By Chris Emma--
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) -- Think Bears-Packers and certain thoughts come to mind.
Two heritage franchises and great football traditions have brought hard-nosed football, legendary players and coaches, countless stories and many memories. How about Bears greats like Walter Payton, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, and the Packers pride of Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Reggie White.
But in recent years, it's been Aaron Rodgers and -- well, um, not much from the Bears.
The Rodgers era of football's oldest rivalry has brought horrid memories to Chicago. Call it the Jay Cutler era, if you wish. Rodgers boasts a record of 12-2 against the Bears, excluding the 2013 game that saw Shea McClellin break Rodgers' collarbone on the first series. As a Bear, Cutler is 1-11 against Green Bay.
"Every year, you start over," Cutler said of the rivalry.
By definition, rivalries are supposed to be competitive. Rodgers has done his part to ruin the competition between these two teams -- never quite as true as those two terrible 2014 games. The numbers are staggering and scarring.
The Bears allowed 93 points in two games with the Packers last season, and their offense countered with just 31. Rodgers threw for 10 touchdowns, 617 yards and zero picks. Oh, and Green Bay led 42-0 at halftime during the game at Lambeau Field.
Dig deeper in the stat sheets if you wish. I wouldn't recommend it.
"It was yesterday," Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said. "I don't really worry about my yesterdays. I plan for my todays and work hard so I can great tomorrows."
Consider this the most optimistic view to be found south of the Brat Stop in Kenosha. New Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's joking suggestion of slowing Rodgers down by "breaking his arm" may be the Bears' best hope to beat the Packers.
Chicago finds itself in the midst of a rebuild, as rookie general manager Ryan Pace teamed up with veteran head coach John Fox and a tremendous coaching staff. The long-term arrow seems to be pointing up for the Bears, but their greatest downfall for 2015 comes in a general lack of talent compared to that of Green Bay.
It's no secret why the Packers have dominated this rivalry since Rodgers became starting quarterback in 2008. Heck, Green Bay had plenty of success against Chicago with Favre in charge. One franchise boasts great continuity, the other is starting from scratch yet again.
Week 1 brought the official start of silly season at Halas Hall, where the secretive Fox kept to his ways. He danced around questions of two-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long moving to tackle -- "He's going to be active for the game, more than likely." -- even though the move seems inevitable.
Sticking to protocol, Fox has remained deceptive with injuries. Star receiver Alshon Jeffery returned to practice on Wednesday after being day-to-day for 28 days. It would seem Jeffery is going to be active, too, and most likely on the field.
But Fox prefers trickery, and he has every right to do so, even if it comes off as paranoia. On Sunday, will it really matter? Meanwhile, Packers coach Mike McCarthy -- he of a Super Bowl title and 11-6 record vs the Bears -- isn't pulling any punches.
"We will proudly stand as the 95th team in the history of the Green Bay Packers when we kick Chicago's (butt)," McCarthy said at a Green Bay chamber of commerce luncheon.
Let's review: Fox is hiding whether his guard will play tackle -- as if the Packers have no clue -- and McCarthy is calling the butt kicking.
"I looked at the tape," Fox said. "You know, they should be confident."
As for Fox's Bears, it's hard to find many reasons for hope against the Packers, aside from the fact that Marc Trestman isn't on his sideline. Perhaps Cutler delivers a stellar performance, Matt Forte grinds out a great game and the defense dominates Rodgers. Maybe I could dig up gold in my backyard.
The Bears have plenty of questions on both offense and defense. It's likely that much of this personnel in place for this 2015 season won't be around for 2016. Pace and the new brass are building for sustained success, with this year serving as a bridge to the next NFL Draft, one which will give young pieces the chance to grow.
What Chicago can hope for is that Fox leads the franchise the way McCarthy has in Green Bay. It can wish to find a Rodgers-like franchise quarterback to build a perennial playoff team around. And that it can achieve the continuity of the neighbors from the north.
When the Bears take to Soldier Field on Sunday, it will be a much different team from what's envisioned for the future. Yet, the results will likely resemble those from the past, so long as Rodgers is taking the field.
Keep those memories of past Bears-Packers games in mind during what should be a rough Sunday at Soldier Field.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.
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