GREEN BAY – It's almost impossible to overstate the importance of this contest.
The old adage is division games are worth double, and that's certainly true of Sunday night's Packers-Bears showdown.
With Green Bay in first place in the NFC North at 7-3 and Chicago in second at 5-5, the math is really simple.
If the Packers win, they'll move three games up with five to play and be in position to run away with the division title.
If the Bears win, their deficit will be cut to just one game with five left and the North could be theirs for the taking, with a rematch against the Packers slated for Week 17 in Chicago.
"Our No. 1 goal coming into it was to win the North, so just having that in the back of your mind (matters) as you're playing an opponent like that," receiver Davante Adams said of understanding the implications.
"It's more so for some of the newer guys who haven't played in some of these rivalry-type games before. It kind of gets the blood boiling a little bit more."
The Packers first took over first place in the NFC North at the end of Week 4, when they improved to 4-0 and the Bears lost for the first time this season to fall to 3-1.
Since then, Green Bay has played .500 ball (3-3) while Chicago got to 5-1 but then lost four straight heading into last week's bye. So while the Packers are now looking to distance themselves from their closest division competitor, the Bears are fighting to stay in contention if not save their season.
"They've hit a little bit of a rough stretch," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said, "but we anticipate getting their best shot."
Chicago will come out of its bye looking a bit different on offense. Mitchell Trubisky will be starting at quarterback for an injured Nick Foles, and running back David Montgomery has been cleared from the concussion protocol to return to action after missing the Bears' last game.
It's easy to see the Bears using the reset as an opportunity to recommit to the running game. Chicago ran for 138 yards per game in starting the season 3-0 but has averaged just 52 on the ground since in going 2-5. Montgomery hasn't enjoyed any dynamic games this season, but he did average 5.0 yards per carry back in Weeks 1-2 when Trubisky started.
The Packers' inconsistency at defending the run is all over the film for the Bears to study, and Trubisky's scrambling ability adds another dimension to that. It's hard to say how eager Trubisky will be to run given the injuries he's sustained the last two years on such plays, but he is capable of making things happen with his legs, which will be fresh given he hasn't started a game since late September.
The Bears' struggles to run the ball and Trubisky's long layoff are nothing the Packers are taking for granted.
"I'm not going to say that we're out here like blood in the water or anything like that extra because he's been out," safety Adrian Amos said. "But we've got to go out there, execute, not make it easy on him, make him make tough throws and try to force him into bad decisions, as we need to do each and every week with every quarterback."
The Packers also want to get back to feeling like Lambeau Field is their turf again. Lack of energy has been pointed out as a detriment in their last two home games, and while there will be roughly 500 fans in attendance for the first time Sunday night, there's only so much noise they can make.
The players have to bring it, and facing a big rival with a lot on the line should help.
"We're definitely going to be excited," defensive tackle Kenny Clark said. "We're on Sunday Night Football, it's the only game playing at that time, it's a divisional rival against the Bears and it's a huge game in our division.
"If you're not pumped up for this one, then I don't know what to say to you."