By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
This one is pretty simple folks — for the Chicago Bears, win and you’re in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they won’t be getting an easy opponent this week, in many ways they’re getting the worst opponent they could get.
Not only is the Week 17 opponent the Bears’ most fervent tormentors, the Green Bay Packers, they’re also the prohibitive No. 1 seed in the conference. Maybe it will help some that the Bears will be at home but you’d be hard-found to locate anyone, even in the greater Chicago area, that can confidently say the Bears will play well Sunday given the quality of the opponent and the recent lack of success against them.
Therefore, this is a great opportunity for the Bears to make a statement they’ve yet to have made in 2020 and to exhibit real progress as a team just in time for an impromptu playoff run.
Season-long frustration from Chicago fans towards the general manager, head coach and quarterback has been palpable and remains so, yet this one game could be the decider if the maligned band gets back together again or not. So much is on the line, and it feels like the stakes are higher than usual since ownership notoriously loathes losing to this one particular team.
And, yes, there is also a scenario for the Bears to leave Sunday a playoff team even with a loss, but that is not nearly as fun to talk about. Lets deep dive into what it will take for a Bears win on Sunday.
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Mitch Time — Lots of fans and NFL types have been clamoring about the improvement of quarterback Mitch Trubisky since retaining the starting quarterback position, to the point of more people saying that he shouldn’t lose the job again.
Well, now is a chance for Money Makin’ Mitch to prove he’s worth a reinvestment — he’s facing the top team in the NFC, the team that the conference will have to go through to make this year’s Super Bowl. Trubisky has to show this week that he can play beyond what we’ve been used to seeing from him.
Injury Opportunity? — The Bears defense struggled at stopping Green Bay in their earlier match-up in Week 12. That offense won’t be running the same this week, nor for the rest of the season, after all-pro left tackle David Bakhtiari was announced as being out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury. This is the type of fortune that the Bears rarely see in this rivalry, they have to use it to their advantage.
Three Phase Game — In football, the famous adage (and movie) “Any Given Sunday” means you can get beat by anyone at anytime. If the Bears are going to pull off this major upset then it will take a three-phase effort by executing on offense, defense, and (the often overlooked, but still extremely important) special teams.
Embrace the Moment — Everyone in the Bears organization should feel under pressure this week, and it should galvanize each and every person, not make them shrink.
“Win-and-you’re-in” situations usually bring the highest level of competition out of a team, but in the Bears case it feels like even more is on the line than some bragging rights and a playoff spot that may not entirely be deserved.
The direction of the franchise for the next few years could be set with the efforts on Sunday. We’re talking major stakes here and every effort to win should be made with that in mind.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR