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« Kane Racking Up Points in a Season for the Ages To Sign, Or Not To Sign -- The Jay Cutler Question »

Bears Fri Dec 27 2013

It All Comes Down To Bears vs. Packers

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngThe season has been a tumultuous one for the Bears and Packers. Injuries have ravaged both squads, and have sidelined each team's starting quarterback for an extended period of time. The Packers have barely survived life without Aaron Rodgers, while the stunning play of Josh McCown has done nothing but raise more questions about the future of Jay Cutler in Chicago.

Sunday's game won't answer any of the long term questions the Bears face as a franchise. If Cutler struggles, it doesn't automatically mean an imminent departure. If he succeeds, a contract extension worth $18 million a year won't be sitting on his kitchen table Monday morning. Marc Trestman and Phil Emery have long said the evaluation of their franchise quarterback is a long-term process. A loss accelerates the queries, a victory only pushes them off.

Rodgers' recovery has been an arduous one. He's the best player in football when he's fully healthy, but few people are convinced that he's at 100 percent going into the game -- even questioning whether playing him is in the best interest of him and the organization for the future. But it's difficult to pass up an opportunity at the playoffs. They don't grow on trees (though it's rare for an elite-level quarterback to miss the playoffs when playing a healthy season), and despite a terrible defense, a playoff spot means a non-zero chance at a Super Bowl appearance.

Rodgers' return is a nightmare for the Bears. His past success against them might be part of the reason the Packers are favored by three points in Chicago despite their porous defense, and it's also an indictment of Vegas' trust in Cutler against a team he's struggled mightily against. The Bears were able to escape Green Bay victorious in November, but unless Rodgers is knocked out again, the road will be much tougher this time around.

A victory for either team means the playoffs, and if it's the Bears, the odds lean in the direction of a quick exit. Some fans will be rooting for a loss, hoping it will doom Cutler's future with the organization and secure a higher draft pick. The slightly higher selection is pretty insignificant where they'd be drafting in either scenario, and as mentioned before, the game is one of hundreds of data points for Emery and Trestman to draw from. Sure, it's likely the Bears would get bounced early if they do make it, but crazier things have happened. "Any given Sunday" is a language any underdog can sell in the craziness that is the NFL.

The perceived rivalry between the two teams will reach an apex on Sunday, and if Cutler signs long-term, it could be the beginning of a renewed antagonism for years to come. The NFL purposely schedules divisional matchups for the entire slate of games in Week 17 in hopes of creating the tension you'll see in Chicago and Dallas. It couldn't be a better scenario for the league and its infatuation with TV ratings.

The future of both the Bears (Cutler's contract) and the Packers (Rodgers' true health) hang in the balance, and it all comes down to a 3:25pm CT football game on the last Sunday in December. May the luckiest team win.

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