GREEN BAY—The vibe in the Packers locker room immediately following Sunday’s last-second loss to the Steelers was that the season had been squandered.
It didn’t last long, though.
A little more than three hours later, the last of what has seemed like the Packers’ nine lives was granted, thanks to the Eagles beating the Bears. When the players returned to the locker room on Monday and Tuesday, the vibe had shifted, almost immeasurably.
“I think if you ask all 32 teams at the beginning of the year if they had the opportunity in the last game to play for a division title, would they take it? Everybody would say yes,” fullback
Might that best game of the year come with quarterback
That news is expected to come on Thursday, when the players return from taking Christmas off and get back on the practice field.
Rodgers or no Rodgers, the Packers will focus plenty on their ground game as they go up against the Bears’ porous run defense. Chicago’s defense ranks last in the league in yards per game (161.5) and yards per carry (5.4).
“He’s just as much of a bruiser as Eddie,” center
For the season, Starks is averaging 5.2 yards per rush (78 carries, 405 yards) and has three touchdowns. Plagued by injuries throughout the first three years of his career, Starks is as fresh as any running back getting regular work could be this late in a season.
“I’m feeling good,” Starks said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.”
The Bears hadn’t been drilled in a long time like they were Sunday night in Philadelphia, 54-11. But the Packers know better than to take Chicago’s defense for granted.
A division rivalry with such high stakes makes last week’s results even more meaningless than they usually are in the topsy-turvy world of the NFL.
“I hope we put up 54, but when you’re talking about division games, we play each other so much, they know us, it’s dang near like they practice against us,” Jones said. “These games are always close, as you guys know. Division opponents always play each other tough. Hopefully, we can expose them, but we’re ready for a dogfight.”
One more fight, for a chance to keep on fighting.
“Confidence in sky high,” Jones said. “After all we’ve been through during the season … one game … that’s all that matters.”