Thank you Minnesota Vikings. With the Vikings improbable win on Tuesday Night Football against the Eagles, the Bears have a first round bye locked up, and an outside shot at the top seed. Thank you Flex Scheduling. With the Bears week 17 game in Green Bay being moved to a 3:15 kickoff, the Bears should know where they stand in regards to how meaningful their game will be. Both Atlanta and New Orleans play at noon, and if either win their game the Bears would be locked into the two seed.
The Bears would hold the tiebreaker against the Falcons, but not against the Saints, so the Bears need both to drop winnable games, the Saints host the Buccaneers and the Falcons host the Panthers. If one or the other looks to have victory at hand, and considering the game would then be meaningless in the playoff scheme of things, do the Bears risk injury against a highly motivated Packer team?
The Bears have had some scenarios play out favorably for them this season, but I do not see the Panthers tripping up the Falcons in Atlanta. If the Bears are locked into #2, what do they do? What would you do? I know the competitive spirit in all pro athletes would want to win, but I also know that human nature is to let up when something has no meaning. Now before you get all, "But it's the hated Packers, our rival, and the Bears also have a shot at sweeping the Division!", on me. Ask yourself, does it really matter? There are no rings handed out for a Division sweep. The ultimate goal for any team is the Super Bowl. Lovie Smith has his stepping stone goals before they gets to the big prize; Beat Green Bay, win the Division, win the NFC, but if the end of the journey dosen't end with a Championship, the season is looked at as a failure.
Would you be OK if Lovie went for the win and Jay Cutler was injured? Beating the Packers could end their playoff aspirations, and how sweet would that be to see the hopes and dreams of the Packers and their fans crushed? I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday in early January. Notice I only said "could", because even with a loss the Packers could back into the six seed. If they lose, and the Bucs lose (which is likely), and the Giants lose (against the Redskins in Washington, kickoff at 3:15), then the Packers luck into the postseason.
I'll admit I'm torn. I don't want the Packers in the playoffs. They are the only team that really worries me in the NFC. The Saints would concern me if the game were in New Orleans, but for them to snag the #1 seed they'd need the above mentioned unlikely scenario of a Falcon loss to play out. If the Bears beat the Packers on Sunday, then the Giants have the next best shot at the six seed, and that week four 17-3 smackdown they put on Chicago was a long, long time ago. The Bears and Giants are both much different teams right now. The identity of the Bears offense has undergone a radical change, and the big fellas up front are playing some solid football of late. It would definitely be best for the Bears to go for the knock out on Sunday. Then again is it worth risking injury in a pointless game?
What if the Bears lay down, the Packers get in, and ~gasp~ beat the Bears in the NFC Championship game? That would be worse than insult to injury. Imagine the trolls that would visit WCG if that plays out? Kev will have to hire a ban hammer posse to keep the riff raff away. It would be the absolute worst possible outcome of the Bears coasting into the postseason. They have to know how dangerous Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are. The Bears have to go for the win Sunday. Don't they?
If you truly want to see the Bears go all out for the win, how would you feel if they suffered an injury or two on Sunday? Would you second guess Lovie Smith for not resting his guys? Would you support Lovie even more for having the guts to go for it?
If you're in the 'sit the starters' camp, and the Bears play rusty after their bye week and lose in their playoff game, are you then ticked off at Lovie for resting his team? You can't have it both ways now... you know someone on these boards will call you out for flip flopping.
I can see the benefits and potential pitfalls of going both routes, but if forced to make a decision, I think... no... I know exactly what I'd do. I'd be all in. Former coach, and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards said the following:
"This is what's great about sports. This is what the greatest thing about sports is. You play to win the game. Hello? You play to win the game. You don't play it to just play it. That's the great thing about sports: you play to win, and I don't care if you don't have any wins. You go play to win. When you start tellin' me it doesn't matter, then retire. Get out! 'Cause it matters."
You can get injured crossing the street. You can get injured washing your truck, you can fall down the stairs, and only in Chicago can you get injured sneezing. Play the starters. Go for the win. Just don't get anyone hurt.