The Bears have already made major strides this season—they remain in first place in the NFC North after finishing last each of the past four years. But Sunday's game against the Patriots will provide a litmus test to show just how far they've come.
Led by coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, New England boasts one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history. In 17 seasons with Brady as their starting quarterback, the Patriots have won 15 division titles and five Super Bowls. They've appeared in 12 AFC Championship Games, including the last seven in a row.
"They're a great opponent and they're always in the mix every single year," said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. "No matter how they start, they always finish strong and they get better every single week throughout the year.
"It will be a great challenge for this team this week and we'll kind of have a good measurement of where we're at as a team and how we've grown from last year and the first bunch of games this year. We're excited about this weekend. We'll definitely be able to see where we're at against a very high-caliber opponent."
Brady is considered by many to be the greatest quarterback in NFL history. The future Hall of Famer has won three NFL MVP awards and been voted to 13 Pro Bowls. He was named league MVP last season at the age of 40 when he passed for a league-leading 4,577 yards with 32 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 102.8 passer rating.
"It doesn't matter what the score is with him," said coach Matt Nagy. "He just has this mentality that at the end of the game, they're going to win because of him. He's going to make a special throw. He's going to get on his guys if he needs to, but he's the ultimate competitor, and then he's extremely accurate with his throws."
Trubisky was five years old when Brady was selected by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Michigan. What impresses Trubisky most about Brady is his production and consistency over such a long period of time.
"I admire his competitiveness and just following his journey and what he's had to overcome to be able to get where he's at," Trubisky said. "It's very admirable, and doing it this long, this well over a long period of time is pretty incredible."
Last Sunday night against the Chiefs, Brady won the 200th game of his career, the most in NFL history by a quarterback.
"As a quarterback, you're judged by how many games you win and he's been successful at that as well," Trubisky said. "Obviously, he's one of the best to do it. It's cool to watch his film as well as many other guys over the years to pick up anything you possible can. He's had a lot of success, so you definitely look at what kind of traits he has to be able to lead his team to that many wins over a long period of time.
"He's just really been able to push the limits at what can be accomplished at this position and how everybody looks at it. He's really taken this thing to new levels and it'll be cool to compete against him on Sunday."
The Bears have lost all four of their previous meetings with Brady, falling 33-30 in 2002, 17-13 in 2006, 36-7 in 2010 and 51-23 in 2014.
The Bears are certainly cognizant of the Patriots' success, but they won't be awed when they step on the field Sunday at Soldier Field.
"We just want to worry about what we do," Nagy said. "It's very important for us. We've talked about being able to protect home field and Soldier Field and the crowd and everybody being there; use that to our advantage.
"We get a chance to come back home and to play in our own environment. They're looking forward to it. The nice thing is we have a nice balance of young guys but with some veterans that have played against them and seen them and done that. So, there's a great respect, but yet let's go."