Packers vs. Bears: Key Individuals That Will Decide Battle for NFC North Title

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIDecember 29, 2013

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks on from the bench while playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field on November 10, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Philadelphia won the game 27-13. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Regular-season finales don't get any bigger than this. Even if the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears had the two best records in the NFL, ending the season against each other wouldn't be bigger than it will be on Sunday.

Because this battle is a win-or-go-home situation, the sense of urgency brings new intensity to the NFL's most-storied rivalry.

When the two teams clash at Soldier Field on Sunday, the following individuals will be key factors in determining who wins the division and makes the playoffs.


Aaron Rodgers

The biggest player news in the matchup is the return of the Pack's all-world quarterback. Rodgers last played against the Bears on Nov. 4. He led a dominating opening drive for Green Bay but suffered a broken collarbone when he was sacked by Shea McClellin. 

The rivalry, the injury and the stakes make this one of the biggest games of Rodgers' career. He will be fired up and eager to destroy the Bears.

Will there be rust, or can he play as if he never left? His level of sharpness is key for the Packers' offense against a beleaguered Bears defense.


Marc Trestman

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 15:  Head coach Marc Trestman of the Chicago Bears watches his team against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Offensively, the Bears have looked better than they have in decades. Their 417 points are the third-most the team has ever scored in a season. With 39 points, it will tie the famed 1985 Super Bowl team for most points scored in a season by a Bears squad.

Even with the success Trestman's offense has had, he's still made mind-boggling decisions down the stretch of games. He's failed to make the right adjustments at halftime and has been out-coached on a few occasions this season.

The most recent example was the Bears' 54-11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16. Chicago looked ill-prepared and less than motivated for a huge game that could have given them the division.

Trestman must be proactive and sharp to counter Mike McCarthy on the opposite sideline on Sunday.


Mel Tucker

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 11:  Head coach Mel Tucker of the Jacksonville Jaguars watches the action during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at EverBank Field on December 11, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

For as much heat as Trestman takes and deserves, most of the blame for the Bears' issues belongs on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, there's been a rash of injuries, but Tucker has to share some of the responsibility for his 32nd-ranked run defense.

In the Bears' win over the Packers in November, Green Bay ran for 199 yards. Four times this season, Bears opponents have eclipsed 200 yards on the ground. That includes the 289 the Eagles put up in Week 16.

Though injuries have dealt him a tough hand, Tucker must devise a game plan with the personnel he has that can at least slow the Packers' run game.


Jay Cutler

Dec 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) calls out instructions during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

To put it plain, this is the biggest game of Cutler's career. Not only are the playoffs on the line for Cutler and his teammates, his future with the Bears and a potential big payday in free agency could also be at stake. 

If the Bears are going to have any chance of beating the Packers and making the playoffs, Cutler must be at his best. If he is to prove to Chicago and other teams that he is worth another big contract, Cutler needs to show he can produce in a pressure-packed situation.


Eddie Lacy

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 22:  Eddie Lacy #27 of the Green Bay Packers runs against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on December 22, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Steelers defeated the Packers 38-31.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After carving up the Bears' tender run defense in the first meeting, Lacy will be looking to match or exceed his 150-yard performance on Sunday.

Though he sat out practice during the week with an ankle injury, NBC Sports' Mike Wilkening is reporting Lacy is likely to play against the Bears. Chicago tackled like hand-less men on Nov. 4; we'll see if that aspect of their game improves.

If not, Lacy will gash them for another big game.


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