Packers vs. Bears: Three key matchups in season opener
1. Bryan Bulaga vs. Khalil Mack
For the Packers to have any success against the Bears defense, they’ll need to have a good plan to stop edge rusher Khalil Mack. Arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL, Mack’s a three-time first-team All-Pro, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and had a team-high 12.5 sacks last season.
It’s an important game for right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who could line up opposite Mack often in this game.
It didn’t go too well in the season opener last week in Mack’s debut for the Bears. He dominated, making a sack and a pick-six. He then had 2.5 sacks with six tackles in the game at Soldier Field last December, although Bulaga didn’t play in that game.
Now, there is some room for optimism. Both Bulaga and David Bakhtiari have had success against Mack in the past, back in 2015 in a game against the Oakland Raiders. Mack had one sack in that game, but for the most part, Bulaga and Bakhtiari kept him out of the game.
More good news is that the Packers have two of the best pass-blocking tackles in the league. ESPN ranked tackles on their pass block win percentage last season. Bulaga was second in the NFL with 92 percent, Bakhtiari third with 90 percent.
Bulaga will likely be lined up opposite Mack the most on Thursday night, and he’ll need to be at his best to protect Aaron Rodgers.