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Chicago Bears

Arkush: Sunday vs. Packers looks like it should be all Bears

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky scrambles out of the pocket during their game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday night at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky scrambles out of the pocket during their game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday night at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Dating to 1992 and the beginning of the Brett Favre era, the Packers are 40-14 vs. the Bears, including five straight wins, nine of the past 10 and 15 of the past 17.

In a nutshell, that is why Sunday’s game may feel like it’s a lot more important to Bears fans than it is to the team itself.

As many as nine of the Bears starters Sunday will be starting only their second game against Green Bay as Bears.

That is not to say these Bears don’t understand the importance of this rivalry and the significance of the game.

Every player on the team suffered what was arguably the most stinging defeat of their football careers in the Bears’ opener at Green Bay this season, when they blew a 20-0 lead with less than 19 minutes to play and Aaron Rodgers playing on one leg.

It also is crystal clear that while the Bears need only to win one of their final three games to clinch the NFC North title and a playoff berth, it will mean so much more if they can do it against Green Bay.

However, what is being lost in all of this is how much these two teams have changed since the opening day of this season.

Muhammad Wilkerson, Mike Daniels, Nick Perry, Jake Ryan, Kevin King and Geronimo Allison were projected to be among the most important stars on this Packers team this year – and all are on injured reserve.

As if that isn’t enough for the Packers to overcome, their best remaining defensive player, Kenny Clark, two key offensive linemen – Bryan Bulaga and Lane Taylor – and Clay Matthews all will be limited or could miss Sunday’s game, and Jimmy Graham and Randall Cobb will be trying to play through injuries.

The Packers that the Bears see Sunday will be a shadow of the club that stuck a dagger in them 14 weeks ago.

The Bears, on the other hand, are arguably the healthiest team in the league.

So how can the Bears lose? The same way as last time: Aaron Rodgers.

Although the Packers’ quarterback is not having anywhere near his best season, he has remarkably thrown only one interception in
495 pass attempts this year, and for all the Bears have done well, the biggest difference between them and their opponents has been their league-best 25 picks, six more than No. 2 Miami and 10 more than the Browns and Giants.

With all the injuries and added turmoil of the firing of Mike McCarthy two weeks ago, the Packers are 11th in the NFL in total offense, only 19th in rushing but third in average gain a rush, 10th throwing the ball and 15th in points scored.

That pales next to the Bears’ defense, which is third in total ‘D,’ second vs. the run, 10th vs. the pass and third in points allowed, but it isn’t horrible either.

The key on this side of the ball is the Packers are only 23rd in the NFL converting third downs and 21st in time of possession, while the Bears are third in the league getting teams off the field on third down and fourth in time of possession.

If Rodgers can’t keep his offense on the field, the Packers will lose.

Green Bay’s defense has been up and down, strong vs. the pass (No. 10) primarily because they are second in the NFL in quarterback sack percentage.

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is coming off his worst game as a pro and will have to be better Sunday, but it’s worth noting that Jordan Howard is coming off his best game of the season Sunday vs. the Rams, and his second best was the opener at Lambeau, when he picked up 82 yards on 15 carries.

Nagy has used Howard reluctantly this year, but he may be the key to the Bears controlling this game.

This much is clear: The Packers have owned the Bears for a long time, and that won’t change until the Bears bury the Pack once and for all.

Every way you look at this game, that should happen Sunday at Soldier Field, but the next sure thing in the NFL will be the first.

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