A Bears-Packers rivalry ﬁrst: Win and they’re in
The most storied rivalry in the NFL has concluded the season only seven times in the Super Bowl era, yet those meetings between the Bears and Packers never decided the division like Sunday's game will at Soldier Field.
History is not on the Bears’ side – they’re 1-6 in those games.
In the 2010 finale, the Bears already had a bye in the playoffs, but Lovie Smith played his starters to try to keep the Packers out of the playoffs. Green Bay won, 10-3, made the playoffs, and then knocked the Bears out in the NFC title game.
Four seasons earlier, the Bears were all set as the NFC’s top seed, and the Packers had been eliminated from playoff contention before kickoff on New Year’s Eve night. In what some thought would be Brett Favre’s final game, the Packers won 26-7, when Rex Grossman infamously went 2 for 12 with three interceptions in the first half.
The previous two meetings were the other way around – the Packers were set in the playoffs, and still won both games. In 2004, the Packers won, 31-14, recording nine sacks. In 1998, the Packers sent the Bears to a 4-12 record with a 16-13 win.
The one Bears win came in 1983. Both teams finished the year 8-8 and neither made the playoffs. Walter Payton rushed for 148 yards, Jim McMahon threw two touchdowns and the Bears picked off Lynn Dickey four times in a 23-21 win.
The Packers shut out the Bears, 21-0, in the 1973 finale. Why is that noteworthy today? The Bears allowed two 100-yard rushers in that game. In 1968, the Bears scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, but fell, 28-27. Both teams missed the playoffs in those two seasons.
As exciting as a “win and in” Bears-Packers game already is this Week 17, relish it. Who knows when it will happen again?