(WSCR) – The Chicago Bears seemingly have nothing to play for. The Green Bay Packers aren’t nearly as fortunate.
While a loss combined with considerable help would put the Packers back in the playoffs, they’d prefer the more direct path by beating the arch-rival Bears in the regular-season finale at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Chicago (11-4) has already clinched its third NFC North title in six seasons and secured a first-round playoff bye heading into the final week of the regular season.
Green Bay (9-6), meanwhile, kept its playoff hopes alive with a dominating performance in a 45-17 win over the New York Giants, denting their chances at the postseason.
Now, the Packers just need to beat the Bears to get in. However, a loss would require the Giants to lose to Washington and Tampa Bay to fall to New Orleans. In that scenario, the Packers would win a three-way tiebreaker at 9-7 over the Buccaneers and Giants.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy prefers the simpler route.
“We need to get to 10 wins, and until we get to 10 wins nothing else matters,” he said. “That’s where we stand. We’re focused on win No. 10 against the Chicago Bears. Scenarios, I couldn’t even tell you what they are.”
One scenario that could work to Green Bay’s benefit is Chicago resting players ahead of the playoffs, and Bears coach Lovie Smith isn’t ruling that out.
“I don’t think if guys get 20 less plays in a game then all of a sudden they stop playing good football. I just don’t see it that way,” he said.
The Packers are 6-1 at Lambeau, and have outscored opponents 124-40 in winning their last three there.
That’s partly why their offense ranks eighth in the NFL, and Aaron Rodgers is coming off perhaps his best performance of the season.
Rodgers posted season highs of 404 passing yards and a 139.9 passer rating while completing 25 of 37 passes with four touchdowns against the Giants. He had missed a 31-27 loss at New England the previous week due to his second concussion of the season.
“A lot of things have happened both positively and negatively that we might not have expected, but we go into the last game of the season with a chance to make the playoffs with a win and that’s all we can ask for right now,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers thrives at Lambeau, and his 115.7 rating there is the highest among NFL quarterbacks playing at home this season. He’s thrown 18 of his 27 touchdowns at home with five interceptions.
Rodgers’ career 104.6 rating is by far the highest for any quarterback at Lambeau, and 17.4 points higher than Brett Favre in second place among Packers signal callers.
He’s also won his two home starts against the Bears, completing 69.0 percent of his passes for 411 yards with three TDs and one pick.
The Packers, though, lost 20-17 at Chicago on Sept. 27, as Robbie Gould connected on a 19-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to win it for the Bears.
Chicago may not mind spoiling Green Bay’s season and sweeping its fiercest rival in order to finish 6-0 in the division.
The Bears further proved they could handle a highly ranked defense last week, scoring three third-quarter touchdowns and gaining 322 yards of offense in a 38-34 win over the playoff-bound New York Jets last week.
“We’re playing the way we expected this offense to be,” said running back Matt Forte, who had 113 yards rushing and a touchdown on 19 carries to become the first player to top the century mark against the Jets in over a year.
Forte is averaging 5.7 yards per carry over the last five games, and is 22 yards shy of reaching 1,000 for the first time since his 2008 rookie season. His re-emergence might be a reason Jay Cutler has been superb over the last five games.
He’s compiled a 104.2 rating while completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 1,042 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions in that span.
Cutler has thrown for six scores while running for another in the last two weeks.
He didn’t fare well in a 21-15 loss at Lambeau in Week 1 last season, tossing one TD with four interceptions.
Still, the Bears are confident and feel they’ve silenced many critics.
“I think that the team has done a tremendous job,” safety Chris Harris said. “We kind of had everything against us. Nobody really believed except the guys in the locker room, and we still expect it to be that way. We’re happy (with) the position we’re in. We’re happy (with) the position we put ourselves in to get a first-round bye in the playoffs.”
The Packers are also feeling confident, and linebacker Desmond Bishop thinks they might be in for a deep playoff run provided they reach the postseason.
“I don’t want to sound cocky or anything, but if we can put together four quarters we can do that to pretty much everybody,” he said of the performance against the Giants. “And that’s just the kind of talent and the kind of will that we have on this team – offense, defense and special teams. If we can put four (quarters) together like that, we’re dangerous.”
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