Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
Live On Sky Sports 3
We have a humdinger of a game here, between two point-scoring powerhouses who just happen to hate each other. And the fact that this is a winner-takes-all clash to decide who clinches the NFC North just adds extra spice to what should already be a fascinating and fiercely-fought encounter. There'll be no wildcard spot for whoever loses this game. So everything really is on the line.
The irony is that whoever wins, will have the worst record in the play-offs. And after what looks certain to be a eyeballs out encounter here, the victor will probably just roll over meekly in the wildcard game that follows. But that's something for us to take financial advantage of at a later point.
For now, let's focus on this game, which will see the bulk of the pre-match attention falling on the much-heralded return of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Out for two months with a fractured collarbone, Rodgers is back just in the nick of time to try save his team's season, and help propel Green Bay into the play-offs.
Now there's good reason why the bulk of the attention will be on Rodgers, because he is quite simply one of the greatest quaterbacks ever to throw a ball. That might seem a little premature. But for me, he is an incredible player, who when on song, ranks up there with the all time greats on any given Sunday. And the fact that Green Bay have struggled so much without him, shows just how good he really is.
But having said all that. I'm now going to oppose him. Because while Rodgers is close to being superhuman, he is also clearly not fit. Remember that Superman film where our hero, having been exposed to kryptonite, becomes a darker and weaker shadow of himself? Well that is something close to the situation in which we find Rodgers right now, shorn of his superpowers, and most likely in a dark place, given the ridiculous levels of expectation already being heaped upon him. Green Bay simply aren't that good a team this season. And even less so, without a fully fit Rodgers.
I want you now to look back to when these teams met in Week Nine of this season, a fixture which Chicago won, on the road, 27-20. That was the game in which Aaron Rodgers first got injured, and which proved to be the beginning of the end for Green Bay's season. So how appropriate it is, that it should be Chicago who look set to drive the final nail into the Green Bay coffin, and finish what they started back on November 4th.
It was significant that Chicago got the better of the Packers then, whilst on the road. For Chicago have been a poor road team this season. And they should prove a much more difficult opponent this time round, within the confines of Soldier Field.
At home, Chicago have an impressive 5-2 winning record, thanks to a powerful offense that combines the versatile running threat of Matt Forte, with perhaps the best twin-receiver combo in the entire NFL, of Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall. That does not bode well at all for a Green Bay defense that's conceded, on average, more than a 31 points per game on the road this season.
In all honesty, I think Chicago can put up more than that with home advantage. And that will leave a still-unfit Rodgers left needing to pull-off nothing short of a miracle if his team are to win.
What actually worries me though, is that he might cause himself even greater mischief in trying to do so. Even a hint of physical injury would see Matt Flynn thrown back into the fray, with Rodgers too valuable to be put at serious risk, even in a game of this magnitude. But either way, I'm expecting a blue day for fans of Green Bay.
Back Chicago to Win @ 2.3411/8
Back Chicago points over 33 @ 4.03/1 (sportsbook)
Back Green Bay Points under 28.5 @ 1.664/6 (sportsbook)