Green Bay Packers: Why the Chicago Bears Game Is Not a Must-Win

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Green Bay Packers: Why the Chicago Bears Game Is Not a Must-Win
David Banks/Getty Images

When the Green Bay Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, my immediate reaction was that Thursday night’s showdown versus the Chicago Bears is now a must-win game.

Including the postseason, the Packers are now 2-3 in their last five games. They only have six remaining home games after their Week 2 showdown against Chicago.

We’ve all heard the discouraging statistics about 0-2 teams and their chances of making the playoffs.

Surely, the Packers must win this game if they are to put together a successful season, right?

Wrong.

Let’s pretend for a second the Packers do indeed lose to the Bears. Green Bay is now 0-2, and their next opponent isn’t until Monday night against Seattle.

The Seahawks aren’t a bad team, and their home-field advantage is one of the biggest in the NFL. But because they play on Thursday, the Packers will have an extra few days to rest, go over schemes or whatever else Mike McCarthy deems necessary to get his team back on track. They should easily beat the Seahawks.

Now at 1-2, Green Bay faces the New Orleans Saints, typically one of the best teams in the league. But the Saints appear to be in disarray without their normal coaching squad. A rookie quarterback just lit up their defense, and Drew Brees threw two picks while posting a quarterback rating of 70.9. This isn’t the same Saints team, and Green Bay should win this matchup as well.

Now the Packers stand at 2-2. In their next five games, they face teams whose regular-season records in 2011 totaled 27-53. Worst case scenario, they lose once during this stretch and end up with a 6-3 record.

They should head into their bye week with a comfortable record and plenty of time to gear up for the final stretch. Again, McCarthy can use this time to properly prepare his team in whatever way he sees fit. McCarthy is 5-1 following bye weeks as a head coach, so I think he knows a thing or two about how to handle that extra week off.

Of their final seven games, Green Bay will endure three easy games (the Minnesota Vikings twice and the Tennessee Titans) and four favorable matchups (Detroit Lions twice, at New York Giants and at Chicago).

Going by worst case scenario again, the Packers split the latter. That would put them at 5-2 for the final stretch and 11-5 overall. Since the NFL moved to eight divisions instead of six in 2002, only one 11-5 team didn’t make the playoffs—the 2008 New England Patriots.

I don’t know if that record is good enough to win the division or secure any home playoff games, but as the Packers and Giants have proven over the past two playoffs, the most important thing is to secure any postseason spot and make sure you’re playing your best football come playoff time.

If the Packers lose Thursday night, they will have plenty of time to right the ship. Fans should trust in Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy. They’ve won a Super Bowl and compiled a 15-1 regular season together.

They’ll be just fine.

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