Arkush: Packers haven't played their best game yet. Have the Bears?

  • The Chicago Bears will be without running back Damien Williams for Sunday's game against the Packers. Can the run game still be trusted without David Montgomery and Williams?

    The Chicago Bears will be without running back Damien Williams for Sunday's game against the Packers. Can the run game still be trusted without David Montgomery and Williams? Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/17/2021 8:45 AM

The 202 games played between the Bears and Green Bay Packers are the most by any two teams in the NFL. They are the two most successful and storied franchises in NFL history, and in spite of the Packers' recent dominance, it is remarkable how balanced the outcomes have been over time. It is one of the best, if not the best, rivalries in all of professional sports.

But as winners of 16 of the last 19 meetings, Green Bay's edge is as impossible to ignore as the current gap between the teams' two quarterbacks.

 

It is, however, also a mistake to ignore the gap between the two defenses and the Bears' advantage there.

This will certainly be a statement game for the Bears -- one way or the other -- and it is a first-place showdown.

The Bears are 4-point underdogs and the over/under is 45.

Matchups to watch

Packers OTs Elgton Jenkins, Billy Turner and Yosh Nijman vs. Bears edge rushers Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Co.

All eyes will be on Justin Fields and Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry's efforts to leverage Fields' inexperience, but Packers All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari is stuck on the PUP list. While Jenkins is their next best lineman, he isn't a natural tackle and has missed the last three weeks with a bum ankle.

Nijman has three starts under his belt at left tackle if Jenkins is unable to play, but he is a second-year undrafted rookie free agent. Turner is a journeyman signed away from Denver last year after five years in the league primarily at guard.

The matchups set up well for the Bears' pass rushers.

Coach choice to watch

Will Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor trust the run game without David Montgomery and Damien Williams?

The Bears' winning formula is clear and revolves around defense and running the ball, which allows them to ask as little of Justin Fields as possible as he continues to grow.

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The biggest surprise of the win against the Raiders was how solid the ground game was with Williams and Khalil Herbert, but will the Bears coaches have that same faith in Ryan Nall and/or Artavis Pierce?

Players to watch

Packers RB A.J. Dillon, LB DeVondre Campbell, NT Kenny Clark; Bears RB Khalil Herbert

Everybody knows Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones are the focal point of the Packers offense, but while they search for a second option to Adams in the passing game, Dillon is emerging as a special talent in the running game.

Campbell is the most significant change in Green Bay's defense this year and their most active defender, and Clark may be the best nose tackle in the league right now.

What the Bears need from Herbert to win should be obvious.

X-factors

Bears QB Justin Fields, WR Allen Robinson, LB Khalil Mack; Packers OT Elgton Jenkins, RB Aaron Jones

I asked Matt Nagy Friday if he can stay run-first without his top two backs. Nagy said they have to be careful knowing what the backups are ready to handle. It suggests Fields will be asked to do at least a little more, and after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday and being limited Friday, how prepared is Robinson to help him?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After missing three games, Jenkins was limited in practice all this week, as was Jones. Mack didn't practice all week, but both he and Jenkins are listed as questionable.

Players could surprise

Packers WRs Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard; Bears RBs Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce

The Packers continue to hope Valdes-Scantling and/or Lazard can be meaningful second options to Adams. Each has shown flashes with big games, but now in their fourth seasons neither has settled in.

If Nall or Pierce show up like Herbert did last week, it changes the complexion of this game.

Final word

Packers 20, Bears 17

I believe the Packers are somewhat overrated, and the Bears are a bit underrated right now, but that doesn't make them even. I like what the Bears have shown recently. But impressive as they were in Las Vegas last Sunday, the Raiders were also awful, and I need to see the Bears beat a good team playing well before I can pick them to beat Rodgers.

• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush

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