Editor’s Note: Griffin Gotta’s weekly MNF coverage on MSF is sponsored for the second straight year by Sadler’s Smokehouse, a producer of premium pit smoked meats that are best described by Sadler’s slogan: Legendary since 1948.
Sadler’s premium meats are perfect for tailgating on Saturday, for grilling out at home on Sunday, or for when you are hosting a group of friends, or even just the family, on Monday night.
With a variety of delicious choices (beef, pork, ribs, turkey, brisket, and more) and availability at grocery stores throughout the U.S., Sadler’s meats are the tasty, convenient choice when you want to watch the big game and eat well while you’re doing it.
Visit the Sadler’s Smokehouse website: Sadler’s Smokehouse
The 2009 NFL season’s opening Sunday night game brought the Chicago Bears to Green Bay. This matchup is usually good for a primetime slot every year because they are the Ancient Rivals Who Don’t Like Each Other. They play hard-nosed football, you can throw out the records, and yadda-yadda-yadda.
Most importantly, it allows whatever network that is hosting the game to dust off the old highlights of Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke and wax poetic on the “black and blue” division and of blue-collar Midwestern work ethic. No matter what changes in the NFL, the Packers and Bears will always be battling on top the gridirons of yesteryear. It’s a football purist’s wet dream.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Primer
- Packers-Bears Date: Monday, September 27
- Packers-Bears Kickoff Time: 8:30 pm
- Packers-Bears TV Network: ESPN
- Packers-Bears Announcers: Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, and Jon Gruden
- Packers-Bears Odds: Packers -4 / 46.5
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Primer
The old Bears-Packers highlights are always locked, loaded and ready to fire out of the hype machine for the two times a year these teams meet. And to tell you the truth, “Bears Week” does have a different feel to it, but it’s not because we’re all excited about adding another game to the history books; it’s because these games never make any damn sense. You really can throw out the records most of the time – and now I sound like Mike Ditka. Great.
But really, the only constant between the Bears and Packers over recent years is the fact that they are never heading in the same direction. They always seem to just miss each other; the timing’s never right for a truly special pairing, like that one will-they-or-won’t-they couple from the television dramedy of your choice. So, for promotion’s sake, we’re stuck with The Rivalry, because the old feud is the only thing that is always on the line.
Because other than that, this series over the past few years has been, well, a little confusing. Let’s take a look:
2006. In Mike McCarthy’s debut as head coach, the Packers were destroyed in Lambeau at the hands of the Bears, 26-0. In the season finale, Green Bay, out of playoff contention, left Chicago with a 26-7 victory. Brett Favre cried after the game, we all thought his career might be over. And the Bears, who finished the season 13-3, went on the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Colts. Rex Grossman was their starting quarterback. Really, was any of that real life?
2007. A year later, it was the Packers who would go 13-3, falling short of a Super Bowl thanks to the NFL’s leader in crippling interceptions and tearful good-byes (sorry, still bitter). Other than the ending, it was really an incredible year in Green Bay, but who was responsible for two of the three regular season losses? Why, the 7-9 Chicago Bears of course! Da Bears stunned the Packers at home in an early season Sunday night game (I was there, hooray!), 27-20, and annihilated them at home in Chicago, 35-7 in Week 16, while Green Bay was still fighting for the number one seed in the NFC. These were the only division games the Bears won that season.
2008. In the rivalry’s first game of the Aaron Rodgers-era, Green Bay dominated Chicago at Lambeau, winning 37-3. This was the Packers’ first win over the Bears in Green Bay since 2004. Later, during Green Bay’s slew of last second losses in ‘08, Chicago won on a cold Monday night in overtime, 20-17. Neither team made the playoffs.
And we’re back to last year, the opening Sunday night. Both teams were expected to be on the rise, fighting for more than just bragging rights. For the Packers, it was the second year with Rodgers under center and first with new defensive coordinator Dom Capers. In Chicago, the addition of quarterback Jay Cutler was supposed to put an end to the long, sad lineage of starting quarterbacks in the Windy City. Week one was to set the stage for a season-long tussle for the division title. I was worried about them.
The Lions were coming off the worst season in the history of forever, and admittedly, I was not as concerned about Favre and the Vikings as I should have been. It was the Bears who were on my mind, with all the crazy, Cubs-like optimism I kept hearing. I bought in, and before that first game I remember wondering if both sides were really getting ready to ascend at the same time.
Cutler provided a nice precursor for what the rest of his season would look like in throwing four picks, and yet he still had them set up to win before Rodgers engineered his first game winning drive as a Packer, hitting Greg Jennings on a beautiful 50-yard touchdown strike to win 21-15. From an execution standpoint, it was a sloppy season opener to say the least, but it made up for that in intensity. It certainly felt like that game would matter later in the year.
But as the NFC North is concerned, it didn’t. The Packers pulled out another grind-it-out victory in Chicago, 21-14 in Week 14, on their way to that wild card loss from which I have since developed an annoying nervous twitch. Cutler threw a bunch more interceptions and things fell apart for quite awhile in the middle part of the season for the Bears, who finished 7-9 and with a ton of question marks on the state of the team.
(In case you’re keeping score, since 2006, the Packers and Bears have split eight games evenly.)
This year began oppositely for this Packer fan in that I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend most of the offseason worried about Minnesota. And I don’t doubt at all that I will be again concerned as the year progresses; but at the moment, I may have enjoyed the Vikings’ campaign even more so than Green Bay’s.
This is, of course, why now is the time for the Packers and Bears to play in a game with control of the division at stake. With these teams, nothing ever happens when you think it will.
I wrote in my season preview of the Bears that I thought they had a solid team in place with a lot of uncertainty fraying the edges. Would this be Lovie’s last year as coach? Will Cutler and Mike Martz’s offensive system get along?
Well, right now it looks as though the Bears really are fighting for Smith’s job this season. And is it possible that all Cutler needed was someone who is as big a pompous twerp as he is calling the shots on the sidelines (he is leading the NFL in quarterback rating through two weeks at 121.2 under Martz’s tutelage)? Yes, they got away with one in that win over Detroit, but a win in Dallas is no easy task. If they are ever going to feel good about themselves this year, it’s going to be this week.
So where the Packers were expected to be in this position at this juncture in the year, Chicago is here, thanks to some inane rule no one ever heard of, as well as a surprising upset over a contender. A win over Green Bay will put them at 3-0 and alone in first atop the NFC North.
This is not to say this game means more for the Bears. Green Bay needs this win because they have big plans for themselves, and it is a division game on the road, and teams with big plans for themselves win division games on the road. Or at least they should, damnit. We just didn’t know, until last week, if this game would mean the same to the Bears at this point, aside from all the rivalry junk.
Turns out it does. Maybe it will turn out, come season’s end, this game meant a helluva lot. Maybe it will turn out this game makes that season finale rematch in Lambeau Field that much more important. Or maybe it will turn out this is just another addition to a series of games between these teams that, as of late, have no pattern. We won’t know until later.
What we do know is that this game, right now, is an early opportunity for two teams to assert themselves in a division that should only get tougher as the season hums along. The rivalry between Chicago and Green Bay always seems to sneak into the framework of each game, but Monday night it takes a backseat.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Prediction
Monday night it’s for the division lead. For the Packers and Bears, maybe the time is finally right; maybe they have finally found themselves on a collision course, going in the same direction, and the game can stand alone.
For now, it’s just a lot of maybes. But they are hopeful maybes, for both sides, of bigger and better things on the horizon. That, and not all the frilliness that so often comes along with this rivalry, is the story for Monday night.
And I think, for the sake of The Rivalry, it’s better this way.
Bears-Packers prediction: Packers 24, Bears 23.
Bears-Packers spread pick: Bears +4
Bears-Packers over-under pick: Over 46.5
*Nitschke card courtesy of http://1968fbcards.blogspot.com/2009/12/green-bay-packers.html
*Jay graphic courtesy of http://www.crosstowntees.com/chicago_bears_midway_jay_cutler.html
*Rivalry picture courtesy of http://beargoggleson.com/2009/12/13/bears-packers-final-thoughts/
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