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Week 17 Game Preview: Bears-Packers

Playoffs or bust; the Bears have to beat their biggest rival to guarantee a spot in the postseason.

Tennessee Titans v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

So it’s really all going to come down to this, eh?

Bears-Packers and Chicago has to beat their rival for the easiest path to the postseason. It’s not like that rival has beat them like a drum over the last decade-plus...

Yes, there is a way for the Bears to lose to Green Bay and still get into the playoffs, with a loss by the Arizona Cardinals, but now the Cardinals are facing a backup Rams quarterback.

The most straightforward and easiest way is for Chicago to win their way in. No sweating other games, no falling backwards into the playoffs, just win and be in.

Easier said than done, no?

Green Bay Packers

SB Nation site: Acme Packing Company

Record: 12-3, clinched the NFC North

Last week: 40-14 drubbing of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, 3:25 pm CT, FOX

Bears all-time record against: 94-99-6 regular season, 1-1 postseason

Historical meetings: The last time the Bears and Packers met in week 17 was 2013. The 7-7-1 Packers and 8-7 Bears, both clinging to playoff hopes.

The Bears 13-7 at halftime thanks to a boneheaded play where no Chicago defender attempted to pick up a ball on a play that hadn’t been blown dead, but Green Bay receiver Jarrett Boykin did.

In the second half the Bears and Packers traded scores and at the start of the fourth, Jay Cutler found Brandon Marshall for a five yard score to give the Bears a 28-20 lead.

The Packers answered with a touchdown drive of their own to make it a one point game. Chicago drove 29 yards and ate 5:29 of the clock but had to punt back to Aaron Rodgers and company.

The Packers answered with a 15-play drive that included an unbelievable three fourth down conversions, the last one being the dagger; with 46 seconds left, a 48-yard, broken-coverage play to Randall Cobb. Bears fans know it as simply “4th and 8” or “The Chris Conte play.”

The Bears got the ball with 31 seconds left and Cutler completed just one pass to Martellus Bennett to get the Bears to the Packers’ 45 yard line but the third of three deep heaves was intercepted in the Green Bay endzone and killed the Bears’ comeback attempts.

Last meeting: On Sunday Night Football back in week 12, coming off the bye week the Bears dropped their fifth game in a row to the Packers in a 41-25 rout that wasn’t as close as the final score may have suggested.

Injury report: The Packers listed 10 players as either limited or held out of practice Wednesday:

Limited: CB Kevin King (groin), WR Allen Lazard (core/wrist), TE Marcedes Lewis (knee), S Will Redmond (concussion), LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle/thumb), WR Equanimeous St. Brown (knee), TE Jace Sternberger (concussion), RB Jamaal Williams (quadricep)

Did not participate: DL Kingsley Keke (concussion), T Rick Wagner (knee)

Offense: The Packers enter the final week of the season with the first ranked offense in terms of points and third in yards.

The Packers have the sixth ranked passing offense and 14th ranked rushing offense.

Leading the way, again, is MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers (70.3 pct cmp./4,059 yds./44 TD/5 INT) throwing to Offensive Player of the Year candidate Davante Adams (103 rec./1,328 yds./17 TD), TE Robert Tonyan (50/568/10) and dual-threat RB Aaron Jones (43/312/2).

Each of the next three Packers’ receivers have 31 catches apiece: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (31/603/5), Allen Lazard (31/434/3) and RB Jamaal Williams (31/236/1).

Jones (190 att./1,062 yds./8 TD) and Williams (114/479/2) make a formidable backfield combination, along with FB AJ Dillon (45/239/2) and even Rodgers (37/145/3) himself still can get the job done once in a while.

Defense: The Packers defense ranks 16th in points allowed but seventh in yards allowed.

Their passing defense ranks sixth and their rushing defense ranks 14th.

The defense is highlighted by Za’Darius Smith (12.5 sk/4 FF/12 TFL/23 QB hits), Rashan Gary (5 sk/11 QB hits/4 TFL) and Preston Smith (4 sk/7 TFL/10 QB hits).

Lurking deep are former Bear Adrian Amos (74 tkls/1 INT/8 PD/2 sk) and Darnell Savage (4 INT/12 PD/1 sk/3 TFL).

Don’t sleep on Pro-Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander (1 INT/1 sk/48 tkls) or LB Christian Kirksey (71 tkls/2 INT/ 1 sk/4 PD).

Key match ups:

  • The defense against Aaron Rodgers, specifically the front four and the secondary.
  • Last game the Bears couldn’t slow down Rodgers and the Green Bay offense and it made for a long night. Davante Adams is going to see a lot of Kyle Fuller but Jaylon Johnson will also get some shots too, should he be able to play. If he can’t, then expect for Rodgers to pick on any back ups that are in the game, Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor.
  • The defensive line has to pressure Rodgers more than in the first meeting (zero QB hits or sacks).
  • For the offense, it’s simple: run the ball. The Packers want to score early and often so slow the game pace down, cut down opportunities for Mitch Trubisky to make his head-scratching throws and mistakes.
  • If you run the ball well it will set up play-action and the things the offense can do well.

Key stats:

  • The Packers have allowed less than 20 points in three of their last four games and have allowed 30 or more points only four times this season
  • Green Bay has just four games with offensive turnovers this season, including all three of their losses. In two of them their defense had no takeaways
  • The Packers offense is great on third down (2nd in the league; 49.1 percent) and in the redzone (1st; 78.6 percent) but their defense is middling in those areas (12th in third down; 39.4 percent and 17th in redzone; 61.7 percent)
  • David Montgomery averaged 9.36 yards per carry during the first meeting but only had 11 carries

Can the Bears defeat their rivals Sunday or do all hopes lie with the Cardinals losing? What is the biggest things the Bears need to do to win?