Although it may seem that there are only a handful of games around the NFL that carry much significance in this the final weekend of the regular season, don't think for a minute that the Green Bay Packers are going to be a team looking past their season finale and ahead to the postseason.
Leaving aside the fact that the Packers will be looking to enter the postseason on a winning streak, Sunday's game marks the 168th meeting in the storied rivalry between the Packers and their bitter rivals, the Chicago Bears.
Around the Lambeau Field locker room Wednesday, no one was overlooking their second Bears contest of the season. No one was forgetting the 21-10 defeat handed to them by their neighbors to the south back in early September, either.
When asked if a little payback was in order, linebacker Na'il Diggs said that that would definitely factor into the Packers' preparation this week.
"I think so," he said. "It stung a little bit that they came up here and stole a game from us early. It's definitely going to be a physical game. It's always a big rivalry game. They're going to play their hearts out and we're going to go down there and play our hearts out."
Although he stopped short of pulling out the old "throw the records out the window when these teams get together" cliché, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman did admit that there was something extra that goes into the game when his Packers meet Lovie Smith's Bears, regardless of the fact that the season ends Sunday for the 5-10 Chicago squad.
Sherman referenced Smith's stated primary goal of beating the Packers, a goal the rookie head coach made known when he was took the helm in Chicago last January.
"His priority was stated and met - they beat us," said Sherman of the two coaches' first meeting. "Because of the tradition, it doesn't matter where either team is at the end of the season or the beginning of the season, I do believe Chicago-Green Bay - because of the history, the emphasis that our fans place on it, the emphasis that we place on it - it has tremendous ramifications that go beyond just where you are in the standings. I think that both teams put a circle around that game every single year. I know I do."
Defensive end Aaron Kampman said that he's using his usual film study this week not only to prepare him mentally, but emotionally as well.
"Part of the film cut-up we have is the game that they played up here, when they beat us pretty good," Kampman said. "I know personally for me, that's all the motivation I need. They got us here at home and I sure would like to pay them back at home."
Count Marco Rivera among those giving no credence to the notion that the noon Sunday kickoff will be the start of a meaningless game.
"There's no such thing as a meaningless game," said the lineman. "We definitely owe the Bears something. They came up here and they beat us here. We want to end the regular season on a good note and take some kind of momentum into the playoffs. We owe these guys. This is a game that we're not going to take lightly. We're going to go down there to win the game and that's the bottom line."
By all accounts, the Packers are taking this Bears game very seriously. Don't expect anything less than their best from the Green and Gold this weekend as they look to even up the season series with Chicago and head into the postseason riding high.