The Chicago Bears are hoping the recent addition of Khalil Mack will catapult them into the NFC playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers are hoping William Clay Matthews III will find the Fountain of Youth and enhance their chance of being a certifiable Super Bowl contender.
Mack and Matthews will showcase their immense skills tonight when the Packers host the Bears at Lambeau Field in both teams regular-season opener.
Suffice to say, how Mack and Matthews perform will have a profound impact on not only this game but the rest of them this season. Mack, of course, will get a mulligan if he doesn’t play up to his Pro Bowl standards.
After being dealt to the Bears from the Raiders just over a week ago, Mack, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history ($141 million over six years) is vaguely familiar with the Bears’ defensive system. Yet, because of his exceptional talents, you figure he’ll still be a factor against the Packers.
As for Matthews, it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll play against the Bears. He could be sensational. After all, this is the first game of the regular season and 100 percent healthy. And, this is a game where almost all of the national media attention will be on Mack, giving Matthews plenty of motivation to show that he can play this game at a high level as well.
The problem for Matthews and the Packers is this: His career has been trending downward. That’s to be expected. He is 32 years old. Yet, since the 2014 season, Matthews has been ordinary and not extraordinary.
In 2014, Matthews registered 11 sacks He’s totaled 6.5, 5 and 7.5 in the three subsequent seasons. In 2014, Matthews recorded 52 tackles. He’s totaled 49, 20 and 27 the last three seasons.
If the Packers want to attain their goal of winning a Super Bowl, Matthews simply has to be a big-time player on a consistent basis. We should have a good indication whether he is still capable of doing that tonight.
Prediction: Packers 27, Bears 20.