Green Bay Packers Need to Beat the Chicago Bears to Start Talking Playoffs
When the two archrivals meet again Sunday at Soldier Field, it will have the feel of a heavyweight fight as both teams have plenty at stake.
The Packers (9-4) can clinch a second consecutive NFC North championship with a win, while the Bears (8-5), which have lost four of their last five games, try to avoid another late-season collapse.
This game means more than just clinching a division championship.
Just ask head coach Mike McCarthy, who was quoted in the Green Bay Press-Gazette saying, "You clinch the division as soon as you can. I think the bigger picture is the Bears and Packers and anytime we play it's significant. You start getting voice mails from Willie Davis, you know it's a big game."
McCarthy is right—a win over the Bears would mean much more than just a division title.
It would be a statement win against a division foe with its back against the wall.
The Bears need this game more than the Packers, which still control their destiny in the NFC North, but this is also a statement game for Green Bay.
First and foremost, the Packers want to get to 10 wins.
But they would also take some sweet satisfaction in stepping on the throat of their reeling division rival.
Will the Packers win Sunday?
Ten wins is important because it is the marker the team set at the beginning of the season to have a chance to make the playoffs. The theory is, before you get to 10 wins, you don't deserve to talk about the playoffs.
We're 9-4, right now we're first in the division by a game, putting ourselves in good position not only for the division but potentially maybe for a first-round bye. The division is the first goal, getting to 10 wins so we can start talking about the "P" word. We can wrap things up next week. Tough opponent, tough place to play. A lot on the line.
Rodgers is right—there will be a lot on the line.
But since he and McCarthy have come together in 2008, the duo is 8-2 against the Bears. Including a win in the 2010 NFC Championship game, they are 3-2 at Soldier Field.
Since Jay Cutler became the Bears quarterback in 2009, the Packers are 7-1 against the Bears. The only loss came in a Monday night game in Week 3 of 2010, when the Bears squeaked out a 20-17 victory on a last-second field goal.
This year's edition of the Packers is no juggernaut. If you look at the telling statistic of point differential, the difference between this team and previous clubs is plain as day.
Last season, Green Bay dominated on its way to a 15-1 season and posted a 12.6-point differential.
This season, the Packers point differential is just 3.4, which is solid and good enough to rank 12th in the league, but clearly this team has not played at the same level as previous seasons.
However, part of that has been due to injury. After all, the Packers have been without top defensive playmaker Clay Matthews for four games.
The former first-rounder was on his way to another All-Pro season and was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate after posting nine sacks in nine games.
Yet, Green Bay has managed to win three of four games without Matthews and has won five of six without Charles Woodson.
This Packers team has weathered the storm, and the chance to be great is still within reach. A win over the Bears would prove this team is reaching that elite level.
As we all know, you simply have to be good enough in the regular season to reach the postseason, that's it. Once you're in, all bets are off.
Now all the Packers have to do is beat the Bears. Then Rodgers, McCarthy and the entire organization can start to talk about the "P" word—because they will be officially in the playoffs as NFC North champions.
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