LAKE FOREST – Interestingly, what used to be blood sport every time the Bears and Green Bay Packers got together has become a series of dominant streaks – with the Packers beating the Bears in 14 of their past 17 meetings, the Bears beating the Packers seven times in 10 tries before the current streak, the Packers winning 18 out of 20 before that and the Bears prevailing 23 out of 31 times before that.
Beyond those streaks, the history of the NFL’s oldest rivalry is incredibly rich. The Bears and Packers have met 193 times in the regular season and twice more in the playoffs, and the Packers lead the all-time series, 95-94-6.
Amazingly over those almost 200 games, the two teams are separated by only five points – Green Bay with 3,319 and the Bears with 3,314. That’s an average margin of victory over 194 games of a microscopic 26 hundredths of a point.
And irrespective of whatever has happened over the past 40 years or so, when the Packers and Bears meet for the 196th time Sunday at Soldier Field they will be as evenly matched as they have been at any time since the 1970s.
Green Bay quarterback Brett Hundley is 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, an excellent athlete with a big arm and only 2½ games of NFL experience with a total of 107 pass attempts.
Bears QB Mitch Trubisky is 6-3 222 pounds, an excellent athlete with a big arm and four games of NFL experience with 80 pass attempts.
Both are capable of taking over a game and being the difference for their team, but neither is likely to be the difference Sunday unless mistakes cost their team the game.
The Bears rate a slight edge at running back because of Jordan Howard, but when you add Tarik Cohen and stack them up against Ty Montgomery and rookie Aaron Jones, the two ground games could be close.
Any one of Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and even Geronimo Allison would be the best receiver on the Bears, and the Packers are slightly better at tight end, too, with Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers, while the Bears’ Dion Sims is questionable, having missed practice all week with an undisclosed illness.
If Kyle Long – who missed practice most of the week before being limited Friday – can go, the Bears rate an edge on the offensive line. Josh Sitton is likely to be more than ready for his old team, and with Bryan Bulaga done for the year after tearing his ACL on Monday night, the Pack doesn’t match up well with the Bears’ front seven.
As well as Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and company are playing, the Packers have been unimpressive in their 30 front, even though Mike Daniels has the ability to be as disruptive as Hicks.
Linebacker leans toward the Bears, too, if Danny Trevathan can go, but after missing practice all week with a calf strain, I’m guessing he won’t, so call this a draw.
Clay Matthews hasn’t been Clay Matthews for a couple of seasons now, but he and Nick Perry still are capable of making a game-changing play, as are the Bears’ Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee.
In the secondary, the Bears rate a slight edge on the strength of the Pro Bowl-caliber play of Kyle Fuller and the Pack being without Morgan Burnett.
If Green Bay wins, it likely will be because one of their offensive skill guys finds a way to take over the game, while a Bears victory likely would be keyed by a big defensive performance.
The Bears are favored by six points because that defense is likely to be the dominant unit on the field, but you have to wonder whether the Bears’ offense is good enough to beat anybody by six.
The Bears are trending solidly up, while the Pack is heading south, but both clubs know this is a game that can turn their season around.
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.