(Editor's Note: This late UYA/PTMY is brought to you by the holidays.)
The big news regarding this week's Bears/Packers rematch revolves a lot around two things - the NFC North championship and the return of Aaron Rodgers to the Packers' starting lineup. To be fair, if the Packers found a way to stay in the championship hunt until such a game as this one, did you think the organization would really keep Rodgers away from this game if he wanted to play in it?
Last week, the Bears had the perfect bridge into the playoffs - beat the leader of the decidedly-mediocre NFC East, and take the crown of the decidedly-mediocre NFC North, after the Lions and Packers fell. Unfortunately, the Bears took the full brunt of an early-game meltdown, which was the only edge the Eagles needed to put the Bears on their heels in a hurry and dispatch them quickly.
It was a performance by the Bears that would have been worthy of a post-Niners-loss rant, but I was sick before the game and still sick during, so I passed. But coming into that game, it's the kind of game that if you're serious about being a division winner and a playoff team, you win it.
I don't think the Eagles are 34 points better than the Bears when the game doesn't get out of hand that early. But it is the kind of game that shows you the Bears, for once this season, couldn't find a way to stop the bleeding or get competitive enough to make it competitive, in a season that's been built on making comebacks and winning with offense when they've won. It was the perfect game for the Eagles - get out ahead early, make the Bears one-dimensional, pound their bad run defense with your outstanding running game, and grind them into dust. If they pass, go after Jay Cutler with the fury of a thousand suns.
It was a bad game if you're a Bears fan. But that's all it is - a horribly timed bad game. The Bears aren't out. They have one more chance to get the division.
Back to your regularly late-scheduled UYA.
Total Yardage: 5931 (4th)
Total Points: 384 (9th)
Passing Yardage: 3955 (8th)
Rushing Yardage: 1976 (7th)
Total Yardage: 5611 (26th)
Total Points: 400 (24th)
Passing Yardage: 3732 (21st)
Rushing Yardage: 1879 (26th)
So what's changed?
Oh, only everything. The last time these two faced off, Shea McClellin had flattened Aaron Rodgers on a chase-down sack, and the Packers were left scrambling for answers, much in the same was Rodgers was scrambling. And like that Rodgers scramble, it ended up with the Packers losing four of five, including a tie against the Vikings. Since then, they've won two of their last three, and sit on the precipice of their own NFC North title.
The Bears' run defense hasn't done them any favors, even against teams that haven't been particularly known for running the ball this season (See: Cowboys, Lions, Ravens, Browns...). You could have put the Packers in that grouping in any other season, except for this one, in which the Packers have run for 100 yards 11 times (and a pretty safe bet for number twelve). Eddie Lacy may miss the game, but if he does, James Starks has shown to be a capable back in his own right. And given the names that have run for 100 yards on the Bears this year, any back the Packers suit up have a chance to run for 150.
The Packers' run defense isn't any stout wall, either; they've allowed two hundred rushing yards three times this year, all since playing the Bears and allowing 171 yards on the ground there. The Packers' injured reserve list reads like a who's-who of defense for them, so it's to be expected they've fallen off, but it's an advantage the Bears have to take advantage of if they hope to pull this one out.
Randall Cobb could be returning for the Packers this week too; he's been on injured reserve with the designation-to-return, but hasn't been activated just yet. If he does return, he brings a dimension the Packers' receiving corps just doesn't have otherwise.
None of that changes the fact that Aaron Rodgers makes this a significantly more difficult challenge for the Bears, in that he's not Seneca Wallace (bad and on IR), Scott Tolzein (bad) or Matt Flynn (made a lot of money despite being bad). Even if he was one of those three, the Packers still ran for 199 yards in the first matchup - Rodgers brings a balancing point to the offense, and that balancing point just happens to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league.
It's rare that there's an NFC North championship game in late December that could be described as high-scoring, but both teams will be running the ball, both teams have very strong passing games, and neither team can play a lick of run defense. In short, the 12-9 game that everyone saw coming.