The Bears (7-7) have seen their season go from hopeful to the verge of elimination, which is what the Bears will be facing on Christmas night at Lambeau Field. It has come to this: The Bears must win each of their remaining two games to have any chance, and it would still be slim, of making it into the postseason.
"We need a win a lot more than they do," Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith said.
The Packers will be playing for home-field advantage. With a win over the Bears, the Packers will assure that the only time they'll get on an airplane again this season to travel to play a football game would be to play in the Super Bowl.
A month ago, the Bears were on a five-game winning streak and dreaming this Sunday's game might have NFC North title meaning. Then they lost quarterback Jay Cutler and four consecutive losses followed.
Caleb Hanie, a hero of sorts in last season's NFC title game, laid an egg as Cutler's replacement and he's being benched this week as Smith makes the move to Josh McCown.
"I just felt like we needed a change, something to give us a little bit of a spark. Josh has been around for a while, been in our offensive system before. It was time to make a move so we went with him," Smith explained.
"We need something; I'll tell you that much. We just haven't made enough takeaways in these games. We've got to get more takeaways. Without Jay being there, we're not the same team we were before, so we have to compensate for that by making more plays on defense," linebacker Brian Urlacher said.
A Packers win on Sunday would result in an embarrassing four-losses-in-one-year moment for the Bears. The Packers beat the Bears on Jan. 2 in the final game of the 2010 regular season, three weeks later in Chicago in the NFC title game, and in Week 3 of this season.
"It's a clean rivalry you look forward to. We've been beaten three times in this calendar year. We have to do our share in the rivalry. We've let the rivalry down," Smith said.
Smith is pushing the message of this game being a chance to regain a measure of pride in what remains of this season.
"We lost four games; led in all four. We just haven't gotten the job done. Hopefully, we can right the ship and finish strong. When you've had a disappointing year, you're glad to play your rival," Smith said.
Beating their rival, of course, would start with stopping their rival's quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
"He's good. We just get lucky every once in a while. There's not a lot you can do against him. He just makes plays. Hopefully, we can make some, as well," Urlacher said.
The Packers have issues, the result of injuries, on their offensive line. Might the Bears take advantage of those issues?
"No. 12 is still playing quarterback. That's all that matters in their offense. He gets rid of the football so fast and knows where to go with the ball, it might be a little bit of a weakness for them, but he's still playing quarterback for them, so they're still dangerous," Urlacher added.
The Packers want to regain the momentum of 19 consecutive wins, which was lost last Sunday in a 19-14 defeat in Kansas City that is the Packers' only loss of 2011. They'll be trying on Sunday to get hot, again, to take that into the postseason. The Bears aren't deluding themselves into believing the playoffs are a realistic hope.
"You wanna play your best ball at the end. I know we're going to go for 60 minutes and try to get a win," Smith said. Additional coverage - Dec. 21