The Chicago Bears will square off against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon in a game that will decide the winner of the NFC North. The victor this weekend will take home the division crown and will host a playoff game in Round 1. The loser will go home. It's that simple.
It's a situation reminiscent of 2010, when the two clubs faced each other in the NFC Championship game. Bears first-round guard Kyle Long wasn't there for that debacle, yet he understands the importance of this game, the 188th meeting between two of the league's founding franchises.
Bear Report sits down with Long to get his take on Sunday's winner-take-all contest.
"As somebody new, who is a part of this offense, we've had a lot of success in the past and I expect that to continue. We all feel like we're letting the team down when we're not out there moving the ball. After playing at a high level there are certain things that are expected of us and it's up to us to produce those things on the field.
"This upcoming game will be a great opportunity for us to battle back. There's a lot at stake and we're up to that. We all understand that this game is it for us. For us the playoffs start this Sunday. Either we win or go home, it's that simple. Got to win to get in, got to win to stay alive. We've got to really hunker down here and focus on those things we need to focus on.
"It's no secret that we had a let down a little bit last weekend. Everybody saw that. We have a great opportunity to turn that all around this Sunday against an opponent that we've played before and that we know well. We're definitely excited to have that opportunity to get out there Sunday in front of our home crowd and make a run at this, get this done."
Most rookies tend to avoid the media in the week leading up to a game of this magnitude, yet you're as garrulous as usual. Are you feeling the pressure?
"It's too late to change my personality now. I'm a high-energy guy and that's the way I approach things, I guess. That's who I am. Love it or hate it that's what you're going to get. I've never held back in terms of saying what I'm feeling at the time. I plan to be here for a while and until I hear otherwise, unless I hear I need to change, that's what you're going to get from me.
"This year I've tried to earn the respect of the guys around me on the field. They are the best and they deserve the best from me. I've tried to give my best in the classroom and be the best teammate possible. That's the main thing I've tried to do. If being a high-energy guy and trying to set the tempo in that regard, along with playing high-energy football, then that's what I'm going to do. Until I'm told otherwise that is what I'll try to give, just being myself.
"Rookie year, especially, you learn something every day. It's all part of the adjust process into the NFL. Just today I learned something from one of the vets in practice that I didn't have a lot of clarity on before. Now I have a better grasp of things. I wouldn't say that there has been one thing in particular that I've learned this year that has helped me more than others. It's just the entire process I guess. The big thing is that preparation is key. That's paramount.
"Last game against the Packers at Lambeau, I was under the weather a little bit so I was worried and somewhat distracted by that. I wasn't sure how I'd feel in the cold or how my body would react overall. The team rallied and we had a great win.
"This week we're all feeling good and we're ready to go. We're ready to right the ship. We're moving on to the next team after last week. We're not playing the same team, not playing the same schemes. It will all be different. We'll stick to our game plan and get things done effectively.
"Individually we've all looked at the tape from last week as well as film on the Packers from their recent games. We've been seeing their looks, noticing their tendencies.
"The vets have been helping Jordan [Mills] and I, as well as all of the other rookies as far as the preparation process. This has been going on for us all season. We're 20 weeks into this thing now counting the preseason, so we've had every opportunity to improve. We need to go out and show the results of this work on Sunday.
"It's not too often you get the opportunity to go out there and win the division. You win and you're in. It's particularly rare when that could happen in a rivalry game so this is very special. We try overall not to look at any of these games as rivalries but it's hard to overlook that factor in this game. There is such history there. We're blessed to be able to play this game at home in front of our crowd.
"Jay [Cutler] has done a tremendous job in preparing us for this. He understands the pressure that we'll all be under and he's helping us progress from there. I'm looking forward to this game more than I can say. It's the culmination of a lot of effort by all of the players and we'll have the opportunity to do this in front of our fans."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.