Sunday's Bears-Packers tilt could permanently alter face of NFC North
Sunday's season finale officially only helps determine whether the Packers qualify for the playoffs. However, the game could have long-lasting impacts on three NFC North teams.
More than five years have passed since the Chicago Bears last defeated the Green Bay Packers. Much has changed for the "Monsters of the Midway" in that time, including eight different starting quarterbacks, multiple head coaches, and a push for a new stadium. However, no matter what the Bears have tried, the last nine games against their hated archrivals to the north all ended the same way.
To many in Chicago, the nadir of the losing streak to Green Bay arrived on Oct. 17, 2021. The Bears competed admirably against a heavily favored opponent that day, spending the vast majority of the game within a touchdown of the Packers. Justin Fields, then a rookie taking part in the rivalry for the first time, overcame some early mistakes to put together a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to pull his team within three during the fourth quarter.
But Chicago's hopes to rebalance the rivalry instead set up the latest humiliation at the hands of the Packers. In four plays, quarterback Aaron Rodgers drove the offense to the precipice of the red zone, missing out on the game-sealing touchdown by a single misplaced step along the sideline by wideout Davante Adams. That only delayed the inevitable, as Rodgers would take the ball across the goal line himself moments later.
Rodgers' touchdown put the game out of reach, but he had more torment to deliver. Seconds after scoring, the veteran signal-caller uttered four words from which the Bears have yet to recover.
"I still own you," Rodgers shouted to the exasperated Soldier Field crowd as he and his teammates paraded around the end zone in celebration.
As the calendar turns to 2024, Rodgers' declaration still reverberates around the walls of Halas Hall. The Bears will end their season in a matter of days, closing the book on another losing campaign. With no playoff berth on the line in Week 18, they merely hope to play spoiler at Lambeau Field.
But unofficially, the stakes couldn't look much higher for Chicago this Sunday. Matt Eberflus, the team's head coach since 2022, has a 10-23 overall record and might need to close the year with a victory in order to extend his tenure. The same could apply to Fields who, three years into his NFL career, has yet to provide proof of concept as a franchise QB. Neither has notched a win over the Packers together and each could use one in the worst way.
But while the 208th meeting of the Bears and Packers will serve as a referendum on a head coach and quarterback, the ripple effect of the game could extend beyond the two teams involved. Due to the numerous factors at play, Sunday's showdown holds the potential to permanently alter the face of the NFC North.