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What Can We Expect From Justin Fields In His Return?

  • The Draft Network
  • December 8, 2021
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The Chicago Bears confirmed on Wednesday that rookie quarterback Justin Fields will make his return to the starting lineup in Sunday night’s matchup against the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers, giving Bears fans—and football fans in general—more of a reason to watch what’s expected to be a one-sided affair. Fields missed the last two games with a rib injury.

Fields’ continued development over the next five games is the most important objective remaining for the Bears this season. Playing in a rivalry game against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers is a critical experience for him, especially in primetime and at Lambeau Field. Fields had his first taste of the league’s oldest feud in a 24-14 Bears loss in Week 6, but there’s just something different about traveling into hostile territory in this matchup.

Still, the expectations for Fields have to be reasonable. He hasn’t lit the league on fire since becoming the Bears’ starter in Week 3; he’s completed just 58% of his passes and has thrown twice as many interceptions as touchdowns (4:8). Not great by any standard, but there’s no doubt Fields has looked the part in most, if not all, of the games he’s played in this season. Having an opportunity to put more positive plays on tape against the Packers in December is a crucial phase of his development. 

The Packers will pose a difficult matchup for Fields and his limited experience. They rank ninth in the NFL in passing yards allowed and have intercepted opposing quarterbacks 12 times, good for the 12th-best total. Green Bay’s registered 28 sacks, too, which by comparison is just five fewer than the Bears through Week 13. Factor in the below-freezing temperatures expected during the game, and it’ll be a challenging outing for the 11th overall pick in just about every way.

But that's why the Bears picked Fields in the first place, isn’t it? He’s supposed to be the kind of quarterback who can overcome adversity, whether it’s an opposing defense or a frigid cold front. He shouldn’t feel the pressure that comes along with this rivalry, and he shouldn’t have anxiety over squaring off against a player of Rodgers’ stature. Chicago traded up for Fields, after all. They gave up their 2022 first-round pick to make sure he was theirs because he’s supposed to be that good. For the most part, and despite the naysayers who quote the stat sheet, he has been.

The reality, however, is that the Bears need to see more this week. They need to feel his ‘it’ factor. They need Fields to have more than just a ridiculous touchdown run like he did against the San Francisco 49ers or a game-flipping (but not winning) penultimate drive against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has to have a signature game, not just a signature moment. The Bears need Fields to keep them in the game, for four quarters, because of four quarters of quality football. And if he does that, the arrow will be pointing way up as the 2021 season slowly comes to a close.

No one is expecting Fields to go to Green Bay and beat the Packers. But it’s fair to expect him to give the Cheeseheads a scare. In a way, it’ll be a sneak peek at what the next decade of Bears-Packers games could look like with a quality quarterback in Chicago. And remember: there won’t be a Hall-of-Fame quarterback in Green Bay for much longer.

Don’t expect big stats, lots of touchdowns, or even a victory from Fields on Sunday night. That said, it’s time for him to show the Bears that he and he alone can keep Chicago in a game that’s as big of a mismatch as Week 14 has to offer. If he does that, it’ll be mission accomplished.

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