Tomorrow, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will face off for the 187th time — the most any two teams have played each other in NFL history. It is the NFL’s marquee rivalry. The Packers have won 13 NFL championships, the most of any team. The Bears are second in NFL annals with 9.
The Packers have fared better in the Super Bowl era, winning 4 Lombardi trophies to Chicago’s lone victory in 1985. Then again, the Bears hold the edge in head-to-head play, with a 92-87-6 record, including playoffs.
The players are very much aware of their rivalry’s intensity, and seem to revel in it. Chicago’s best receiver, Brandon Marshall, said this week at a press conference:
“I don’t like the Green Bay Packers. I’m not going to use the word ‘hate,’ but I really dislike the Packers and their players,” Marshall said. “But you know what? The talk has to back it up. We’ll go out there and do everything we have to do to get a win.”
Marshall leads the NFL with 103 catches through 13 games. The Packers somehow kept him in check when they met earlier in the season, allowing only 2 catches for 24 yards. He has clearly taken it personally, calling tomorrow’s game the “biggest game of my career.”
Packer defenders have given Marshall plenty of reason to take umbrage, particularly Charles Woodson. After their last game Woodson, who will not play tomorrow due to injury, said of Jay Cutler, Chicago’s talented but interception-prone quarterback:
“Heard some talk out of the Bears: Packers secondary not working coverage, bigger receivers … we heard about it,” Woodson told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols after the game. “We understand that Jay is excited about his new weapons, but it’s the same-old Jay. We don’t need luck; Jay will throw us the ball.”
Cutler threw four interceptions that day, all but ensuring a Bears loss. No doubt he has been putting in extra time this week studying film and making sure his receivers know their routes, and his linemen know their protection schemes; tomorrow’s game should be a fun one. Cutler hasn’t historically played well against Green Bay, but when he’s having a good day, he drives his team up and down the field almost at will.
But enough about tomorrow. It turns out that 80 years ago, in 1932, this rivalry once had championship-level implications due to a quirk in the rules.
Recall that the Packers and Bears are the NFL’s two most decorated franchises, with 13 and 9 championships, respectively. Every week, Green Bay’s PR staff puts out a Dope Sheet packed with information about the Packers, that week’s opponent, their history together, roster information, and endless statistics. On page 5 of this week’s Dope Sheet I found a tidbit that there is an argument that maybe Green Bay should really have 14 championships to Chicago’s 8:
On the heels of its three straight NFL championships [1929-31]… the Bears stole from Green Bay a fourth straight title (which at the time was determined by league standings). Chicago barely finished atop the league standings, which unlike today did not count ties. Had the league counted ties in standings, the Packers would have won. The next year, 1933, the NFL began determining its champion with postseason games.
This was also the last time the Packers have led the all-time series. The Bears have held the advantage ever since — 80 years and counting.