Bears vs. Packers: What's at Stake for Each Team in Thursday's Showdown
Unfortunately, since they're playing each other, only one team will get what it needs.
The Bears have sort of gotten used to being a punchline ever since their Super Bowl loss to the Colts in 2006. Since then, they've only made the playoffs once, and they've dedicated themselves to the idea of Jay Cutler being their starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, for better or worse.
The Packers, alternately, have become one of the most feared teams in the NFL ever since Aaron Rodgers took over for Brett Favre. Rodgers has firmly established himself as one of the top five quarterbacks in the league, and after winning the Super Bowl in 2010 and then following that up with a 15-1 campaign in 2011, it's official: The Packers are here to stay.
That's why it was a mild shocker when they lost to the 49ers at home in the season opener on Sunday. Facing the Bears just a few days later, it is crucial that they rebound with a big win over their division rival. But now that the Bears are rolling with the momentum of their own Week 1 win over Indianapolis, it won't be easy.
Here's a look at what's at stake for each side.
What's at Stake for Chicago
The Bears' futility of late hasn't entirely been their fault. They play in a division that's gotten pretty good over the last few years, and they've been hit with really bad injury bugs a couple of times—including last year, when Cutler fractured his thumb just as Chicago was gearing up to make a playoff push.
But this is a major-market team—with an eager, impatient fanbase—that really needs to start making something happen. Time is running out for Cutler to prove that he can lead this team to the promised land, and this season, as he continues to make a comeback from last year's season-ending injury, is the perfect time.
Before Cutler went down last November, the Bears were just starting to look like they were getting their act together. After starting off the season 2-3, they had managed to string together five consecutive wins, but then everything went wrong because Cutler went down. The Bears would only win a single game the rest of the season.
The Bears started to prove last year that they could compete. Now, it's time to finish the job, and after kicking things off with a resounding win over Andrew Luck and the Colts, they have the confidence to believe it could happen.
What's at Stake for Green Bay
A 15-1 regular season may look pretty on paper, but it doesn't mean anything when you bow out of the postseason in your first game.
Somehow, ever since winning the Super Bowl, the Packers have been a disappointment. Last year, they looked like the toughest team in the NFL—they didn't lose their first game until Week 15, to the Chiefs, of all teams—but they weren't able to find a way to win when it really counted.
At the root of the problem was their defense, which finished 2011 dead last in the NFL. We've all heard that defense wins championships, and last season, the Packers proved that no matter how good your offense is, that credo still holds true.
Who needs this win more?
This season, as a result, is all about redemption for the Packers. They doubtlessly hate themselves a little for the way they flopped in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Giants, and this season is all about making up for it.
Thus far, though, they've failed. They were victimized by the new NFC favorite, which boasted one of the league's top defenses in 2011 and has now debuted a much-improved offense to go with it. When you're a conference favorite and you lose the season opener at home, it's hard to avoid assuming the worst, which is what makes this matchup against Chicago all the more significant for Green Bay.
Beating Chicago not only gives the Packers an all-important division win, it also gives them a chance to thwart the pressure and the unpleasant questions bright and early in the season.
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