Sunday night at Lambeau Field the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers will renew the NFL’s oldest rivalry, and it will be the Bears last chance to control their own destiny for the 2020 season.
A victory over the Green Bay Packers would allow the Bears to go on and win the NFC North with no help from any other team, but a loss would force them to need help just to make the playoffs let alone retain hopes of a division crown.
A Packers win will give them at least a three-game lead over all three of their division opponents with just five games to play and only one wining team – the Titans – left on the schedule.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Davante Adams vs. Buster Skrine and Jaylon Johnson
Adams is one of the hottest receivers in the NFL and appears on track for his first First-Team All Pro nod. Kyle Fuller is playing cornerback as well or better than anyone in the league, but Chuck Pagano will not use Fuller to shadow receivers. He stays on the left side of the Bears defense and Johnson, a rookie, is on the right side.
It’s a no-brainer for Matt LaFleur to put Adams in the slot and try and get him matched up with Skrine, who’s struggled the last few weeks or try and challenge the rookie with Adams.
Johnson has been impressive to date and how he and Skrine fare will be key to the Bears' hopes.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
Is Matt Nagy willing to let Mitch be Mitch?
Will Nagy have a short leash on Mitch Trubisky and refuse to open up the whole playbook, which Nagy acknowledged doing at the beginning of the season, or will he give him all the tools at his disposal and let the kid try to do the job as it needs to be done?
If Trubisky is forced to play with one hand tied behind his back the offense is unlikely to improve.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jamaal Williams, Robert Tonyan, Krys Barnes and Christian Kirksey
If the Bears defense is able to limit Aaron Jones and Adams, Williams and Tonyan become Rodgers’ go-to guys. With Roquan Smith focused on Jones and Eddie Jackson and/or Tashaun Gipson likely helping out over the top on Adams, Williams and Tonyan could be tough matchups.
Barnes and Kirksey are just average inside linebackers, but they are the keys to the Packers' struggling run defense.
The Bears are going to try and run the ball, and if these two can handle it, the Bears offense will be in trouble.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mitch Trubisky
Valdes-Scantling made one play in the 2019 opener at Soldier Field and it proved to be the difference in the game. He is not a steady threat, particularly on shorter routes but he has elite speed and will try and get over the top on the Bears secondary all night long.
Valdes-Scantling, however, missed Friday's practice and is questionable for Sunday night.
Trubisky has struggled with the Packers' defense at times but he also played one of the best games of his career against them at Soldier Field in December 2018.
If he uses his legs to keep the Green Bay defense honest and trusts what he sees, he is a threat to have a big night.
WILD-CARD PLAYERS WHO COULD SURPRISE
Allen Lazard and Mario Edwards Jr.
Lazard was looking like the Packers' No. 2 receiver earlier in the season but nagging injuries have slowed him of late. If he’s healthy he’ll have to be accounted for.
Edwards has been a nice surprise for the Bears and if Akiem Hicks can’t go, which seems likely, Edwards will be on the field and a principal pass rusher most of the game.
THE FINAL WORD
Packers 23, Bears 19
The Packers are actually just 3-3 in their last six and coming off back-to-back lackluster performances, including against the lowly Jaguars at Lambeau two weeks ago.
With the Bears in desperation mode, an upset wouldn’t be shocking, but with all the uncertainty at quarterback, on the offensive line and with Hicks’ status, it’s near impossible to justify picking the Bears.