LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Jordan Love gets his opportunity to show he's ready to keep the procession of great Green Bay quarterbacks going. For Justin Fields, it's time to start proving he can become the passer Chicago needs him to be.
All eyes will be on the QBs when the Packers visit the Bears in a season-opening matchup between the NFL's oldest rivals on Sunday.
Love gets his chance to follow in the footsteps of Hall of Famer Brett Favre and four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and help lead the Packers back toward the top of the NFC North. Green Bay went 8-9 last year and missed the playoffs for the third time in six seasons.
Love's opportunity comes after Rodgers was traded to the New York Jets. He's been waiting since the Packers drafted him out of Utah State with the No. 26 overall pick in 2020.
“When I first got here, it was just a lot of thinking, my mind was spinning a lot,” Love said. “So it would have been a lot to go out there and start Week 1. But there would have been a lot of lessons I probably would have learned a lot faster being thrown in the fire. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to sit and learn because I learned a lot over those three years.”
The 24-year-old Love has played in 10 games. His only start was a loss at Kansas City in 2021 when Rodgers was sidelined with COVID-19.
Fields, also 24, needs to develop as a passer in his third season after establishing himself as one of the NFL's most exciting players. While the Bears finished a league-worst 3-14 — a franchise high for losses — he delivered one big play after another. But he did it with his legs, not his arm.
Fields ran for 1,143 yards and challenged Lamar Jackson’s NFL record for a QB of 1,206. The Bears led the league in rushing but were last in passing.
Fields threw for just 2,242 yards and 17 touchdowns while getting sacked 55 times, tying Denver’s Russell Wilson for the most in the league. His season high for passing was 254 yards against Green Bay in Week 13 at Soldier Field.
“Whatever the defense presents, whichever way they’re gonna allow us to beat them, that’s what we’re gonna do,” Fields said. “Whatever I have to do for this team to win, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Rodgers and Favre led the way as the Packers took control of a rivalry in which the Bears long held the upper hand. They are 105-95-6 against Chicago, counting the playoffs.
Rodgers was 25-5 with an NFC championship game win at Soldier Field in the 2010 season. The Packers were 22-10 in games Favre started, including a 10-game win streak from 1994 to 1998 that is their longest in the series.
New Bears No. 1 receiver DJ Moore is ready to “get this going and rolling with Justin."
The Bears landed Moore and a package of draft picks from Carolina for the No. 1 pick in the draft, the biggest in a series of offseason moves. He figures to be tested by two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander.
Moore has done well against Green Bay, with 15 receptions for 251 yards in two games. Overall, he had 5,201 receiving yards in five seasons with the Panthers.
The Packers overhauled their special-teams unit in the offseason.
They drafted Anders Carlson out of Auburn in the sixth round to take over for Mason Crosby, who had been Green Bay’s kicker since 2007 and is the franchise’s career scoring leader. Carlson is the younger brother of Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson.
Daniel Whelan beat out incumbent Pat O’Donnell — a former Bear — for the Packers’ punting job. Whelan, who played in the XFL earlier this year, will be the first Irish-born NFL player since kicker Neil O’Donoghue played his final season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985.
The Bears were 0-6 against the NFC North in their first season under general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus. But they believe they're positioned to improve because of the moves they made to address their offense and defense.
“You know, we like where we are in our division," Eberflus said. "That’s why we play the games. We’re going to play these games and we’re going to see where we are and see where we need to grow and mature at some spots and get better at some spots.”
PACKERS’ YOUTH MOVEMENT
With Rodgers, Crosby and plenty of other players moving on, the Packers have transformed their roster. The oldest remaining Packer is 31-year-old offensive tackle David Bakhtiari. Outside linebacker Preston Smith and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell are both 30.
Two of the departing Packers veterans landed in Chicago. The Bears added a pair of former Green Bay tight ends in 39-year-old Marcedes Lewis and 29-year-old Robert Tonyan.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Green Bay, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.
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Andrew Seligman, The Associated Press