When the 7-6 Green Bay Packers face the 3-10 Chicago Bears at frigid Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon, there will be a lot on the line.
The Packers need a win to continue their run at becoming either the NFC North champion, or at the very least, a NFC Wild Card team.
In fact, if the Packers do win versus da Bears, and the Detroit Lions lose on the road against the New York Giants, Green Bay will control it’s destiny in terms of winning the NFC North in 2016.
But there are other aspects to this game which are very important. The history between these two storied franchises is at the top of the list.
The Packers have been in the NFL since 1921 and have won 13 NFL titles and four Super Bowls.
The Bears have been in the NFL since 1920 and have won nine NFL titles and one Super Bowl.
No team in NFL history has won more NFL championships than either the Packers or Bears.
Since the two teams first started playing each other in the regular season starting in 1921, the Bears have won 93 games, while the Packers have won 92. Six games ended up in a tie.
The two teams have also met in the postseason twice, with each team winning once. The last time that happened was the 2010 NFC title game in Chicago, when the Packers won 21-14. The Packers went on to win Super Bowl XLV after that win at Soldier Field.
Just to illustrate how close this series between these Midwest rivals has been, just look at the point totals in this series which encompasses 193 games (regular season and postseason).
The Packers have scored 3,305 points, while the Bears have scored 3,304 points. It doesn’t get much closer than that.
And if the Packers do beat the Bears on Sunday afternoon, the series between the two teams will be tied to the first time since 1933, when it was knotted up at 11-11-4.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President of the United States way back then.
From 1921 through 1949, the Packers and founder/head coach Curly Lambeau took on the Bears and founder/head coach George Halas, but only went 18-32-4 in the regular season and also 0-1 in the postseason.
During that period, the Packers and Bears were considered the cream of the crop in the NFL, as Green Bay won six NFL titles, while Chicago won five.
When Vince Lombardi was the head coach of the Packers from 1959 through 1967, Green Bay won 13 of 18 games against Halas and the Bears. The Packers also won five NFL titles and two Super Bowls during that time, while the Bears won the 1963 NFL title.
The Packers fell behind in the series between the two teams mostly because of their play in three decades…the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s. The Packers were just 39-79-2 in the ’50s, 57-82-5 in the ’70s and 65-84-3 in the ’80s.
The Bears really dominated the series when Mike Ditka was head coach of the Bears from 1982 through 1992, as the Bears won 13 of 18 games.
The Packers have been able to narrow the margin with the Bears over the past two and a half decades thanks to the quarterback play of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
Favre was 22-10 versus the Bears in his career in Green Bay, while Rodgers has been even better than that. No. 12 is 13-4 against Chicago (plus is 1-0 in the NFC title game).
Rodgers has been magnificent for the most part when he plays the Bears. In the 17 regular season games he has played versus Chicago, No. 12 has thrown 38 touchdown passes, compared to just nine interceptions for 4,165 yards.
That adds up to a stellar career passer rating against the Bears of 106.8.
In the first game against Chicago this year at Lambeau Field, Rodgers completed 39-0f-56 passes for three touchdown and no picks for 326 yards, as the Packers won 26-10.
Rodgers has had many great moments against the Bears, with his win at Soldier Field in the 2010 NFC title game being on top of this list, but two other games also come to mind.
In a game at Lambeau Field in 2014, Rodgers threw six touchdown passes without a pick for 315 yards as the Packers won 55-14. That added up to an astonishing passer rating of 145.8.
But the final game of the 2013 season at Soldier Field had to have the most dramatic moment regarding the play of Rodgers against the Bears.
First, let’s look back on what had transpired before the game. Rodgers had missed seven games due to a broken collarbone he had suffered against Chicago in a Week 9 game in Green Bay, when the Packers lost 27-20.
Thanks to the play of backup quarterback Matt Flynn, the Packers had a chance to win the NFC North in Week 17 when they took on the Bears. It was a winner take all game. The winner would win the NFC North.
