The Chicago Bears’ weekend started perfectly.
On Saturday, the San Francisco 49ers upset the Arizona Cardinals, putting the Bears in position to control their own destiny to make the playoffs. The following day, Chicago destroyed the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-17.
Everything was going according to plan.
But then the Bears’ luck took a drastic turn. Chicago’s fanbase was hoping for the Rams to defeat the Seahawks and the Packers to beat the Titans, so Green Bay would lock up the No. 1 seed going into Week 17, which could have resulted in the Packers resting their starters against their NFC North rival.
The Packers, as usual, took care of business. The Rams, however, did not, so Green Bay will be playing at full strength against the Bears to secure a first-round bye.
In the 20-9 loss to the Seahawks, Rams quarterback Jared Goff injured his thumb in the third quarter and had surgery the following day, making him unavailable for a must-win game to make the postseason against Arizona.
The Bears can still make the playoffs if they lose and the Rams win, and that scenario becomes slightly more reasonable if Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray can’t play because of a lower leg injury. But if the Bears want to extend their season, and want to do so under their own power, they have to do the near-impossible: defeat Green Bay.
The team with the future hall-of-fame quarterback and front-runner to be the 2020 MVP. The team that consistently has its goals set on making deep-playoff runs. The team that has an 18-4 record against the Bears since 2010.
They stand in the way of the Bears clinching their third playoff berth in the last 10 years.
Sunday’s matchup between the Packers (12-3) and Bears (8-7) — a game that was flexed from noon to 3:25 p.m. (CT) — is more like a worst-case scenario than a realistic opportunity to make the postseason.
It was just a month ago that the Packers demolished the Bears 41-25 on “Sunday Night Football,” reminding the two fanbases — specifically Bears fans — of the disparity between the two teams.
Aaron Rodgers effortlessly threw for four touchdowns on the night, and by halftime, the game was practically over.
Yes, it was Mitch Trubisky’s first game back from being benched and the first game for the reshuffled offensive line. And those two moves have been the main reasons why the Bears won three of their next four games after the loss to Green Bay.
Have the Bears improved since that Sunday night loss?
Offensively — they have. With offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling plays that cater to Trubisky’s strengths, the offense has found an identity. It starts with running the ball with David Montgomery and moving the pocket on designed rollouts and play-action passes to simplify reads for Trubisky.
On defense, though, there are some serious concerns. The biggest one being the inconsistent pass rush, which only sacked the statuesque Mike Glennon once in Sunday’s win over Jacksonville.
If the pass rush is nonexistent like it was against the Jaguars, Lions, Packers, Saints, Rams or Colts, then Rodgers is going to pick apart Chuck Pagano’s defense. And if starting cornerback Jaylon Johnson is out again for the third-straight game, then expect 2020 fifth-round draft pick Kindle Vildor to be exposed in coverage.
This is going to sound absolutely ridiculous, but given how Chicago’s offense has played the past four weeks, scoring over 30 points in each game, the Bears best way of winning might actually be in a shootout.
So Trubisky going toe to toe with Rodgers and the explosive Packers offense for an entire four quarters.
Yeah — that is absolutely ridiculous.
Coach Matt Nagy and the rest of his staff are going to have to put together their best game plan since he got to Chicago to even have an opportunity for an upset. Anything less will end the Bears’ season.
And the Packers are accustomed to doing just that. Who can forget about Week 17 of the 2013 season, and Chris Conte watching Randall Cobb streak down the middle of the field for the go-ahead touchdown, eliminating the Bears’ postseason hopes.
Or how about the 2010 season, when the Bears couldn’t score a touchdown in the final week of the regular season in Green Bay, giving the Packers a 10-3 victory and a playoff spot. Everyone knows how that eventually played out. Green Bay defeated Chicago in the NFC Championship and then went on to win the Super Bowl.
Is there a chance Chicago can pull off the upset? Technically, yes. “Any given Sunday,” right?
If it was any other opponent, then Bears fans might stand by that cliché with a bit more confidence.
But this is the Packers and the Bears and the ending seems inevitable — with Green Bay clinching the No. 1 seed and continuing its path towards winning another Lombardi Trophy while Chicago sits at home eliminated from playoff contention, wondering what it can possibly do to simply stay relevant with their archrival.