Fittingly for the 200th edition of the bitter Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers feud, the weather will be cold and the stakes will be high on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
With a win and a little help, the Packers could clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2016. At 10-3, though, the Packers are thinking bigger than simply getting into the postseason. They currently are the No. 2 seed but probably will need to win their final three games -- against Chicago, at Minnesota and at Detroit -- to maintain their first-round-bye status.
"We know it's going to be a tough-ass game," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of opposing Chicago.
The Bears, the defending division champions, are playing their best football of the season, but it might be too little, too late. At 7-6, they are two games back in the NFC wild-card chase and face a challenging closing schedule of at Green Bay, home against Kansas City and at Minnesota. At least those games against division foes give them a fighting chance, though they'll have to beat Aaron Rodgers. That doesn't happen often: Rodgers is 18-5 for his career against Chicago.
"I just know how much it means to the fans, and it's two storied franchises and two great places to play," Rodgers said. "You know, we've got arguably the most iconic place to play in the NFL, and Soldier Field is a pretty good place to play, too. It's a great rivalry, and there's nothing you can really put your finger on (to explain the success), it just means a lot, and sometimes those types of environments can bring out the best in you."
The 100th NFL season kicked off with the two teams playing on Sept. 5. Green Bay won 10-3 at Chicago, but the teams are vastly different about four months later.
For Green Bay, its running game is much more potent than in Round 1, when it averaged just 2.2 yards per carry. Its defense, however, has faded after a dominant start. While Green Bay is No. 13 with 20.8 points allowed per game, it's 22nd in total defense, 27th vs. the run and 25th vs. the pass.
The Packers' defense will face a Chicago offense that has picked up some steam of late. In the three games since a disastrous loss at the Rams in which quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was replaced at the end of the game, the Bears have won three in a row. Chicago matched its season-high point total in last week's 31-24 victory over Dallas. Trubisky has posted back-to-back games of three touchdown passes and 115-plus passer ratings.
"I'm really proud of him," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "In this game, it can be challenging, it can be tough. There's a lot of highs and lows, especially at that position, as all these quarterbacks know. They put everything on you in regards to how you win or lose, and that's how you're valued.
"We had some struggles, but he's been mentally strong. That's been the biggest takeaways of all this. He's done a good job of battling through some of the lows that we've had as an offense and taken it head-on and we're getting better, so that's good."
On the injury front, Chicago defensive end Akiem Hicks was back in practice Wednesday. He remains on injured reserve following a dislocated elbow but is expected to return for the Sunday game. Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan (elbow) and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris (foot) were among those not practicing Wednesday.
All 53 members of the Packers practiced Wednesday.
--Field Level Media