CHICAGO — After an offseason full of changes and the usual anticipation during training camp, the regular season opener has arrived for the 2023 edition of the Chicago Bears.
This year, it begins with their biggest rival making their way to Soldier Field with a big change at a key position.
Matt Eberflus’ team welcomes in the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon, with the Bears kicking off their season at 3:25 p.m. at Soldier Field. It’s the first time the teams have opened the season against each other since 2019 and is the start of a 17-game journey for both squads.
Here’s what to look for as the rivals meet on Sunday on the lakefront.
A rivalry renewed
This is the renewal of the oldest running rivalry in the National Football League, with the teams meeting for the 205th time in the regular season on Sunday.
Lately, the Packers have had the advantage, winning the last eight meetings with the Bears, leading the overall regular season series 104-94-6.
The Bears’ last win came in Week 15 of the 2018 season, a 24-17 victory at Soldier Field on December 16 of that year.
What to know going to the stadium
While so much chatter this offseason has been about where they Bears will play in the future, they are still at Soldier Field for the 2023 season.
On Friday, the team had a few things for fans to know as they head to the stadium for the opener along with other games over the next few months.
- The Bears are urging fans to arrive early to the stadium since there are a number of construction projects on expressways around Chicago along with road closures for the Taste of Chicago. Columbus Drive is closed between Balbo Drive and Monroe Street, while Ida B. Wells Drive Drive is closed between Michigan Avenue and DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Jackson Blvd. is closed between Michigan Avenue and DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
- Clear bags are allowed, as long as they are 12”x 6”x12” or smaller. Bags that aren’t clear can be 4.5”x 6.5,” with others not up to that specification needing to be left in your car or at home.
- The team is asking fans to download their tickets to their phone wallet before arriving at the gates.
- A new interactive experience is coming to the George Halas and Walter Payton statues located around what used to be known as Gate 0 and is now Ticketmaster Plaza, which can be seen by scanning a QR code.
A big Year 3 for QB1
Justin Fields will be under the microscope as he begins a critical third season with the Bears on Sunday.
He showed improvement during the 2022 season, especially in the run game, where he broke a quarterback franchise record with 1,143 rushing yards. Now with the addition of big-play receiver D.J. Moore along with reinforcements on the offensive line, the hope is that Fields can take a major leap in the passing game.
That was an emphasis for Fields along with general manager Ryan Poles this offseason with the hopes that an improved attack through the air can aid offensive productivity. It would also be critical for the quarterback’s future, since he’s looking to get either his fifth-year option picked up or get a new, multi-year contract.
A new era for the Packers
Fans of both teams on the field Sunday at Soldier Field will have to get used to something different with the Packers: A new quarterback.
Jordan Love is taking over for Aaron Rodgers, the team’s starter since 2008, after he was traded to the Jets this offseason. It’s a rare day in the rivalry since Rodgers along with Brett Favre were the only two primary starters for Green Bay againts the Bears since 1992.
In fact, this is just the second time in 31 years that someone other than Favre or Rodgers has started against the Bears. Love won’t have receiver Christian Watson, who has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury.
Can the Bears turn it around?
In many ways, there is nowhere to go but up for the Bears in 2023 after they won and NFL-low three games last season.
There have been plenty of additions to the roster this year, including Moore, linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, along with defensive ends DeMarcus Walker and Yannick Ngakoue.
So what is the Bears’ greatest single-season turnaround? See more on that here.