The Bears (7-6) will look to extend their winning streak to four games Sunday when they visit the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Here are four storylines to monitor in the game:
(1) Will quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense continue their recent resurgence?
Trubisky and the offense hope to keep performing Sunday in Green Bay as well as they have in recent weeks. In their first 10 games this season, the Bears averaged 17.0 points and generated more than 300 yards only once. In consecutive wins over the Giants, Lions and Cowboys, they've scored 19, 24 and 31 points and compiled 335, 412 and 382 yards, respectively.
"I just feel like we're kind of in a rhythm now," Trubisky said this week. "We're a different team. I just feel like we have a new-found identity of what we want to do and everybody is really locked into what they have to do within their job description on the offense."
Trubisky and the offense need to perform much better than they did in their first meeting with the Packers this year; the Bears were held without a touchdown on 12 possessions in a 10-3 loss in the season opener in Chicago.
Trubisky and his teammates will face a defense with a fierce pass rush; the Packers are the only NFL team that boasts two players with double-digit sacks in outside linebackers Preston Smith (11.5) and Za'Darius Smith (10).
(2) Will the Bears defense be able to contain Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers?
Rodgers has won 15 of the last 17 games he has started and finished against the Bears and has thrown 25 touchdown passes and just two interceptions in his last 10 starts versus Chicago. This season the future Hall of Famer has passed for 3,260 yards with 23 TDs, two interceptions and a 102.0 passer rating. He is the NFL's all-time leader with a 103.0 career rating.
Asked what makes Rodgers so special, Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said: "You can make a whole list about it. He can get out of the pocket, keep his eyes downfield, great accuracy with the ball, smart quarterback; able to make his checks and reads at the line. He knows how to manipulate his offense and play well. It's what you expect from a player of his caliber."
The Bears will look to pressure Rodgers like they have in recent meetings; they've sacked him five times in each of their last two games against him after compiling five sacks just once in 21 prior meetings. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has excelled against the Packers, recording 7.5 sacks, 22 tackles and 10 quarterback hits in seven career games.
(3) How much will Hicks play and how effective will he be?
Hicks has practiced the past two weeks and is expected to play Sunday after missing eight games with an elbow injury he suffered Oct. 6 in a loss to the Raiders in London. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle is a force against the run and pass, and his return would provide a big boost for a defense that has been depleted by injuries at all three levels.
It's unknown how much Hicks will be able to play, something that likely will be determined as the game progresses. His presence figures to help against a balanced Packers offense that not only features Rodgers but running back Aaron Jones. Green Bay's 2017 fifth-round draft pick has rushed for a career-high 779 yards and 12 touchdowns on 175 carries this year, including a season-high 134 yards on 16 attempts last Sunday in a win over the Redskins.
"They're moving him around and doing a lot of different things," said coach Matt Nagy. "He runs hard between the tackles. He has great hands. He can run routes like a wide receiver. And he's a smart football player. You take that element, and I think they're probably pretty happy with having him back there."
(4) Will the Bears keep their faint playoff hopes alive?
Last season the Bears beat the Packers in Week 15 to clinch the NFC North title and eliminate Green Bay from playoff contention.
The teams have switched roles a year later in Week 15, with the Packers needing a win coupled with a Rams loss to clinch a playoff spot and the Bears trying to keep their slim post-season hopes alive.
Winning four of their last five games has kept the Bears in playoff contention, but just barely. They can still win the NFC North, but only if they win their final three games, the Packers lose their final three and the Vikings lose to the Chargers and Lions.
To earn the second and final NFC wild-card berth, the Bears (7-6) have to make up two games on both the Vikings (9-4) and Rams (8-5). A win over Minnesota in the season finale would give the Bears the tiebreaker over the Vikings, but they would lose the tiebreaker with the Rams due to a Week 11 loss in Los Angeles.
The Bears would be eliminated from playoff contention Sunday with a loss in Green Bay coupled with a Vikings win over the Chargers or a Rams victory over the Cowboys.