Bears

Bears in good shape with Rodgers in Minnesota

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Bears in good shape with Rodgers in Minnesota

The Bears will need to take care of business first, but if they can get past the Lions in their season finale Sunday afternoon they stand a better than decent chance of making the playoffs.
That's because the second half of their "needs-to-happen scenario" involves Aaron Rodgers playing at 3:25 in Minnesota, where he has played as well as any venue, Lambeau Field included, the last three seasons.
Rodgers, who quietly is putting together an MVP-caliber season, leads the NFL in passer rating (106.2), is second in touchdown passes (35) and ninth in passing yards (3,930) despite being sacked an NFC-high 46 times.
He is 6-3 as a starter against the Vikings, including wins in the last five meetings; he's also gone on the road to beat Minnesota in each of the last two seasons. And in the last three contests against his division foe to the north, Rodgers has averaged 340 yards on 73 percent passing and nine touchdowns to just one interception, good for a scorching passer rating of 133.0.
The Packers have averaged 29 points in those three games, and it's Rodgers' poise and ability to exploit defenses on a fast surface that has led the way. In fact, Rodgers has played 17 games indoors in his eight-year career and has a passer rating of 114.7, more than 12 points higher than his passer rating outdoors (101.9).
Earlier this year, the Packers' defense forced two red zone turnovers against Christian Ponder to help them hang on to a 23-14 home win. The Vikings will grab the NFC's No. 6 seed with a win, while the Bears (assuming a win over Detroit) would earn the seed if Rodgers takes care of business.
The Packers have a stake in Sunday's game as well. With a win or a 49ers loss, Green Bay would secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a bye to the Divisonal Round. San Francisco also plays late (vs. Arizona), so the Packers won't know whether they have their seeding locked up when they take the Metrodome field. The Packers and Bears can not play until the NFC Championship game.
Lovie Smith and the Bears have noted all week that they are solely focused on their own matchup, and rightfully so. The Packers-Vikings result won't mean anything if the Bears can't shut down Calvin Johnson and co. on the road. But if they do pick up a road win and move to 10-6, the last game they need to fall right will be led by a red-hot Rodgers playing in one of his most successful venues.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: