This is it, salve folks. It’s win or go home for both the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday when the two rivals meet up for the last game of the regular season on the Chicago lakefront.
Personally, I love big dramatic games and this one has all the elements: season on the line, bitter rivalry, the return of Aaron Rodgers and the repercussions of a Bears’ loss on Jay Cutler’s future with the Bears. The fact that the Bears’ mediocre season has come down to the final game of the regular season against the Packers is almost poetic, and surely one that will be remembered and debated for years to come.
Games don’t get much bigger than this. Pop the TUMS now and clear your schedule ahead of time, tomorrow afternoon is going to be epic. Here’s what you need to know.
What You Need to Know:
- How we all got here: It’s been a bizarre season in the NFC North. Whoever wins the division will almost win by default, which is lucky and embarrassing at the same time.
- Bears (8-7): After starting the season 3-0, the Bears fell into a mediocre state thanks to a injury depleted defense. Once Jay Cutler went down on October 20th in the Bears’ loss to the Redskins, backup Josh McCown helped save the Bears season when he stepped in and kept the offense going. It was McCown at the helm when the Bears beat the Packers at Lambeau in Week 9, the very game that Aaron Rodgersbroke his collarbone in the first quarter.
- Packers: (7-7-1) The Packers started the season 5-2 before losing Aaron Rodgers in their matchup against the Bears in Week 9. However, after rotating through backup QBs, the Packers have surprised everyone by staying in contention thanks to the Detroit Lions late season collapse, the failure of the Vikings to ever show up this season and the Bears mediocre season.
Who to Watch For:
- Jay Cutler: No one is under more pressure on Sunday than Cutler. Cutler’s contract is up after this season and instead of re-signing him mid-season, Bears’ GM Phil Emery has made the smart decision of not renewing the controversial QB’s contract until the season is over. Cutler is notoriously bad against the Packers with a 1-7 record since coming to the Bears in 2008. While Jay Cutler haters have been calling for backup Josh McCown to start vs. the Packers since Cutty stunk it up big time last week against the Eagles, Marc Trestman and crew have stuck with the “Jay is our quarterback”sound byte since Cutler was cleared to play two weeks ago. While I’m not suggesting a dud performance tomorrow and a Bears loss will send Cutty packing this offseason, if he puts out another putrid performance like last week that costs the Bears a trip to the postseason, he’ll have a lot less to negotiate on for that fat paycheck and long-term extension.
- Lance Briggs: The captain of the defense returned to the line last week after sitting out nine games this season due to fractured left shoulder, yet his presence on the D-line was hardly felt as the Eagles ran their way to a 54-11 victory. All eyes will be on Briggs this week to ensure he plays a role in shutting down the Packers beat-up, but potentially lethal offense.
- Aaron Rodgers: I know I’m not alone when I say it’s tough for me as a Bears fan to put the hate on Aaron Rodgers. He’s everything our QB is not: a Super Bowl winner, a MVP, a true leader, accurate, affable, well-spoken, humble and genuine – to name only a few. You couldn’t put two more different QBs on the field in this matchup and it’s more than a football rivalry – people love Aaron Rodgers the same way they hate Jay Cutler – with a passion. After missing seven weeks this season – thanks to Shea McClellin’s sack in the Bears win over the Packers in early November, Aaron Rodgers conveniently heals in time for the Bears in the season finale when the season is on the line. I expect Rodgers to play as if he’s never missed a single game, forcing the Bears defense to play the game of their season.
- Eddie Lacy: the Packers’ star running back and NFL Rookie of the Year contender banged up his ankle again last weekend in the Pack’s win over the Steelers and is listed as ‘probable’. Bears fans can only hope the remarkable back is on the sidelines tomorrow or things could turn for the worse. But with so much riding on tomorrow’s game, I’m guessing Lacy and lethal wide recover Randall Cobb will both be playing alongside Aaron Rodgers which makes me, and every other Bears fan, nervous as hell.
Rest tonight and mentally prepare for tomorrow’s mega matchup that has a later than normal start at 3:25 p.m. CT.
Usually I recommend heading out to your favorite watering hole or game day hot spot for the big games of the season, but with so much at stake, if you’re not lucky enough to be heading to Soldier Field, this is the type of game you might want to stay home and watch on the comfort of you own couch with other vested Bears fans. That way, you can hear the play-by-play, pop the champers early when the Bears lock the NFC title, or yell f-bombs without offending the strangers behind you while attempting to mask the anger of another lost Bears season.