The Green Bay Packers are going to get back in it against the Chicago Bears this Sunday. I know both teams' fates for the season might be set - the Packers are the third seed in the NFC Playoffs and the Bears will be going home after Sunday - but the Chicago Bears would like nothing better than to go into the offseason by sweeping the Packers on the season.
The Packers can't allow that to happen, for a number of reasons. First of all, the Packers need to keep up the momentum that they started building when they beat the Vikings last week and carry that into their playoff push.
Secondly, this is the Bears - the biggest rivalry in football - and the Packers need to pay them back on their home field after the Bears stole one at Lambeau back in September.
On the other hand, I think the Packers starters should look at this game almost like a preseason game. My advice to Coach Sherman would be to let the starters play for a little while - maybe for the first half - and then get them out of there and rested up for next week as healthy as possible.
They may be playing Carolina, it may be Seattle, it may be St. Louis, it might be New Orleans, and it could even be the hated Minnesota Vikings again. Whoever the Packers will play next week at Lambeau Field, they need to have a fresh and healthy team to start the playoffs.
I've been getting a lot of questions about how you go about playing a game when there's not much on the line. I've always been taught by people like Ron Wolf that every time you lace your cleats up, you've got to take the field to win the game.
By no means should you think that the Packers are going into Soldier Field not motivated to come home with win #10 on the season. They want to win the game, but they've also got to play it smart and play it safe.
Also, I'm excited to see guys like Craig Nall get some more extended playing time. I know what he can do, and I want you to get a chance to see what kind of talent the Packers have right now at the quarterback position behind Brett Favre.
You'll also get a chance to see some more of the young guys - the future of the Green Bay Packers - and see what they can show you. Guys like Scott Wells, Tony Fisher, Joey Thomas, Cullen Jenkins, Corey Williams - they've already shown some of what they can do on the field this season, but I think it will be great to see them even more in the second half on Sunday.
This will be a chance for you to see the kind of depth the Packers have on their roster. It will be great to see the younger players in the base offense and defense and what the future might hold in store for them with the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers will be using this game to stay healthy and stay sharp for the playoffs, but they definitely want to win the game. No matter who's on the field in that Green Bay uniform, they've got to get the job done.
The Chicago Bears come into this game licking their wounds a little bit. They have a record of 5-10, but I think they got a bad deal last week at Detroit as they had a potential game-winning touchdown taken away by a bad call by the officials. Those kind of games demoralize a team, so it will be interesting to see what kind of fire they have on the field Sunday.
They've been a good defensive team throughout the year, but they will be playing without probably their three top players on that side of the ball. If you remember the game at Lambeau Field earlier this season, the biggest play of the game was Brian Urlacher's forced fumble from Ahman Green that Mike Brown picked up and ran 95 yards for a touchdown.
Well, Urlacher, Brown, and Adewale Ogunleye, their big off-season pickup from the Miami Dolphins, are all on injured reserve, so it will be a much different looking Bears defense than the one the Packers saw the first time around.
Offense has been where the Bears have struggled all season long. After losing Rex Grossman in the third game of the season, they have used a number of quarterbacks this year, with none of them having much success. Chad Hutchinson is their quarterback now and this will be the Packers' first look at this former baseball player.
At running back, they feature a guy who had a big day against the Packers in September, Thomas Jones. He ran for over 150 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting, so it will be up to the defensive line to not let him get going again this week.
The Chicago Bears have shown in their first season under new coach Lovie Smith that they're very athletic and I think they are going to be a team to be reckoned with in the future. But right now, I don't think they can put up enough points to threaten the Packers in this game.
This is an important game for the Packers. You don't want to get swept by your rival, and you definitely want to go into the playoffs on a great note with a big victory. I think the Packers will do just that and close out the regular season with a win in Chicago.
*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.
Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*
LeRoy serves as the host on the new DVD, 'Brett Favre - On and Off the Field'. Click here for more information on the DVD.