Rodgers was cleared to play against the Bears that game. Although Rodgers appeared to be a bit rusty due to his layoff, No. 12 threw for 315 yards with two touchdown passes versus two picks.
But the second touchdown he threw in that game was one that will live on in Green Bay lore. With 46 seconds to go in the game and with the Packers trailing the Bears 28-27, Rodgers and the Packers faced a fourth-and-8 scenario.
In the moment of truth, Rodgers first avoided being sacked by current Packer Julius Peppers by sprinting to his left and then he delivered a 48-yard touchdown pass on the move to Randall Cobb. The Packers won the game and also won the NFC North.
Rodgers will not be 100 percent when he faces the Bears on Sunday, as he suffered a calf strain early in the game last Sunday at Lambeau Field, when the Packers whipped the Seattle Seahawks 38-10.
The healing process for Rodgers won’t be helped by the weather conditions at Soldier Field on Sunday, as it looks to be one of the coldest home games the Bears have ever played in Chicago.
The Bears have been keeping weather records of their home games since 1963. The coldest home game the Bears have played up to this point was against the Packers…and Rodgers.
It was late in the 2008 season, when the game-time temperature at Soldier Field was just 2°. Currently, the expected temperature (per The Weather Channel) at Soldier Field tomorrow is going to be 7°, with wind gusts off Lake Michigan expected to be up to 16 miles per hour.
Speaking of Soldier Field, the Packers have actually played the Bears more in Chicago at Wrigley Field. That was where the Bears played until 1971.
The Packers first played at Soldier Field (which opened in 1924) in 1937, playing the College All-Stars in a game they lost 6-0. The Packers played seven more games versus the All-Stars over the years, concluding with a game in 1968. The Packers finished 6-2 in those games, with the last loss coming in 1963.
In terms of the game on Sunday, the Packers are riding a three-game winning streak. In those three games, the Packers have steadily improved in all facets of the game…offense, defense and special teams.
Currently, the Packers are ranked 12th in the NFL in total offense and 13th in total defense. The Bears on the other hand, are ranked 17th in total offense and eighth in total defense.
Even though the Packers will be starting Rodgers at quarterback, even somewhat hampered with the calf injury, and the Bears will be starting their third-string quarterback, Matt Barkley, the Packers should not take for granted that this game is definitely going in the win column.
One never knows what will happen when these two teams meet.
Last season was a good example. The Packers beat the Bears 31-23 in the season opener in Chicago and then faced the Bears on Thanksgiving night at Lambeau Field.
There was a lot on the line in that game too. For one, a victory for the Packers in that game would have evened the overall series between the teams, just like the opportunity Green Bay has on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Secondly, although the Packers didn’t know it then, but a win would have given the team an 11-5 record, which would have given Green Bay their fifth consecutive NFC North title, as they would have won the tie-breaker between them and the 11-5 Minnesota Vikings.
This was also only the second time Green Bay had ever hosted a Thanksgiving game. The first time was way back in 1923, when the Packers defeated the Hammond Pros 19-0 at Bellevue Park in Green Bay.
Finally, the Thanksgiving night game was the occasion when the Packers honored Brett Favre by unveiling his No. 4 on the facade at Lambeau. A number of Packers greats were on hand for the ceremony at halftime, including Bart Starr.
But even with all that as a backdrop, the Packers lost 17-13.
Bottom line, a victory on Sunday would solidify the chances of the Packers making the postseason in 2016, especially if the Lions also lose to the Giants.
That would mean a victory next week versus the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field and a win in Week 17 at Ford Field against the Lions would mean another NFC North title for Mike McCarthy and his Packers.
It would mean the sixth NFC North title for the Packers under McCarthy in his 11 years in Green Bay, as well as the team’s ninth appearance in the postseason during that time, which would also include a run of eight straight times participating in the NFL playoffs.
Yes, a lot is on the line this Sunday when the Packers face the Bears at Soldier Field.
And history will be a major component in the backdrop of this game in a series which dates back 95 years.