Sixth in a 13-part series on the teams the Green Bay Packers will face in the 2016 regular season.
Maybe this year, the Green Bay Packers can even the all-time series against their hated divisional rival.
It’s something the Packers were expected to do last season. They were the NFC North favorites, and the Chicago Bears finished last in the division. A rare home loss to the Bears prevented the Packers from pulling even, ensuring they would have to win both games this year to do so. The Bears now lead the all-time series with a record of 94-92-6.
The Packers will get their first chance Oct. 20, a Thursday night game at Lambeau Field. It is the second straight season the Packers will host the Bears on a Thursday night, and the second straight season that game comes on short rest. Bears coach John Fox surely would have preferred one of those short weeks to end with a Bears home game, but coach Mike McCarthy will gladly take the advantage.
The Packers then play the Bears on what could be a frigid night Dec. 18. The last time the Packers traveled to Chicago that late in the season, Randall Cobb caught a fourth-down bomb from Aaron Rodgers that kept the division title in Green Bay.
Here are three things to know about the Packers’ division rival.
» Not their Forte: It will be weird to see the Bears without longtime running back Matt Forte. The Bears decided it was time to let the 31-year-old Forte depart in free agency. Forte signed with the New York Jets, providing them one of the league’s best dual-threat tailbacks over the past few seasons, but it's no guarantee those skills will carry into the future at his age. The Bears believe they have enough to replace Forte with Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey, but it’s never easy to move on without a player who had 64 touchdowns and almost 13,000 yards from scrimmage in eight seasons.
» A patient Fox? After finishing last in the NFC North in 2014, the Bears expected improvement when they hired Fox to be their coach last offseason. They did improve, but barely. The Bears finished 6-10 in Fox’s first season, only one game better than 2014. Of course, one of those wins was at Lambeau Field, something that is sure to ingratiate Fox to his fan base. Still, it’s hard to see the Bears competing for an NFC North title this season, and it will be interesting to see what happens if they finish last in the division for a third straight year. Fox has won everywhere he’s been, leading the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, so you would expect the Bears to be patient in his first couple of seasons. Regardless, he has a lot of work to do in Chicago.
» White returns: The Bears essentially got two first-round draft picks this year, because along with outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, 2015 first-round pick Kevin White should play his first games in Chicago. White, drafted seventh overall, was one of two receivers expected to be elite in the 2015 class. The other was Amari Cooper, who went on to catch 72 passes for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns with the Oakland Raiders last season. White, meanwhile, was expected to replace the departed Brandon Marshall, but he missed his entire rookie season with a stress fracture in a shin that required surgery. If healthy, White might be the explosive boost the Bears' passing game desperately needs.
Packers schedule glimpse
Oct. 20 vs. Bears, 7:25 p.m., CBS and NFL Network
Week before: vs. Cowboys, Oct. 16
Week after: at Falcons, Oct. 30
On the horizon: vs. Colts, Nov. 6
Dec. 18 at Bears, noon, Fox
Week before: vs. Seahawks, Dec. 11
Week after: vs. Vikings, Dec. 24
On the horizon: at Lions, Jan. 1
Coach: John Fox (6-10, sixth season).
2015 record: 6-10, fourth NFC North.
Scoring offense: 20.9 points per game (23rd in NFL).
Total offense: 344.6 yards per game (21st).
Scoring defense: 24.8 points allowed per game (20th).
Total defense: 345.4 yards allowed per game (14th).
Series: Packers trail 91-93 (1-1 postseason).
Last meeting: The Packers' bid to tie their all-time series against the Bears fell eight yards short with an incomplete pass from Aaron Rodgers on fourth-and-goal inside the final minute. The 17-13 loss on a soggy, sloppy Thanksgiving night put a damper on a special halftime ceremony to retire Brett Favre’s number. It was the first time the Packers lost to the Bears at home since Rodgers’ broken collarbone in 2013, and only the second time since he became the starting quarterback in 2008.
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