The NFL's oldest rivalry takes center stage in Week 6 when the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon. This will be the 203rd all-time meeting between the charter franchises of the NFL's "Black and Blue" (NFC North) division. Not only are both teams looking to return to the playoffs, but they also seek division supremacy, with the winner set to take first place. The Packers (4-1) and Bears (3-2) both have some momentum heading into this game. Green Bay will look to continue its dominance in this series, while Chicago hopes to change its recent fortunes against their fiercest rivals.
Green Bay (4-1) at Chicago (3-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Packers -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Both teams look to increase their winning streaks
After a 1-2 start in which they looked more sloppy than anything, the Bears have since cleaned things up and have won their last two games in the process. They've outscored the Lions and Raiders by a combined margin of 44-23 as Justin Fields has given this offense a new lease on life and the defense stepped its game up. Head coach Matt Nagy has been able to give himself some much-needed breathing room over these last two weeks. But the question is can the Bears keep this up?
Since being embarrassed by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, the Packers have won four straight by a combined score of 117-84. They've continued their dominance over Detroit, picked up a crucial road win over San Francisco, shocked Pittsburgh, and overcome three missed field goals to defeat Cincinnati in overtime. The Packers have also been solid on both sides of the ball, and they've quieted the doubters. A win on Sunday would not only give them five consecutive wins for the season, but it'll also give them their fifth straight win over the Bears (and the 10th win in their last 12 meetings).
2. They've made plays on both sides of the ball
During this two-game winning streak, the Bears offense has gained 625 total yards, gone 7-for-21 on third down (6-of-13 against the Raiders), averaged close to five yards per play, and moved the ball better with Fields at the helm. Speaking of the 11th overall pick, he's accounted for 333 of those 625 yards. He's also gotten support from a ground game that's put together 331 rushing yards during this stretch.
But the rushing attack could be an area of concern this week. Not only is David Montgomery still on the shelf with a hyperextended knee, but Tarik Cohen is still recovering from last year's torn ACL, and Damien Williams could miss this week's game after being placed on the COVID-19 list. Rookie Khalil Herbert is set to get the nod this week (82 rushing yards, 3.9 ypa). And while that could put more pressure on Fields and the passing game, this could also be Herbert's chance to solidify himself as a starting quality back in the NFL.
The Bears defense has also stepped up during this two-game span. They've held their last two opponents under the 20-point mark and collected seven sacks (two from Khalil Mack), 10 QB hits (three from Mack), 10 tackles for a loss (two from Mack), and three turnovers. While it's not exactly the defense of years past, their improvement has been a welcome sight, especially with Akiem Hicks out with a groin injury.
Hicks is questionable for this week. As are Mack (foot), wide receiver Allen Robinson II (ankle), cornerbacks Xavier Crawford (back) and Duke Shelley (ankle), linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe (hamstring), and safety Eddie Jackson (knee). Tight end J.P. Holtz (quad) and linebacker Caleb Johnson (knee) have been ruled out.
The Packers have also been on point with both units during their four-game winning streak. Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 250 or more yards and multiple touchdowns in each game, and he's averaging close to eight yards per pass attempt during this stretch. But he's also been sacked a total of nine times, something that the Bears — who lead the league with 18 sacks — will try to exploit.
Green Bay has also presented balance on offense, as evidenced by the 460 rushing yards they've recorded during those last four games. 333 of those yards alone are courtesy of Aaron Jones. The Packers are averaging four yards per rushing attempt during that span, and they'll be taking on a Bears team that ranks 12th (103.8 ypg) against the run.
The Green Bay defense has been just as impressive, as they've recorded 10 sacks, 10 TFLs, 30 QB hits, and eight takeaways during this streak. They've also held two of their last four opponents (Pittsburgh, San Francisco) under 100 rushing yards. Cornerback Kevin King is out with a shoulder injury, and offensive tackle Dennis Kelly is doubtful with a bad back, while offensive guard Elgton Jenkins (ankle), and wide receiver Malik Taylor (illness) are both questionable.
3. First place in the NFC North is on the line
Although this is just the second division game for both teams, the top spot in the NFC North standings is on the line. A win for the Bears would tie both teams for first place, while a win for the Packers would put the Bears two games back. A Bears loss, plus a Minnesota win over Carolina, would leave Chicago in a tie with the Vikings for second place. The Bears haven't won the division crown since 2018, while the Packers seek their third consecutive NFC North title.
The Packers own the all-time series 101-95-6. And in addition to winning 10 of the last 12 in this rivalry, Green Bay has also taken five of the last six meetings in Chicago. The Packers won both of last season's games by a combined score of 76-41. The Bears make it a much closer game this time around, but the Packers will head home with yet another win.
Prediction: Packers 27, Bears 24
— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.