Kicking off 2019 with Packers vs. Bears
The NFL goes old school this week as it opens its 100th season, kicking things off with a rivalry that’s almost as old as the league itself.
Thursday, Sept. 5, on NBC, a clash of NFC North adversaries is on tap as Aaron Rodgers leads the Green Bay Packers onto the hostile turf of Soldier Field to face Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago Bears. This will be the 199th time these teams meet in their history, with the Pack owning a 97-95-6 edge going head-to-head in regular and postseason play.
The rivalry began in 1921 when the Packers defeated what was then known as the Chicago Staleys (named for the team’s owners, the A.E. Staley food starch company) 20-0. Since then, there have been blowouts (most notably, a 61-7 Bears victory in 1980), high-scoring affairs (a 52-31 Bears win in ’55) and a few shutouts, including a 0-0 double blanking in 1932. There have also been memorable individual performances like Brett Favre’s 99-yard touchdown pass to Robert Brooks in 1995 and Rodgers’ six TD game in 2014.
Of course, longstanding rivalries also have bad blood and this one is no exception. The most notable came in 1985, when the Packers left horse manure in the Bears’ locker room at Lambeau Field. The Bears would go on to win that game, 16-10, and the Super Bowl later that year.
As for this game, it’s the chance for the Bears to prove that last year’s worst-to-first 12-4 2018 season was no fluke and for former first-round draft pick Trubisky to continue his development at QB. Stalwarts such as Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Roquan Smith and Akiem Hicks will return to man a defense that ranked third overall in the NFL in ’18.
For the Packers, it’s the beginning of a new era under rookie coach Matt LaFleur, as the team will try to rebound from a 6-9-1 2018 record and back-to-back seasons out of the playoffs. Toward that end, free agents Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos have been imported to bolster a defense that lost Clay Matthews during the offseason, while former two-time MVP Rodgers is once again healthy and expected to bounce back in a big way in 2019.
It’s football like it oughta be for the Thursday Night Kickoff, as only an age-old NFC North battle can provide.