Despite injuries to their starting quarterbacks and defensive problems, both the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers find themselves with the chance of making it to the postseason with the top spot in the NFC North nonetheless, making their intense rivalry game which happens to be an all-or-nothing one this time around even more important than usual.
The big news going into the game is Aaron Rodgers playing for the first time since breaking his collarbone in the 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears almost two months ago. The Packers did go 2-4-1 without him, but it doesn’t really mean anything for the last game, except in the rare case of a tie: The winner goes to the playoffs, the loser joins the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings on the disappointed side of the part among the division teams.
All the talk about Rodgers returning takes the spotlight from the most important challenge for both teams – Green Bay running the ball very well with Eddie Lacy as the leader, averaging 4.2 yards per carry and going for 1112 yards so far this season, and the Chicago Bears posting the worst rush defense in the NFL (Allowing 5.4 yards per carry). They’re are dead last in rushing yards per game and carry, while the Packers are a top 10 team in most rushing categories.
There’s also the return of the Randall Cobb – Aaron Rodgers connection. Both aren’t healthy and have missed a big chunk of this season, but it’s worth mentioning that no quarterback-wide receiver combo has connected on a higher percentage of passes since Cobb entered the NFL in 2011. The following connection is Rodgers and Jordy Nelson.
Another problem for the Bears is how badly Jay Cutler usually preforms against the Packers, being the opponent he posts his worst numbers again by far, winning only one out of nine games against them as a starter. Cutler does have the more talented weapons arsenal to use – Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and others, but the question is whether or not he’s going to be able to make them work. Having Clay Matthews out with an injury again will certainly help.
Prediction – It’s hard to tell whether Rodgers coming back in his shape is that much of an advantage for the Packers. The Bears can’t perform as badly as they did against the Eagles, but the question needing to be asked is whether or not was that a wake up call or simply another step towards another disappointing finish. I tend to believe the former, which means the Bears edge out this one.