(WFRV) -The oldest rivals in the National Football League meet Sunday at Soldier Field, with first place on the line in the NFC North Division.
An extra dimension is added to the Green Bay-Chicago rivalry when the stakes are high, which has been the exception instead of the rule in the Aaron Rodgers era.
Former Bears head coach and hall of fame tight end Mike Ditka will be watching from the comfort of his living room or golf club.
“I’m in Florida already,” Ditka said this morning. “Playing a little golf, excited for the Bears-Packers game. I’ll be watching. It’s the Bears and Packers, the greatest and oldest rivalry in the National Football League. I like to get absorbed in the game.
“Should be a good one—we’ll learn a lot about the Bears team this week. No one expected much from the them this season, but they are surprising people. They play hard, run the ball, good defense. They’ve got it going in the right direction and have a chance.”
Ditka said the key is to slow down Aaron Rodgers, who is 21-5 as a starter versus Chicago, and Green Bay has won 19 of the last 22 meetings with the Bears.
“You’ve got to disrupt Rodgers to have a chance to stop the Packers,” Ditka said. “As I’ve said, Aaron and Tom Brady are two exceptions to the rule (of aging QBs). They’re special: hall of fame players with the physical talent and great leaders who make everyone else around them better. Rodgers knows how to win and makes the Packers go.”
Rodgers enjoys being a part of NFL’s oldest rivalry.
“I’m just a small part of this journey,” Rodgers said. “It’s been over 100 years of playing and fortunate to have this little time right now to be able to be a starter and impact the all-time series.
“Little Green Bay was getting beat up for a long time by our foes to the South and then Favrey (Brett Favre) showed up and we closed the gap and then we’re overtaking them. But I don’t think it’s the most important part of the all-time legacy. . . It’s always a battle against them and always fun when we can beat ‘em.”
In the Aaron Rodgers era, the Packers have simply dominated the series, which Green Bay leads 101-95-6 all-time.
Both teams enter Sunday’s contest on winning streaks. Green Bay, after a horrific opening loss in Florida to New Orleans, has reeled off four consecutive victories despite missing key starters to injury.
The Chicago offense, under rookie quarterback Justin Fields, looked anemic three weeks ago. But the Bears “Monsters of the Midway” defense has spearheaded two straight victories over Detroit and Las Vegas. Chicago will be without its top three running backs, with Damien Williams ruled out and placed on the COVID-19 list.
The Bears will have to rely on their dual-threat rookie to make plays on a Green Bay defense missing key starters in the secondary.
Keys to the game for the Packers: protect Rodgers and establish the run, pressure and contain Field, and be more productive in the red zone with key weapons: Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and Robert Tonyan.
Don’t be surprised if head coach Matt LaFleur opens up the playbook with some creative options kept under wraps since training camp for this showdown in Chicago. Green Bay is in the middle of a brutal four-games-out-of-five stretch on the road, and this NFC showdown at Soldier Field is crucial to a winning record during this stretch.
Week 6 NFL Picks
Packers 27, Bears 23
It’s Bears week. That alone should overwhelm any potential for a letdown after an emotional victory in Cincinnati. Defense must pressure Fields and continue to create turnovers as Packers offense gets more aggressive in red zone to finish drives. Rodgers and Green Bay find a way.