Yep, just one year ago, it was the Green Bay Packers who were facing the win or go home situation heading into their final game against our Chicago Bears. The Bears had already locked up their post-season spot. This year, the role is reversed.
Without a win over the 13-1 Packers on Christmas Day, the once playoff-bound Bears will take one VERY long trip home from Lambeau Field to be with their families for the holidays. And the season will be over.
Is a Christmas miracle in the works?
Even if the Bears manage to find a way to knock off their division rival, who’s put up an average of 31 points over their last four games compared to Chicago’s 11, they need a lot of additional help to substantiate any implication of a win.
But it all starts with beating Green Bay; something this coaching staff takes a lot of pride in.
Many think the Bears’ chances of just doing that are slim to none. And I can’t say I much disagree. But, should they accomplish the task this Sunday, they would need the Seahawks to lose one of their remaining two, plus two consecutive losses from either the Lions or the Falcons, plus a win over the Vikings in Week-16.
That’s a lot of variables.
But let’s take this the same way the Bears have to: one game at a time. Here’s what I expect to see this Sunday night:
A sense of urgency from the Bears’ defense: As difficult a game as this appears to be for the Bears—maybe their toughest this season—the defense will not lay down and die. The veterans and caliber of players on that side of the ball in Chicago have too much respect for themselves and the game to allow that to happen. But they also know that they have to shut-down the Packers’ high-powered offense to even give theirs a chance. What happens if the Packers jump out to an early multiple score lead? I think we know exactly what happens…
Prevalent run game on both sides: Packers’ running backs James Starks and Brandon Saine are both listed as probable against the Bears. Ryan Grant and John Kuhn are ready to go as well. Mike McCarthy will be plenty deep at the position heading into the game. And, given the weather conditions forecasted (20 degrees w/ snow), coupled with the Bears’ recent inability to rack up points, this game could feature the run quite a bit.
The Bears, on the other hand, will be without their number one in Matt Forte, and likely their number two in Marion Barber, who’s listed as doubtful. Kahlil Bell will be the featured back with Armando Allen, recently promoted from the practice squad, behind him. While the Bears are high on Allen’s quickness, there’s no reason for us to expect fireworks.
Josh McCown will struggle: McCown will get a slight break on Sunday as Packer’s defensive end Ryan Pickett is listed as out with a concussion. DE Mike Neal is questionable with a shoulder injury. If Neal can’t play, the Packers will have just four healthy defensive linemen (B.J. Raji, Howard Green, Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson), which could lighten to load a bit on Chicago’s offensive line.
Should the Bears find themselves in a come-from-behind position early, they will likely let McCown toss the ball around a bit to at least see what they have. Either way, you can guarantee that McCown will struggle. How much is the question. Expect to see Nathan Enderle should the game appear out of reach in the second half.
Expect more man-defense instead of the Bears’ traditional zone: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have been tearing apart zone defense and the Cover-2 for two seasons now. For the Bears to have success, they know they need to press the issue up front and play more man-coverage against the Green Bay attack.
This week, after steadily declining in performance from week-to-week, left-side cornerback Tim Jennings was benched in favor of Zackary Bowman. It’s no secret that Bowman has struggled in the Bears’ scheme, and it’s believed he could be a much better option over Jennings in man-to-man situations. The Bears will find out this Sunday.
It's a real bummer that this Bears-Packers week just doesn't contain the same excitement as it normally would, playoff implications or not. “You just wish that both sides were 100 percent healthy so it could be a full-on clash of the titans,” Packers’ safety Charlie Peprah said. I think Bears’ fans would agree, Chuck.
I know I do.