With changes on both sides, Bears coach Matt Eberflus gets fresh start vs. Packers

Between Aaron Rodgers’ departure and the Bears’ many additions, Eberflus likes how his team stacks up this season better than he did last season.

SHARE With changes on both sides, Bears coach Matt Eberflus gets fresh start vs. Packers
Matt Eberflus and Matt LaFleur talked before a game at Soldier Field.

Eberflus (left) is 0-2 against the Packers, while LaFleur (right) is 8-0.

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It’s a nice break for Bears coach Matt Eberflus that, in only his second season, he is free of the problem that undid so many of his predecessors. With Aaron Rodgers gone, Eberflus gets a fresh start against the Packers.

Perhaps the Packers’ new starting quarterback, Jordan Love, is headed for greatness, like Rodgers and Brett Favre before him. For now, however, he’s just trying to prove himself in what will be his second career start.

When the Packers come to Soldier Field for the season opener Sunday, they don’t have a superpower anymore. They’re just another team, not an NFC North juggernaut steamrolling the Bears and the rest of the division.

And Eberflus is feeling pretty good about that.

He caught the tail end of Rodgers as he swept the stripped-down Bears last season, but both rosters have changed to the Bears’ benefit. Rodgers’ exit was cause enough for celebration, and now Eberflus has a roster that’s actually viable.

After an offseason of upgrades nearly across the board, game-planning has been much different than it was for the games against the Packers last season. When Eberflus went through the one-on-one matchups, he said ‘‘for sure’’ he saw significantly more of them pointing to the Bears’ advantage.

‘‘We have acquired a lot of players — some good ones if you look at both sides of the ball,’’ he said after practice Monday. ‘‘We’re excited about those guys being able to go against our rival.’’

That’s not nearly flammable enough to qualify as bulletin-board material for the Packers, but it’s obvious Eberflus likes his chances Sunday. Vegas sees at least a little of what he sees, by the way, and the Bears are a one-point favorite. They haven’t been favored against the Packers since the 2019 opener, when they mistakenly thought they were headed to the Super Bowl.

But the last time they saw the Packers, the Bears sent out Justin Fields against Rodgers.

A hobbled Chase Claypool was their top receiver that day. Now he’s the second or third option after DJ Moore and possibly Darnell Mooney.

Cornerback Jaylon Johnson was the only starting-caliber player in the secondary, which now can make a case that it will be one of the best in the NFL.

The Bears started Nick Morrow, now on the Eagles’ practice squad, and undrafted rookie Jack Sanborn at linebacker in that game. They’ve been replaced by $91.5 million worth of free-agent help in Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards.

The list goes on. Every aspect of the Bears’ roster, even their still-under-construction defensive line, projects to be better than it was last season. Can the Packers say that?

Eberflus expects Packers coach Matt LaFleur to maintain a similar scheme offensively, but he quickly mentioned that personnel is king. The key is identifying advantages and exploiting them, and it would’ve been hard for the Bears to find many in this matchup last season.

‘‘It’s always about matching up against their good players,’’ said Eberflus, who knows all too well what it’s like to claw through a season without many.

Matt Nagy went up against Rodgers with a world-class defense but with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback. He went 1-7 against the Packers. John Fox didn’t have much of anything anywhere and went 1-5. Marc Trestman managed 1-3.

Lovie Smith, who caught a mix of Favre and Rodgers, was the last Bears coach with a somewhat tolerable record against the Packers at 8-11.

Given the struggles that followed, Smith’s record looks amazing. The Bears held a four-game lead in the series after his final season, and now the Packers are up 10.

The way the Bears seemed resigned to Rodgers’ dominance was embarrassing. When he screamed that he owned them after running for a touchdown at Soldier Field in 2021, there was no rebuttal. That was just life.

But not anymore. Eberflus started down a dismal path at 0-2, but then Rodgers forced a trade to the Jets and Bears-Packers became a relatively even fight going into this season. Going .500 against the Packers should be the new minimum acceptable standard.

Maybe the Bears would have considered that an unreasonable expectation during the Rodgers years, but enough has shifted on both sides that they should be more ambitious. Eberflus seems to think that way, and he’s got a prime opportunity to steer the Bears out of their misery.

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