It all comes down to Week 17 for the Green Bay Packers.
I'm sure they would have loved a little breathing room heading into the final week of the NFL season, but the Packers still control their own destiny. And it only seems fitting that Green Bay would be playing for the division against the Chicago Bears.
There is no doubt that this week will be filled with all sorts of excitement, so let's get it started right by breaking down everything you need to know about the Packers heading into Week 17.
|Chicago Bears||8-7||vs. Green Bay Packers|
|Green Bay Packers||7-7-1||@ Chicago Bears|
|Detroit Lions||7-8||@ Minnesota Vikings|
|Minnesota Vikings||4-10-1||vs. Detroit Lions|
Well, it's safe to say that the NFC North is either the most pathetic or the most intriguing division in all of football. The fact that a team could potentially win the division at 8-7-1 is just ridiculous.
However, that is the reality after the Packers, Bears and Detroit Lions all lost last week. Last week's loss to the New York Giants means that Detroit is now officially eliminated from the playoffs, leaving only Chicago and Green Bay as potential winners.
Whoever wins in Soldier Field on Sunday will be NFC North champions, and for some reason that seems like the only logical conclusion to one of the craziest regular seasons we've seen in a long time.
Sunday wasn't such a good day for the Packers and injuries. For starters, inside linebacker Brad Jones injured his ankle in the first half.
#Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Clay Matthews seemed to suffer a repeat injury. He did. Broken thumb again. Couldn’t cast & play last time— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 23, 2013
This is obviously some terrible news regarding Matthews. His loss was felt the first time he broke his thumb and he usually has a field day against the Bears.
MM: Eddie Lacy (ankle) is sore. Packers won't practice until Thursday, will find out more at that point.— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) December 23, 2013
Those were the big updates from players injured in that game. As for players already on the injury report, wide receiver Randall Cobb provided the only real positive news following Sunday's game. He's going to practice more according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN:
MM on Cobb: Randall's going to practice more. Still on IR, but will up his practice reps on Thursday.— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) December 23, 2013
As for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it's likely that the Packers won't give too much information about his status until later in the week.
This is obviously quite a bit of injury news to a handful of key players, so it'll be important to keep up with who is practicing throughout the week. However, if none of the injured players play this week it's going to be rather difficult for the Packers to have a chance against Chicago.
What Must Improve
The defensive line.
This unit used to be a strength at the beginning of the season, but it reached a new low on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. For starters, the unit was absolutely dominated in the ground game by an offensive line that ranked as the 10th-worst in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Will the Packers beat the Bears?
Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell gained a season-high 126 yards on touchdown, and both he and Ben Roethlisberger rushed for touchdowns. The reason why Bell was so successful was because the Packers defensive line was unable to get any type of push up front.
They didn't win many battles at the point of attack, which opened up hole after hole for Bell. What's really quite discouraging about the defensive line's performance this week is the fact that not a single member of the defensive line was credited with a tackle against the Steelers. And that includes even an assisted tackle.
What needs to improve this week is the impact that this unit makes in Sunday's game against the Bears. They need to win their individual battles, stop the run at the first level and get pressure on the quarterback if the Packers want any chance of slowing down the Chicago offense in Week 17.