Green Bay (6-9-1) at Chicago (12-4), 8:20 p.m. on NBC. They meet again. Separated by 206 miles along the shores of Lake Michigan, a pair of NFC North (or NFC Norris, as Chris Berman calls it) rivals meet in the Windy City to open the 2019 NFL season. For Green Bay, it will be the regular season debut of new Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, who took over when the team fired Mike McCarthy midway through the 2018 campaign. For Da Bears, head coach Matt Nagy will try to help his team’s fan base forget their early departure from the post-season party against Philadelphia in the Wild Card round.

Since the NFL launched in 1920, no other rivalry has contained more vivid history than Green Bay and Chicago. And since Aaron Rodgers became a starter in 2008, few NFL rivalries have carried as many playoff implications.

Rodgers and LaFleur this week make the 34-minute flight to Chicago, where the Bears will host Thursday’s historic opener. The Packers have 56 wins on Kickoff Weekend, most in the NFL, including the longest active streak in the NFC, four games. Chicago’s 54 Kickoff Weekend wins rank second.

Victory at venerable Soldier Field, the league’s oldest stadium, has proven significant during the Rodgers era. In nine of the last 10 years, the winner of the lakefront game between these clubs has advanced to the playoffs. In seven of the last nine seasons, the winner of this Soldier Field game has gone on to win the division. And in 2010, a Windy City win in the NFC Championship also gave the Packers a trip to Super Bowl XLV.

A different team has won the NFC North each of the last three years, the NFL’s only division with that distinction, and the division hasn’t seen a repeat winner since 2014.

Entering this year, the Bears are kings of that hill after capturing the NFC North under their own rookie head coach, Matt Nagy and second-year starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the second-overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. On the path to the postseason, Chicago finished 12-4 to capture the NFC’s No. 3 seed, joining the Houston Texans (AFC South) as the two teams to complete a “worst-to-first” turnaround in 2018. In 15 of the past 16 seasons, at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in last place.

Thursday also marks the Bears’ first game under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. The former Indianapolis Colts head coach inherits a unit that led the NFL in fewest points allowed (17.7 per game), takeaways (36), interceptions (27), interception touchdowns (five), fewest rushing yards (80.0 per game) and fewest net yards per pass play (5.3). Kyle Fuller tied for the league lead with seven interceptions and Eddie Jackson tied for the league lead with two interception-touchdowns. Meanwhile, Khalil Mack (12.5 in 2018) is one of just three NFL players with at least 10 sacks in each of the last three seasons.

The Packers lead the series 96-94-6 and Green Bay has outscored Da Bears 3,399-3,361, which includes contests that were played when Da Bears were known as the Chicago Staleys prior to 1922 and played their home games in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. They met twice last year in the series and split the contests, each winning on their home fields.

Meeting number one… Lambeau Field in week one and while the tundra was not even close to frozen and Mike McCarthy was roaming the sidelines, the Packers rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the land of beer, cheese and Bratwurst and came away with the 24-23 win in upstate Wisconsin. Rodgers and RB Randall Cobb connected on a 75-yard TD toss with 2:13 left in regulation to take the season-opening win. Coupled with a 26-yard field goal by Cody Parkey, along with a Mitchell Trubisky rushing TD and a Kalil Mack interception, Da Bears took that 17-point lead with them to the intermission before Green Bay roared back in the second half before giving the home crowd something to leap about with the come-from-behind win. Chicago out-rushed Green Bay in the first meeting 139-69 but Rodgers threw for 286 yards and three TDs, including the game-winnner in the final quarter of play (Trubisky threw for 171 yards and was sacked four times, while Rodgers was sacked twice and neither man threw an interception). Green Bay was 7 of 17 on third down tries (they were 0 for 2 on fourth down) and ruled the clock as they kept the ball for 33:22, while Chicago was 5 of 13 and 0 of 3 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 26:38.

Chicago would get their revenge at home in the Windy City at Soldier Field (game-time temp? A balmy 45 degrees with a 40 wind chill, as opposed to 62 degress in their week one contest in the land of beer, cheese and Bratwurst) as Da Bears would break a 14-14 tie at the end of 45 minutes of play to come away with the 24-17 win in week 15. It would be Trubisky (235 yards) and Trey Burton breaking the tie with 10:16 left to take the lead for keeps and Parkey adding a 24-yard field goal to give the Monsters of the Midway a 10-point cushion before Mason Crosby pulled Green Bay to within seven with 11 seconds left in regulation. The Packers then tried the onside kick in hopes of getting the ball back to either tie the contest or take the lead outright but Chicago recovered the kick and ran out the clock. In the rematch, neither team breached the 100-yard rushing barrier but Chicago did manage to out-rush Green Bay 97-88 and Chicago sacked Rodgers (274 yards) five times and picked him off once. Green Bay on third down in the rematch in the Windy City? 5 for 14 (they did strike paydirt in their only fourth down try) and kept the ball for 29:37, while Da Bears kept the ball in hibernation and ruled the clock, holding the ball for 30:23, while going 3 for 10 on third down, 0 for 1 on fourth down.

Green Bay in the week one Sunday night contest at Lambeau was favored by seven but would come away winning by one. As for the over/under of 47 1/2? The two clubs BARELY missed it, tallying 47 points in that first meeting. In the week 15 contest in the Windy City, Chicago covered the 5 1/2-point spread, winning by 7 but both teams missed the 45 over/under, tallying only 41 points. In the season openers, the boys and girls in Vegas like Da Bears as a 3-point favorite in the Windy City with a 46 1/2 over/under. Both numbers make sense. Green Bay will make this one close but Da Bears prevail in the Windy City and cover the 3.

Broadcast Information: 8:20 p.m. on NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth), Michele Tafoya (field reporter) NATIONAL RADIO: Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner, Hub Arkush (field reporter) SIRIUS: 81 (Green Bay), 83 (Chicago); XM: 225 (Green Bay), 226 (Chicago)

Referee: Tony Corrente

Injury Report

Green Bay – Green Bay reports no injuries

Chicago – Chicago reports no injuries

Weather: Sunny and 69 degrees

Broadcast information, officials and injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel.