The Bears can clinch the NFC North championship with a win over the Packers Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) How will the Bears defense fare against longtime nemesis Aaron Rodgers?
Something's got to give in a clash between an opportunistic defense that leads the NFL with 25 interceptions and a future Hall of Fame quarterback who has been picked off only once all season on 495 attempts. The two-time NFL MVP has not thrown an interception in his last 368 passes, an NFL record that he set last Sunday in a win over the Falcons in Green Bay. In his last eight starts against the Bears, Rodgers has thrown for 24 touchdowns with just one pick. The one interception—by Tracy Porter—helped the Bears beat the Packers 17-13 on Thanksgiving night in 2015 in Green Bay.
Rodgers has won 14 of the last 15 games he's started and finished against the Bears, including eight straight victories in Chicago beginning with the 2010 NFC title game. Although the Packers have lost five of seven since starting the season 3-2-1, any offense quarterbacked by Rodgers should be considered extremely dangerous.
"This team that we're facing is highly talented on offense, starting with the quarterback, who we all know about," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "Then you've got [receiver Davante] Adams, and [Aaron] Jones at running back, [Jimmy] Graham and [Randall] Cobb. This is a very talented offense that has been very productive in their time there. It's going to be a major challenge in this game."
(2) Will Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky bounce back from a sub-par performance in last Sunday night's win over the Rams?
Trubisky posted a career-low 33.3 passer rating in his return to action after missing two games with a right shoulder injury. The second-year pro conceded that he was so ecstatic about being back on the field that he tried to do too much.
"It wasn't national TV. It wasn't who we were playing. I was just excited to be back out there with my guys," Trubisky said. "I was focused on the wrong things—coming out there and trying to make big plays and trying to go out there and do too much.
"I should have just had a more focused mindset of, ‘OK, I just need to do my job. I just need to find completions. I just need to catch the snap, do my footwork and get the ball to my playmakers' rather than being too amped up about being out there with my guys and trying to make all-world plays. I just need to go out there and do my job."
Being so amped up against the Rams caused Trubisky to rush his footwork and his throws, which led to three interceptions. "I've just got to keep continuing to follow through, weight shift and just make the throws that I know how to make," he said. "I think I was rushing my footwork a little bit, antsy to get the ball out, excited to get some completions. I've just got to play within myself and this offense, within the timing and get the ball to our playmakers."
(3) Will the changing of the guard in the NFC North become official?
With a win over their fiercest rival Sunday, the Bears can clinch their first division title and earn their first playoff berth since 2010. Over the last seven seasons, the Packers (2011-14 and 2016) have won five NFC North championships and the Vikings (2015 and 2017) have captured two division crowns. The Bears, meanwhile, have finished in last place each of the previous four seasons.
The Bears' magic number to clinch the NFC North is one, meaning that they'd win the division Sunday even with a loss to the Packers if the Vikings also lose to the Dolphins in Minnesota. If the Bears lose and the Vikings win, the Bears would still clinch a playoff berth if the Redskins lose to the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
The Bears, of course, would like to take care of their own business by beating the Packers. "It would be very exciting," Trubisky said. "We know this is a big week for us and a lot comes with it. But we've just got to keep it simple. Everyone go out there and play hard, play together. Everyone do their job and just focus on being 1-0. If you try to make it bigger than what it is, sometimes you lose track of what you need to do. I think if everyone stays locked in, focused and just stay concentrated on that theme of finishing, then we'll be in a good spot to do what we want to do."
(4) Will the Bears avenge their disappointing Week 1 loss to the Packers?
The Bears jumped to a 20-0 lead early in the third quarter of their season opener in Green Bay before Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in the game's final 9:01 to lift the Packers to a 24-23 comeback win. Coach Matt Nagy vowed that his team would rebound and learn from the loss, and they've done both. They won their next three games after the bitter loss and sit atop the NFC North with a 9-4 record.
Nagy showed his players tape of their Week 1 loss this week, in part to keep them motivated and hungry.
"You always remember all your losses, way more than you remember your wins," Nagy said. "And they sting, especially when you have the lead like we did and we didn't finish like we needed to. They remember that, they feel it, and I want them to remember that because sometimes when you go through the season and you have success like we've had, you can forget that sting, and I don't want them to forget that sting because we've got a ways to go here."