UNDATED (TSN-WSAU) The team to be cast in the role of NFC North hunted will emerge on Monday night, when the Chicago Bears play host to the arch rival Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
Both teams have started the year at 2-0, but only one of those marks is a surprise.
The Bears' early season success, which included wins over the Lions (19-14) and Cowboys (27-20), was of the unexpected variety. A Chicago team that entered the 2010 season fresh off a 7-9 campaign, and with a new and complex offensive scheme designed by coordinator Mike Martz, was expected to have some trouble finding its footing.
But Chicago has shouted down its skeptics through two weeks, with quarterback Jay Cutler showing comfort in the new-look offense during the pair of victories. Cutler led the NFL in passer rating (121.2) heading into Week 3, after completing 44-of-64 (68.8 percent) of his pass attempts over the first two weeks for 649 yards, five touchdowns, and perhaps most importantly, just one interception.
Also re-born in the Mike Martz offense has been running back Matt Forte', who leads the Bears in receptions (12), receiving yards (188) and touchdowns (3) through two games.
Defensively, the Bears lead the NFL in rushing defense (28.0 yards per game) and yards allowed per carry (1.4) heading into Week 3.
With a win, Chicago would move to 3-0 for the first time since 2006, when it won its first seven games en route to a 13-3 finish and eventual Super Bowl appearance
The Packers, meanwhile, are an unsurprising 2-0, and have done little to relinquish their status as an NFC Super Bowl favorite in opening wins over the Eagles (27-20) and Bills (34-7).
Green Bay's most jaw-dropping work has probably been done on the defensive side of the ball, where pass rusher Clay Matthews has posted an NFL-best six sacks through the season's first two weeks, and Green Bay has been credited with an NFL-high-tying 10 sacks overall. Matthews last week became the first player in Packers history to notch three sacks in consecutive games.
The Packers have also received typically effective play from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has a 94.4 passer rating and has completed 63.3 percent of his passes thus far.
Green Bay is seeking its first 3-0 start since 2007, when it won its first four en route to a 13-3 finish and eventual NFC Championship appearance.
The Bears are 20-33 (.377) all-time on Monday night, but are 4-1 under head coach Lovie Smith. The Packers are 27-28-1 (.491) on Mondays, including 3-8 since the 2005 season.
Chicago holds a 90-82-6 advantage in the NFL's most-played series, which as mentioned dates back to the 1921 season. Game coverage on WSAU begins at 5pm. Kickoff at 7:30pm.