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Packers v. Bears by the numbers: Justin Fields’ return shouldn’t be cause for concern

The Packers welcome a battered Bears team into Lambeau Field on Sunday Night. Will it be a repeat of past Sunday Night glory?

SPORTS-FBN-BEARS-RODGERS-TB Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

After a bye week that allowed an exhausted and beat up Green Bay Packers roster some much needed rest, the Packers welcome the rival Chicago Bears into Lambeau Field for a primetime matchup. The Bears are... a disaster right now. In addition to the constant discussion of their head coach’s job security and the poor performances of the offense, the Bears are incredibly beat up right now. The Packers enter the game as very heavy favorites, but is that deserved?

What is left on this offense

Andy Dalton is out this week and Justin Fields is returning which means we get to see the rookie play once again. Fields struggled mightily in the first matchup against Green Bay posting a poor -0.03 EPA-per-dropback and adding nothing on the ground. This game was actually better than the totality of his performances this year though. Fields is the third worst quarterback in the league by EPA-per-play ahead of only fellow rookies Zach Wilson and David Mills with an almost unfathomable -0.125 EPA-per-play. No quarterback has a lower rate of successful plays than Fields and his Sports Info Solutions quarterback rating is the lowest of any quarterback in the league.

Does this mean Fields is a bust? No. Rookie quarterbacks almost always struggle and especially so when the talent around them is a problem (not to mention the coaching staff). And the talent around Justin Fields is not great. Despite own-goaling themselves by releasing Charles Leno this off-season, who now ranks fourth in the NFL amongst offensive tackles in pass block win rate, the Bears have cobbled together a half-decent unit up front. They rank tenth in pass block win rate and ninth in run block win rate. There is no standout player on this unit, however. With Rashan Gary fully off the injury report and Kenny Clark playing at a Pro Bowl level, the Packers should be able to win the battle in the trenches against this unit, especially if they can get up on Chicago.

The receiving talent has not done much this year. Allen Robinson has spent a good deal of the season banged up and that continues this week. Darnell Mooney has not had the breakout season that many in Chicago had hoped for as his -7.7% DVOA ranks 48th. Given the constraints of a rookie quarterback and the general offensive malaise of the Matt Nagy era, that’s not that bad. Cole Kmet finds himself in similar territory to Mooney where considering the circumstances, a -7.4% DVOA isn’t too bad. There might be some supporting talent here if Fields can improve in year two and they can find an offense that isn’t making folks want to jump into Lake Michigan. The key point remains that there is no one here that really scares you.

The Bears passing game probably isn’t taking them home, so their best hope is the running game, where they are almost dead average on a per-play basis at fifteenth. Now, they’re still losing ground on the ground at -0.077 EPA-per-rush, but you’ll notice that that is still better than what Justin Fields has been doing through the air. We’re all still waiting to see the Bears utilize Fields’ elite athleticism in the run game, but that just may not come under this offensive regime. The Bears best hope to come out of Green Bay with a win is to get Green Bay in a bad game state situation where the Bears can effectively run the ball and create some turnovers to keep the Packers from scoring, but can the Bears defense hold up their end of that very tenuous bargain?

No Monsters Here

This isn’t your dad’s Chicago Bears defense anymore. While Khalil Mack was having a solid season, that season is over after he went on injured reserve. Akiem Hicks has spent much of the season banged up and is on the injury report once again. If he can’t go, the Bears just don’t have enough going on up front. Robert Quinn has had a productive season, racking up 10.5 sacks, but is only getting pressure on 12% of pass rushers, indicating he is outpacing his pressure rate pretty significantly. And if Quinn is the only pass rusher Green Bay has to worry about, you can imagine what that will do to his production.

Green Bay’s offensive line, despite never having their preferred starting five, has been good this season. They rank seventh in pass block win rate and eight in run block win rate. This is a far cry from their historic performance last season, but given the constant cascade of injuries, you can’t ask for much more. The Bears rank 21st in the NFL in pass rush win rate and that was with Khalil Mack. They are only going to fall further behind without him. The Bears front isn’t winning in the run game either where they rank 26th in run stop win rate. If Akiem Hicks can’t go, Green Bay should be able to pick how they want to move the ball against this defense.

Overall, the Bears are below average defensively almost no matter how you slice it. By EPA-per-play allowed they rank 24th. DVOA places them at 18th, and below average against both the run (18th) and the pass (22nd). This just isn’t a very good defense. Roquan Smith has had a solid year, ranking solidly above average in SIS’ Total Points Saved, but there just isn’t much talent left on this unit. The secondary, which once was a strength for the team back in 2018, is now a major weakness. The turnover regression came for Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos now plays for the good guys, and the entire cornerback room is different.

It’s just really hard to see Chicago winning this game unless Green Bay just comes out flatter than a pancake or there are a ridiculous series of bizarre turnovers. The Packers are better in every phase and have the upper hand in almost every matchup. The only place the Bears edge out Green Bay is their rushing offense versus Green Bay’s rushing defense, but even that is pretty margin and only useful if they don’t get down by multiple scores. I think Vegas has this one right, Green Bay is a legitimately good team and the Bears are not. Green Bay is favored by our friends at the DraftKings Sportsbook. Hopefully we get another enjoyable Sunday Night Football masterpiece.