Arkush: Just how special is the Bears-Packers rivalry? A win Sunday would be big
For a rivalry to be truly great it has to have a sizable and historic portfolio, and a deep, personal meaning to all who attend to it.
Historically, no two teams have had a greater impact on the 101 seasons of the NFL than the Bears and the Packers.
No team has won as many championships as the Packers with 13. The Bears are second with nine.
No team has as many players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the Bears with 30. The Packers are second with 26.
Name two coaches that have had the impact on the game and the league that George Halas and Vince Lombardi did.
No two teams have met more often -- 200 times in the regular season and twice in the playoffs -- and no other rivalry is close to as competitive with the Packers currently holding a 101-95-6 lead in which they've outscored the Bears 3,541 to 3,465 -- just 76 points, less than half a point per game.
The special games and moments are far too great to try and detail here, but how many NFL games actually have their own names like the Tiger Greene-Ken Stills Game, the Charles Martin Game, the Instant Replay Game, the Brian Robinson-Walter Payton Game, the Chris Conte-Randall Cobb Game, etc.
Players on both sides mark it on their calendars.
"Again it's something that I felt from the day I signed here, the rivalry between Chicago and the Packers, so you know, I think it's very prevalent for us as players," Allen Robinson said Tuesday.
His young sidekick, Darnell Mooney agreed.
"It's an extreme thing. I love the culture of it. I want to be able to win every time," Mooney said. "I didn't understand the culture as much last year, but I definitely understand it more now for sure."
Sadly for the Bears and their fans they've been in quite the slump, dropping the last four and 16 of the last 19 meetings.
But, ironically, that could be what makes this Sunday's 203rd meeting that much more compelling.
At 4-1, the Packers are still clearly the better team and will be favored again Sunday. They suffered through a nightmarish offseason and an embarrassing no-show in their opener against New Orleans. And while they've rattled off four-straight wins, they've struggled through large stretches of them, they are banged up on the offensive line, and there is a sense they can be had.
Two weeks ago at the final gun in Cleveland, it felt like the Bears' season was over after just three weeks.
But with a slow burn starting to glow around rookie QB Justin Fields, a bruising ground game that's ignited a two-game win streak, and the defense coming off its best performance last week in Vegas since 2018 when they last beat the Packers, Sunday's meeting is now an NFC North first-place showdown.
Does head coach Matt Nagy sense a special opportunity for his troops?
"With where we are at, I do think it's a great opportunity for us," Nagy said. "The fact that we have the three phases playing together the last couple of weeks -- there is a natural confidence that you have.
"We have a plan ... ultimately on Sunday you have to do it, but we are excited to do it at home, and I think the fans are going to be a huge part of it."
Neither of these teams appears to be what their records suggest. The Bears will have to play much better than they did versus the Raiders to beat Aaron Rodgers and company, but suddenly it feels like they have a puncher's chance.
For Bears fans if any of the momentum you can just barely sense around their Bears is real, what might it mean if they proved it against the Pack?
And just what might their ceiling be then?
It probably feels a bit like a dream to Bears fans, but one worth having.