The Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 with a playoff berth on the line. Unfortunately for them, Green Bay also has a goal to play for this week. They will be attempting to lock up the No. 1 seed in the conference and a first round bye.
The odds are stacked against the Bears in this game. Aaron Rodgers is 19-5 against them in his career in the regular season. At age 37, Rodgers is having another MVP caliber season. He leads the NFL with a 119.4 passer rating.
As a team, the Packers lead the NFL with 474 points scored. Also, 48.7 percent of their drives end in either a touchdown or field goal.
In the first game between the two teams in Week 12, Green Bay dented the end zone on their first three possessions and five of their first six overall (not counting a kneel-down to finish the first half).
Rodgers finished the game completing 21 of 29 pass attempts for 211 yards and four touchdowns. Devante Adams caught six of those balls for 61 yards and one touchdown.
What do the Bears need to do to come out on top in this game and lock down the final NFC postseason spot?
Key Number One
Don’t let that Week 12 game, or Rodgers’ overall record against them, dominate their thoughts. There is nothing to be gained by rehashing what has happened to the Bears in the past against their fiercest rival. Players haven’t that on their minds when they take the field will have taken the first step towards a Week 17 defeat.
Key Number Two
With cornerback Jaylon Johnson still out with his shoulder injury, rookie cornerbacks Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor will have to step-up against the top-flight group of receivers that Rodgers has to work with.
Also, expect the Packers to work on getting Adams lined up against the rookies as often as possible. How do the Bears counter that scenario?
Key Number Three
With Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari out for this game and the postseason, the Bears need to bring all the pass rush pressure they can muster against Rodgers to disrupt his rhythm with his receivers.
The Bears were only credited with two pressures in their Week 12 battle. As a result, Rodgers shredded the defense. Finding ways to ramp up that number is the challenge that defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano faces.
Khalil Mack, Bilal Nichols and the rest of the Bears defensive front needs to eat in this game. They will also have to bring as much blitz pressure as necessary against Rodgers as necessary to keep him from laser-focusing in on his receivers.
Key Number Four
Don’t forget about Aaron Jones. He rushed 17 times for 90 yards in Week 12. The Bears strength on defense all season has been suffocating running attacks. Keeping Jones under control puts more pressure on Rodgers’ shoulders to keep Green Bay’s offense moving.
Key Number Five
Keep the cute out of the offense!
Since offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has taken over play-calling duties, the number of multiple motion and trick plays run has been reduced to a trickle.
Lazor is keeping quarterback Mitch Trubisky moving behind the team’s improving offensive line. Rolling Trubisky out of the pocket has cut the field in half. That has reduced the number of decisions that Trubisky has to make on pass plays while also improving his accuracy.
Last Week, the Bears ran into trouble in the second quarter when they began dropping Trubisky directly into the pocket. For the first time in four weeks he looked frantic and uncomfortable. An interception in the end zone and having to settle for a field goal at the end of the first half had the Bears leading by only three points.
In the third quarter, the team went back to playing to Trubisky’s strengths. Three touchdowns later and the blowout was on.
The offense also needs to keep feeding running back David Montgomery. He’s carried 66 times in the last three games for 354 yards. Montgomery is one of the best backs in the league at gaining yards after contact and has a surprising burst when he breaks through to the second level.
This week, Montgomery is the Bears best weapon when it comes to keeping the ball out of Rodgers’ hands as much as possible.
It’s going to be a tall order for the Bears to overcome the recent dominant streak by Green Bay but if they can accomplish these goals today, they’ll be playing next week in the first round of the playoffs.