football clash with the division rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

With a chance to get off to a great start against a favorable early schedule, the Packers first need to get through the Bears and defending NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings.

In order to send the Bears packing on Sunday, here are five keys to the game for the green and gold.

1. Keep Khalil Mack off Aaron Rodgers

The price for the All-Pro pass rusher was hefty. Maybe too much for Brian Gutekunst to swallow. The price the Packers will pay if Mack gets too many looks at Rodgers is greater.

In 2017, injuries to Rodgers and the offensive line proved costly. Packers quarterbacks were sacked 51 times, good for fifth most in the NFL.

A healthy David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga are critical and need to be up to the task of keeping the league’s highest-paid defensive player away from Rodgers. If not, he could be the highest-paid clipboard holder in the history of the world.

2. Get creative on offense

One of the biggest knocks on the Packers in recent years is the boring, predictable playcalling.

Even when Aaron Rodgers was healthy, he only averaged seven yards per pass thrown in 2017. That ranks 18th among quarterbacks.

With a solid, experienced offensive line, they will have time to let plays unfold.

With Davante Adams being the only major weapon returning, this is a unit full of promising playmakers that don’t have a ton of film on them. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is the only one who knows how this whole offense can work, and what these young guys can do together.

Expect the unexpected from this offense right from the get-go.

3. Contain Jordan Howard

Winning the battle at the line of scrimmage will be a key to winning every football game, ever.

The Bears have better pass-catching threats than last year in Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, but they still need Mitch Trubisky to get them the ball.

That doesn’t happen if he’s forced into obvious passing situations. The stingy run defense of Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Muhammad Wilkerson can dictate this game if they can keep Jordan Howard at bay.

If Howard is able to get into open space, he can create all sorts of problems with Green Bay’s questionable tackling at the second level.

4. Finish your drives

It’s early in the season, and mistakes will happen. Leaving points on the board can keep a weaker opponent around just long enough to strike.

The best way to avoid that is to put them out of it early.

Green Bay was fourth in red zone scoring last season, scoring touchdowns on 61.9 percent of red zone drives.

Aaron Rodgers can select from Pro Bowl wideout Davante Adams, his new red zone target Jimmy Graham, or his legs to turn first downs into touchdowns.

5. Win the turnover battle

Always an important stat, but turnovers have often told the story in recent editions of the Packers-Bears rivalry.

The winner of the turnover battle has won the last eight meetings, with the Packers being on the right end of seven.

The Packers’ young secondary showed moments of brilliance in the preseason. Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson might be able to provide a spark. They could also miss assignments and let the second-year QB look like a star.

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That could be the difference on Sunday.