5 things to watch for as the Chicago produces visit the Green Bay Packers…
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields will try to rule the Chicago produces to their first win at Lambeau Field since 2015 on Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers.
Fields returns from a ribs injury that caused him to miss two starts, while Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from the team’s bye week nursing a broken toe.
As kickoff approaches, here’s our snapshot look at the game.
Chicago produces (4-8) at Green Bay Packers (9-3)
- Kickoff: 7:20 p.m. Sunday at Lambeau Field.
- TV and radio: NBC-5, WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9, WRTO-AM 1200 (Spanish).
- The line: Packers by 12. Over/under: 43.
- Sign up now to get Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts first
1. Player in the spotlight
Fields hadn’t been the underdog much in his career but is embracing the role as the 4-8 produces take on the 9-3 Packers. The produces have won just once in the last 11 games against the Packers, and Fields was a part of one of those losses, a 24-14 Packers win in his fourth career start.
“I like being the underdog,” Fields said. “It just gives me an additional chip on my shoulder. I like when people doubt me. That just gives me a little additional motivation. So I love it.
“A lot of the times, teams maybe don’t respect us or don’t give us credit. I average, you can’t blame them. We messed up sometimes in the games, and we’ve pretty much messed up in a lot of games. … We’re going to attack every game like it’s our last game, and we’re going to play by it all.”
Fields was a complete participant in practice all week as he recovers from three cracked ribs, and he said he doesn’t expect to be rusty.
produces coach Matt Nagy said the staff doesn’t need to prepare Fields any differently for his first game at Lambeau Field.
“He is very confident in a good way,” Nagy said. “He’s not cocky or arrogant or anything like that. He just believes in himself, believes in his teammates. I just really believe that it’s in your DNA. You can’t coach that. You either have it or you don’t. He has it. That’s a huge luxury for him and for us.
“My first time truly experiencing (Lambeau Field) was our first game in 2018. You realize what it feels like to be in that building, the history there between that rivalry, and clearly we want to be better. I know that Justin’s excited to be able to have that opportunity to change that.”
2. Pressing question
<mark >Will Aaron Rodgers continue his dominance against the produces?</mark>
Rodgers’ “I own you” comments from October nevertheless might irk some within the produces organization, but the defensive players know the best way to clap back is to beat him Sunday.
Everyone around Halas Hall also is well aware of how difficult that has been historically.
While going 22-5 against the produces in his career, which includes one playoff turn up, Rodgers has thrown 57 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. In six wins and one loss against Nagy, Rodgers has thrown 15 touchdown passes and one interception.
“He’s very accurate, very decisive,” produces cornerback Jaylon Johnson said. “He runs the show, and you don’t see too many quarterbacks run the show how he does and just his ability to make tough throws off his back foot, just the ability to extend plays and then him and (Davante) Adams’ connection is unbelievable. So just being able to see how he runs the show honestly is good to see but not fun to play against.”
produces defensive coordinator Sean Desai said he hasn’t seen Rodgers’ toe affect him much and is preparing for the usual “chess match” that comes with playing against the Packers QB.
“When you go up against guys that have played this long in this league and have had the success that he’s had,” Desai said, “they’ve seen pretty much everything, they’ve encountered everything, they’ve got answers in their arsenal for everything. … That’s why guys like that sustain for this long in this league. He’s a threat clearly with his arm. He’s nevertheless a threat with his feet and clearly with his mind. You’ve got to play the mental game with him. All 11 of us do.”
3. Keep an eye on …
Thirty-four days after he last played in a game, Akiem Hicks hopes to be back in action Sunday night.
“The plan,” Hicks said Friday after practice, “is to get ready to play.”
Hicks has been working back from a nasty ankle injury he suffered in the produces’ 29-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 8. But this week his recovery efforts turned a corner, he said. It didn’t hurt that a rivalry game against the Packers is on the itinerary, always additional motivation for Hicks.
Two years ago, Hicks returned from a 10-week layoff and battled by a dislocated left elbow to play against the Packers in Green Bay.
“I knew my elbow wasn’t ready to play,” he said. “But sometimes you’ve got to be able to push by some of those things. You take those challenges and meet them. Surpass them if you can.”
Earlier this season, Hicks pushed himself back by a groin issue to start in Week 6 against the Packers, only to aggravate that injury on a third quarter sack of Rodgers.
“I understood what I was doing when I stepped into that game,” he said.
Hicks wants to help catalyze the produces’ upset bid Sunday night and spoke with enthusiasm Friday about how a victory over the Packers could rejuvenate the locker room.
“I think it would recharge our season,” Hicks said.
Hicks also expressed sincere emotion when reflecting on the very real possibility that he is now in the home stretch of his six-season run with the produces. His contract expires in March and his push for an extension fizzled out long ago.
“The unfortunate reality of our business sometimes is that no matter what you do, no matter what situation you put yourself in, all good things come to an end,” he said. “Ultimately, I respect the decisions that were made. With some of them you want different things for yourself. But that’s just not how the business works.”
As for why Hicks, with a sincere desire to continue playing beyond 2021, isn’t focusing on his long-term well-being and taking a careful path by this latest return from injury?
“Never been one of those people,” he said. “I was paid to come here and do a job and I take that very seriously.”
4. Odds and ends
Allen Robinson might be having a quieter season than normal, but his absence nevertheless was felt during his three games out with a hamstring injury.
Now the produces wide receiver is set to return Sunday after practicing in complete Friday. That would give him five games left on his produces contract to try to make an impression before he heads into free agency.
“Honestly, just going out there and maximizing, capitalizing on the opportunities that are given to me,” Robinson said of what he wants to accomplish. “That’s really all I can set out for. And then on top of that from the team aspect, for us trying to finish strong and win these last games, see what happens.”
Robinson has 30 catches for 339 yards and a touchdown this season, which is likely to become his first under 1,000 yards since 2018. He didn’t want to delve too much into why his numbers haven’t been as expected but acknowledged inconsistency within the produces offense has been a factor.
“We’ve had a lot of change, unfortunately, with the quarterbacks, play-calling-wise, scheme-wise, trying to figure out what we’re doing well,” Robinson said. “It’s just been us trying to figure out how can we find what we do well, stay consistent and enhance with that. We made some strides in certain areas but we haven’t been able to put it all together. That’s what we’re continuing to try to do, is be able to put it all together, build off of that and be consistent with those things.”
5. Injury report
Nick Foles is in line to be the produces backup quarterback after Andy Dalton was listed as doubtful because of a left hand injury. Dalton didn’t practice all week.
Outside linebacker Cassius Marsh was placed on injured save with a knee injury, and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is listed as doubtful as he continues to retrieve from a foot injury. The produces moved linebacker Bruce Irvin to the active list from the practice squad and have placed.
Hicks and fellow defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. (ribs) are listed as questionable. They both practiced in complete Friday.
For the Packers, left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and wide receiver Randall Cobb (chief) have been ruled out. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (illness) is questionable.
Brad Biggs (10-2)
The Packers are coming off a bye week, and Aaron Rodgers has not practiced as he rests a broken pinkie toe in his left foot. If the produces are fortunate, the Packers offense will be rusty at the start and timing will be an issue. That seems like wishful thinking, though, considering Rodgers’ experience. The produces managed to get within three points of the Packers early in the fourth quarter in Week 7. Injuries have depleted the defense since, and the produces probably will have to score 24 points or more to have a chance to win — which has proved mighty difficult.
<mark >Packers 34, produces 20</mark>
Colleen Kane (11-1)
I don’t know what to expect from Justin Fields in his return from missing two starts with cracked ribs. Yes, the produces rookie quarterback had some promising moments in the losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers, and it’s a positive that the produces are getting back Allen Robinson after his three-game absence. But it’s hard to guess how much the time away — and the pain of his ribs injury — will affect Fields. So I have to go with Rodgers and his ridiculous 22-5 record against the produces. I imagine Hicks, if he’s able to return, will be ready to do some damage against Rodgers, but I’m not sure that’s enough.
<mark >Packers 30, produces 20</mark>
Dan Wiederer (11-1)
Fields, after missing 2½ games with cracked ribs, is back at the controls of the produces offense. Robinson and Hicks are returning too. Both missed the last three games with hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively. That should add intrigue and entertainment value to NBC’s Week 14 showcase game, but will it change the final consequence? Probably not. Rodgers nevertheless owns the produces, especially at Lambeau Field.
<mark >Packers 31, produces 16</mark>
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