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.

Packers at Bears odds: Betting line has Chicago as nearly touchdown favorite

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USA TODAY

Packers at Bears odds: Betting line has Chicago as nearly touchdown favorite

Las Vegas has come around on the Bears since the last time they played the Green Bay Packers.

Back in Week 1, the betting line opened with the Packers favored by a full nine points. Even after the Khalil Mack trade, the line spread only moved to 7.5.

Even in a heartbreaking loss, Chicago covered the spread, and oddsmakers have really come around on Matt Nagy and company.

Coming off of a huge victory over the Los Angeles Rams, the Bears are favored by six points over the Packers for Week 15, according to Vegas Insider.

The spread opened at Chicago minus five and has trended in their direction ever since.

The point total for the game has gone down since opening at 46.5, with the over/under now at 45 points.

The total has hit the over in seven of the last 10 Bears games, but last week’s low-scoring game against the Rams could be cause for concern.

Strange things tend to happen in Bears-Packers matchups, but Las Vegas is much more confident in Chicago the second time around.

First and Final Thoughts: A chance to seal it at Soldier

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USA Today

First and Final Thoughts: A chance to seal it at Soldier

Welcome into First and Final Thoughts, one of our weekly columns with a title that's a little too on the nose. Here we'll have Insider J.J Stankevitz and Producers Cam Ellis and Paul Aspan give some insight into what's on their minds between games.

Final Thought on Week 14

J.J. Stankevitz: Can we give some love to Sherrick McManis for the work he put in on Sunday night? A guy who’s been labeled as a special teams ace, and not much else, stepped in for an injured Bryce Callahan and played well for 36 snaps against one of the best offenses in the NFL during the second half. The Rams targeted McManis four times, per Pro Football Focus, and he allowed three catches for 18 yards – and, notably, only one yard after the catch. McManis was sent on a blitz five times by Vic Fangio and pressured Jared Goff on three of those plays.

This isn’t the first time McManis has made an impact on defense this year – he had a tremendous game against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3 – but consider this: The 36 defensive snaps McManis played on Sunday were more than he played during the entire 2017 season (31). If the Bears are without Callahan for any period of time – Matt Nagy said the Bears should know more about his foot injury by Wednesday – McManis will have to take on an increased role the likes of which he hasn’t had since 2015, when he played 29 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps. But after seeing what he did against the Rams on Sunday night, perhaps he’ll be up for the task.

Paul Aspan: Akiem Hicks is the absolute MVP of this team. He made the biggest play of the game, helping to force the INT to Kyle Fuller right after the offense committed a pretty brutal turnover of its own. Nothing new that Hicks is making key plays on a weekly basis but he might be the most unheralded DT in the league. With all due respect to Aaron Donald and the likely defensive player of the year season he’s having but what Hicks is doing in a mostly 3 technique & 1 technique this season is some of the most disruptive of a DT playing that far inside the line and me thinking shades of Warren Sapp.

Cam Ellis: We place some sort of arbitrary value on 100 rushing yards, as if it's *that* more impressive than 99 or 98 or 97. It's dumb. With that said, it's nice to see Jordan Howard get over 100 yards -- and against a stout Rams defense, no less. This year surely hasn't played out like Howard envisioned it would, and just because he didn't get moved at the deadline doesn't mean his future in Chicago is set in stone. If the Bears are going to roll into the playoffs with this defense-first mentality, they'll need a run game along side it. Watching Howard rumble between the tackles was enjoyable to watch. 

First Thought on Week 15

Stankevitz: The Bears know as well as anyone that if you give Aaron Rodgers an inch, he’ll take it a mile. Even after losing to the woebegone Arizona Cardinals and firing Mike McCarthy, the Packers still have that inch in the NFC playoff race – at 5-7-1, they’re only one game behind the current six-seeded Minnesota Vikings, who fired offensive coordinator (and former candidate for the Bears’ coaching job) John DeFilippo on Tuesday. While the Vikings have the tiebreaker over the Packers, it’s not inconceivable to see Minnesota’s season flame out along with the sagging playoff hopes of the Eagles (6-7), Panthers (6-7) and Washington (6-7). And you know who shouldn’t be counted out? Aaron Rodgers.

If the Packers are able to beat the Bears this week, their final two games are eminently winnable: At the Jets, and home against the Lions. Winning out means an 8-7-1 record and, potentially, a trip to Chicago for the wild card round of the playoffs. The Bears would do well to drive a stake into the Packers’ heart this weekend and remove the specter of Rodgers from playoff contention once and for all.

Aspan: No letdown. Sounds ridiculous after that performance but it’s still Aaron Rodgers in a place he apparently feels pretty comfortable in at soldier field. The Bears should drive a stake into the heart of the Packers for their own well being, especially considering what happened week 1. Factor in the Seahawks win over the Vikings you can start making your plans for a Chicago playoff game in January. The only question is how many. 

Ellis: Rogue Aaron Rodgers is the most dangerous Aaron Rodgers. Just ask the Falcons.