Bears vs. Packers: A Case of Mind over Matter
Cheeseheads or Grater-heads? It may be a question of whose head is in the right place.
The oldest and greatest rivalry in the NFL takes center stage once again Sunday afternoon as the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers with a division title on the line. The math is simple. The winner captures the NFC North while the loser goes home. Do or die. For the Bears, however there's a mental component to this one that just might determine the outcome.
Last week Chicago was obliterated in Philadelphia, losing to the Eagles 54-11. Earlier that day, the Bears received the help they needed from the Giants and Steelers. They could have wrapped up the division with a win. Instead, they were smoked in front of a national audience. Now, they get one more chance. Will they have the right mindset?
The entire team has to forget about the shellacking they took from Philly. All the Bears are saying the right things, but have they really put such a sound beating behind them so soon? If they have that'd be a great first step, but the lopsided loss isn't the only gorilla in the room.
Aaron Rodgers, the Packers star quarterback who missed seven weeks after breaking his collarbone November 4 at Soldier Field, is back. Rodgers has been a thorn in the Bears side since taking over behind center in Green Bay. He's beaten Chicago again and again including a win in the NFC Championship game in the Windy City after the 2010 season. When matched-up with Cutler head to head, Rodgers is a gaudy 7-1. The Bears went from 4.5 point favorites to 3 point underdogs when it was announced that Rodgers would indeed start this weekend. The Bears need to forget about the past and the numbers, and worry about their assignments.
There are plenty more layers to the mighty task ahead for the Bears. Jay Cutler is possibly playing for a contract. Many fans have wanted Chicago to go back to Josh McCown. Can Cutler respond by beating Green Bay and leading his club to the postseason?
Marc Trestman is in his first year coaching. He's gotten mixed reviews so far. A win on Sunday gives Trestman a division championship out of the gate, while a loss saddles him with a very mediocre 8-8 inaugural campaign. Big difference.
General Manager Phil Emery is also being watched closely here. After two years on the job, will his team have two winning seasons and a division title or will they have missed the postseason twice? Sunday's battle will determine that answer.
So, before things even kickoff in this sure to be black and blue battle, the Bears will have to have a check-up from the neck up. The Monsters of the Midway need to demonstrate mental toughness to contend with a host of variables. Then even if they have put the Eagles embarrassment aside and even if they have exorcised Packers demons of the past the team still needs a Herculean effort. If Cutler and Trestman are up for the task, they may have to put up close to 40 points in order to make up for a defense that's been nothing but a sieve.
Then the Bears will likely also require a mistake free day featuring big special teams play and a performance from the defense like we haven't seen in 2013.
The NFC North Division championship hangs in the balance. The Bears will have to earn this one, mentally and then physically. If they pull it off against their arch rival, they'll certainly deserve the crown.
As Chicago favorite Ferris Bueller once put it, "Where's your brain?" For the Bears we'll soon find out.