Back Against the Wall

Some would say the Bears are up against the ropes. <P> There's no doubt Chicago has to come out swinging again today against Jacksonville.

At 5-7, the Bears are one of six teams behind Seattle for the final NFC wild-card spot but their tie-breaker scenarios are not favorable. The Jaguars (6-6) are one of three teams a game behind Denver and Baltimore for the final AFC wild-card berth.

Bears coach Lovie Smith doesn't need to deliver pep talks to his players. They know what's on the line.

"(Jacksonville) has their backs up against the wall, (and) of course it's the same situation with us -- we need to win out," Smith said. "So we're looking forward to going down there. We're just excited about being in the playoff race at this point in the season. So that's kind of where we are. Again, we're just excited where we are right now and can't wait to play."

The loser is likely out of the playoff hunt. It's hard to believe the Bears are even in a position to challenge for the postseason. They were 1-5 at one point this season.

"It's big (especially) as terrible as we looked at times this season," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "Some people called us the worst team in the NFL during the season. You know we haven't accomplished anything yet, we still have a long way to go.

"But we still have an outside chance to get into the playoffs and even win our division. Who knows what is going to happen with the other teams in our division?"

The Bears have won four of their last six games, and seem to be re-energized with Urlacher back on defense. The team's brightest star had 11 tackles, an interception and a sack in his return from leg surgery last week in a 24-14 victory over the Vikings. Urlacher had missed two games -- both losses -- with a severe calf injury. Urlacher provided some confidence, but the play of quarterback Chad Hutchinson boosted the team's staggering offense. Hutchinson passed for three touchdowns last week in his first start since 2002.

Jacksonville started out 3-0, but has lost six of its last nine games. Quarterback Byron Leftwich returned from a knee injury two weeks ago, but it hasn't seemed to stop the bleeding. The Jags have scored more than 17 points only four times, while the Bears have allowed more than 21 points only three times.

"We think we can make that playoff run," Smith said. "We realize it's a game at a time. We realize how important this game is (today), but we have a lot of confidence in our team right now."


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