The Bears schedule over the last four weeks has been remarkably generous. In the last three weeks, they’ve beat up on the Jaguars, Vikings, and Texans. The week before that? Well, it’s safe to say the Bears would love a mulligan on that one, a 34-30 loss to the hapless Detroit Lions.
If the Bears had managed to win that winnable game, they’d have their playoff berth wrapped up and this week’s game at home against the Packers would be more or less meaningless.
Alas, there are no mulligans in the NFL, and the Bears head home to face a Green Bay squad that is playing for an all-important first round bye in the playoffs, as well as home field advantage.
In short: This could get dicey for the Bears.
Win and they’re in
To be clear, the Bears don’t have to win this game to sneak into the playoffs, but it sure would make things easy. If they win, they’re in. If they lose, they’ll be rooting for the Rams to knock off the Cardinals. That’s a Rams team, by the way, without quarterback Jared Goff, without running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, and without wideout Cooper Kupp.
Fair to say the Bears will be playing to win.
And the Indiana sportsbooks are giving the Chicago squad a fair shake, as they’re underdogs, but perhaps by not as much as you might think. Consensus line is the Bears +5.5, though as of Wednesday afternoon DraftKings bumped the Bears up to +5 before bringing it back to 5.5. One thing certainly being bumped up is the over/under: It started at 48 and has been bet up to 52 at most books, including BetRivers. On the moneyline front, the best bang for your Bears buck is over at FanDuel at +205.
Battle on the gridiron
On the field, the Bears are going to have their hands and paws full dealing with MVP-favorite Aaron Rodgers. Back on Nov. 29, Rodgers surgically dismantled the Bears secondary, throwing for 211 yards and four scores. On the ground, the Pack also dominated, running for a total of 182 yards and another score. And the final score – 41-25 – doesn’t look so terrible until you consider it was 41-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bears are a middling 13th in passing yards allowed, but when Aaron Rodgers is involved – especially the 2020 version, playing pitch and catch all day with Davante Adams – defensive rankings sort of go out the window.
Chicago is also middle of the pack in rushing defense, so this isn’t exactly a tough matchup for Aaron Jones, either.
Clearly, with a projected 28.5 points, the Packers are expected to score points.
Can the Bears keep up? Well …
Manic Mitch Trubiskly has legitimately been playing well down the stretch, Allan Robinson continues to do Allan Robinson things, and the Millers, Mooneys, and Grahams of the world do what they can to keep the chains moving.
But the engine of the Bears offense has clearly been David Montgomery, who has more than taken advantage of the Bears’ recent soft schedule. Only the Dallas Cowboys are giving up more rushing yards per game than the Bears’ last four opponents, and Montgomery has capitalized.
And how did he do first time out against Green Bay? Just fine, with 143 all-purpose yards and a score.
If the Bears are going to win this game, it’s almost certainly going to be through Montgomery. The Packers are 24th in the league in rushing yards per attempt, but 13th in rushing yards per game. In short: The Packers are happy to allow other teams to run on them. And so if they continue with that mindset, Montgomery should have ample space – and opportunity – to do what he needs to do.
The biggest question, then, is can the Bears defense step up and stymie the unstoppable force of Rodgers to Adams? And if they somehow manage to do that, are other holes going to pop up?
One thing is for certain: Green Bay at Chicago + Week 17 + big playoff implications = the football gods will be watching.