The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have faced each other 191 times, including playoffs. But Thursday night’s game at Lambeau Field will be the first time the division rivals have played on Thanksgiving.
On the same night, the Packers will unveil Brett Favre’s retired No. 4 on the stadium façade and bring back Hall of Famer Bart Starr.
ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson discuss the matchup:
Demovsky: J.D., I figured John Fox would have the Bears headed in the right direction sooner rather than later, but what has changed the most – what has worked for them – since they played the Packers in Week 1? How much different of a team will Green Bay see on Thursday night?
Dickerson: On offense, Rob, not much has changed since Week 1. The Bears are consistently ... average. They show flashes on occasion – the offense scored 37 points against St. Louis – but a lack of efficiency inside the red zone is a major problem. Look at the Bears' close losses – Green Bay, Detroit, Minnesota and Denver. The common theme is Chicago’s failure to score touchdowns. The Bears usually settle for three points instead of six. I highly doubt that changes Thursday night, even though we expect the Bears to welcome back some of their injured players. The noticeable change is on defense. Vic Fangio is a really good coordinator. The Bears sacked Brock Osweiler five times this past Sunday. Fangio is playing guys you’ve never even heard of. How familiar are you with Chris Prosinski, Rob? Guess what: He's starting at safety with Antrel Rolle hurt. It’s not a Super Bowl-caliber defense, but the Bears play hard. Put it this way: Aaron Rodgers won’t throw six touchdown passes in the first half. At least I don’t think so.
What about Rodgers? Is he back from that mini-slump? The Bears need some help here. Will Shea McClellin need to break Rodgers’ collarbone again for Chicago to have a chance to win?
Demovsky: For the record, I had never heard of Chris Prosinski. As for Rodgers, well, he did complete only 47.1 percent of his passes, which was his lowest mark since last year’s Week 15 loss at Buffalo (40.5 percent) and his lowest in a victory since Week 9 of the 2012 season (46.7 percent against the Cardinals). But did you see that throw on the run to James Jones for a 27-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter? It was one of the best I’ve ever seen him make, right up there with that TD to Richard Rodgers in the playoff game against the Cowboys last year. And supposedly Rodgers made that play Sunday against the Vikings with a bum right shoulder, although he’s not even listed on the injury report this week.
Everyone always asks me who the better quarterback is: Favre or Rodgers. You’ve seen NFC North games for years, what do you think?
Dickerson: Favre is the guy I want to sit down and have a beer with. Rodgers is the guy I want to quarterback my team. Favre had an amazing career (except for the final year in Minnesota, ouch), but Rodgers is more accurate and has the stronger arm. With all due respect to Favre, he turned the ball over a lot, and sometimes in clutch moments. On the other hand, Rodgers has thrown 249 regular-season touchdown passes to just 60 interceptions. That’s insane. And nobody is more dangerous on the move than Rodgers. He routinely completes passes that other quarterbacks won’t even attempt.
Rob, Chicagoans still cringe when they see old highlights of Favre playing for the Packers. He has done more damage to the state of Illinois than all of our corrupt politicians combined. I know it will be a special night for Packers fans, but will the emotion surrounding Favre’s number retirement impact the current Green Bay players? Do most of them even know Favre? Or is he just the old guy in those Levi’s commercials?
Demovsky: Well, there are only four players on the Packers' roster who played with him in Green Bay – kicker Mason Crosby, fullback John Kuhn, receiver Jones and Rodgers. Only Rodgers was with him for more than one season, and they weren’t particularly close, especially early on. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion played with him in Minnesota. This ceremony is more for the fans anyway. That’s why it’s at halftime. Even Mike McCarthy, who coached Favre during his final two seasons in Green Bay, said he’s not even part of the festivities, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he had Favre talk to the team before the game.
Dickerson: Cutler is a better quarterback, Rob. He really is. He likes the concepts offensive coordinator Adam Gase brought over from Denver. Cutler is also really tight with quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, who had the unenviable task of working with Johnny Manziel last year in Cleveland. Cutler bonding with coaches ... sounds crazy, right? But Cutler has been poised all year. Some of that is coaching. Some of that is personal growth at 32 years old. And keep in mind, Cutler has played much of the year without top weapons Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Matt Forte. The turnovers (nine) are still an issue, but Cutler works hard to overcome his mistakes. He has led the Bears to three come-from-behind wins in 2015. That’s not bad. Now, can he win at Lambeau? Beats me. I never said Gase and Loggains are miracle workers.
The Bears ran the football particularly well against the Packers in Week 1. Has their run defense improved? That could be a big key Thursday night with Forte likely to return from a sprained MCL. I don’t think the Bears want to make Cutler do too much at Lambeau Field. Have I mentioned Cutler has never won there?
Demovsky: Let me slip into my McCarthy voice here … "Well, Jeff, that’s a week-to-week thing." ... If you watched the film of what they did to Adrian Peterson (45 yards on 13 carries), you’d say they have improved. They also shut down Detroit’s running game the week before, but that was, well, Detroit. But go back and watch the Denver game, the one that started the three-game losing streak, and they couldn’t control C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman (who combined for 161 yards on 33 carries). Todd Gurley shredded them for 159 on 30 carries and, of course, Forte went for 141 on 24 carries in the opener. It has been an all-or-nothing thing for the Packers. Either they stop the run and generate a big pass rush at the same time – they had six sacks against the Vikings, too – or they can’t do either. In their three straight losses, they failed to record a single sack.