Opponent preview: Fox hopes to rebuild Bears

Ryan Wood
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A September trip to Chicago used to be as rare as a Super Bowl title for the Green Bay Packers.

From 1924 to 2009, the Packers traveled to the Chicago Bears in the season’s opening month four times. Most seasons, a trip to Chicago meant frigid winds off Lake Michigan, chillingly unpleasant for a road team.

That won’t be the case in 2015.

The Packers open their season with a noon kickoff at the Bears on Sept. 13, continuing a trend in recent years. It will be their fourth September game in Chicago since 2010, matching the total from the previous 85 years.

The season’s rematch will come Nov. 26 at Lambeau Field. Weather will be plenty cold Thanksgiving evening when the Packers unveil legendary quarterback Brett Favre’s No. 4 on the Lambeau Field facade.

Think you know everything about the Packers’ bitter rival? Not so fast. The Bears have a new coach, a new defensive scheme, a couple new receivers. Of course, they also have the same ol’ quarterback, Jay Cutler.

Three things to know

» 1. New sheriff in town: With one of the league’s worst defenses last season, the Bears turned to John Fox. Hired after leading the Denver Broncos to four straight AFC West titles, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII, Fox is now tasked to end the Packers’ streak of four straight NFC North titles. It won’t be easy. The Bears are in rebuilding mode — a project that will take a couple of years at least — but Fox has the type of staggering résumé that should give Bears fans hope. Most importantly, he has a track record of constructing sturdy defenses.

» 2. History repeats: The Packers will unveil Brett Favre’s jersey number on the Lambeau Field facade against the Bears, and they’re an appropriate opponent to do so. Favre usually got the better of the Bears, finishing his career with a 22-10 record against Chicago. During the Favre era, the Packers were better than the Bears because they always had the better quarterback. Which, of course, is why the Packers currently own the rivalry. Rodgers has a 12-3 record against the Bears as a starter. He’s thrown for 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions against the Bears. So long as the Packers maintain an extreme quarterback edge, they’ll continue to dominate the rivalry.

» 3. Still their Forte: He isn’t getting any younger, but Matt Forte remains the Bears’ best player at age 29. Forte has practically been a 1,000-yard running back each of the past six seasons (he rushed for 997 in 2011), and he’s the best receiving tailback in the league. His 102 catches last season were 19 more than any running back. With the position’s wear and tear, Forte is entering an age at which many running backs begin their decline. Fox’s influence on offense could prevent that. The Bears always run their offense through Forte, and Fox’s conservative, run-oriented approach will ensure the tailback gets plenty of touches this fall.

Packers schedule glimpse

Week before: Preseason finale against Saints, Sept. 3

Week after: Home opener against Seahawks, Sept. 20

On the horizon: “Monday Night Football” home against Chiefs, Sept. 28

Chicago Bears

Here’s a look at the Packers’ opening opponent of the 2015 season.

Coach: John Fox (first season).

2014 record: 5-11, fourth NFC North.

Scoring offense: 19.9 points per game (23rd in NFL).

Total offense: 327.1 yards per game (21st).

Scoring defense: 27.6 points allowed per game (31st).

Total defense: 377.1 yards allowed per game (30th).

Series: Packers trail 93-91 (1-1 in postseason).

Last meeting: The Packers dismantled the Bears 55-14 on Nov. 9, their last meeting at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers tied an NFL record with six touchdown passes in the first half; he had only six incompletions in the first half. The Packers led 42-0 at halftime. In their first meeting of the season — another September game in Chicago — the Packers led by only four points at halftime before pulling away to a 38-17 win.

— and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood.

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