6 Green Bay Packers Who Must Step Up in Showdown vs. Bears

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIDecember 27, 2013

6 Green Bay Packers Who Must Step Up in Showdown vs. Bears

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    The Packers will need James Starks to step up this week against the Chicago Bears.
    The Packers will need James Starks to step up this week against the Chicago Bears.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Green Bay Packers still have a chance at making the playoffs. In fact, they have a pretty good shot at winning the NFC North this Sunday despite having one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memory.

    The Packers have dealt with massive amounts of injuries to key players like quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Randall Cobb and cornerback Casey Hayward. However, they've managed to overcome those injuries and difficulties and have positioned themselves for one last important game.

    In order to win on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Green Bay is going to need some of its players to step up in a big way. Here are the six Packers who must play extremely well if the team wants to come out victorious in Week 17.

Morgan Burnett, Safety

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Let's just say that it hasn't been the best of years for safety Morgan Burnett. He enters Sunday's game as the No. 62 safety in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    Where Burnett has struggled the most is in pass coverage. Unfortunately, this is the area where the Green Bay Packers are going to need him to play his best on Sunday.

    The Chicago Bears have big weapons in the passing game in wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett. The Packers will need Burnett to protect the middle of the field and the deep ball so the Bears don't get numerous big plays from their passing game.

    If Burnett can finally play at the level that he was expected to all year, the Packers will have a good chance at winning this week.

Andy Mulumba, Outside Linebacker

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    With fellow outside linebacker Clay Matthews out with a broken thumb and Nick Perry and Mike Neal limited in practice, rookie Andy Mulumba could potentially have a big role on Sunday.

    The good news is that Mulumba has played sparingly this season. However, he's never played in a game as big as this week's matchup, and he's never had a role as big as the one he could receive on Sunday.

    The biggest area where the Green Bay Packers will need Mulumba to step up is in getting pressure on the quarterback. He'll need to be able to consistently produce a pass rush if the Packers want to slow down the Chicago Bears offense.

    Mulumba doesn't have to be as productive as Matthews usually is, but he'll need to play like a seasoned veteran instead of a rookie whenever he gets on the field.

B.J. Raji, Defensive End

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    It's been the year of defensive disappointments for the Green Bay Packers, and defensive end B.J. Raji is leading the way.

    There was a time when Raji was a talent capable of making the Pro Bowl. However, he's struggled in every aspect of his game this year, especially against the run.

    Raji is currently the last-ranked 3-4 defensive end in the league against the run according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He's also the third-worst overall defensive end per PFF.

    Simply put, Raji has failed to make any type of impact during his time on the field. That will need to change this week if the Packers want to win on Sunday.

    They'll need Raji to have his best game of the season and help slow down running back Matt Forte in order to come away with the victory.

Mike Daniels, Defensive End

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    With so many injuries across the defensive line and to the linebackers, the Green Bay Packers desperately need someone to step up in a big way. The ideal candidate for that is second-year defensive end Mike Daniels.

    Daniels has easily been the best defensive player on the Packers roster this year. The only problem is that he's only seem limited time for most of the season. However, with Johnny Jolly out for the year, Daniels has now slid into the starting lineup.

    Now the big question is whether or not Daniels can continue to be as productive playing nearly every snap. The Packers will need him to be just as good, if not better, on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

    He'll need to become the anchor of the defensive line and really succeed at putting pressure on the quarterback. If Daniels can step up, he'll likely assure himself a starting spot next year while also giving the Packers the boost they need on defense.

James Starks, Running Back

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Even though Mike McCarthy expects running back Eddie Lacy to play on Sunday, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein, it's unknown how much his ankle injury will effect how well he performs.

    That's why the Green Bay Packers need backup running back James Starks to play well.

    The Packers will also need their running game to be at its best this week because no one knows just how rusty quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be in his return (more on this later). With Lacy clearly not at 100 percent, Starks could potentially need to have a big role in making the run game successful.

    Starks can also provide a type of safety in the passing game for Rodgers as a dump-off target. While it's possible that Lacy plays every snap on Sunday, the more likely scenario is that Starks has a bigger role than he's seen all year.

    And with that bigger role, the Packers will need much bigger production from Starks.

Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback

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    Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    After missing the past seven weeks, Mike McCarthy confirmed quarterback Aaron Rodgers is finally ready to return in Week 17, according to Paul Imig of FOX Sports. Obviously, Rodgers is the player who needs to step up the most in order for the Green Bay Packers to beat the Chicago Bears.

    Despite not playing for nearly two months, Rodgers is still a much better option at quarterback than Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien. He adds a completely new dimension to the Packers offense and makes the rest of the team that much more explosive.

    Now the Packers don't necessarily need an All-Pro performance from Rodgers to beat the Bears. However, it's likely that this game will come down to a few key players, and that's where Green Bay will need Rodgers to step up.

    Simply getting Rodgers back will be a huge boost for the Packers, but it won't be enough to get them the win. Rodgers will need to perform like he hasn't missed a beat since getting injured in the Packers biggest game of the year.