Bears-Packers Personnel Preview

Maybe it's finally payback time for the Bears. The 8-3 Bears are poised to stick it to their slumping neighbors to the north after 11 straight years of getting beaten in their own home by their biggest rival. It's a streak the Bears are primed to put to rest.

"We have one going right now, too," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said, noting the Bears' seven-game winning streak. "We want to keep ours going and put theirs to a halt. Throw the records out. It doesn't really matter much in this game because it's a rivalry game."

No player on the roster has ever been on a Bears team that defeated the Packers at home, but at 2-9, this Green Bay team has already clinched the franchise's first losing season in 14 years. Bears center Olin Kreutz, an eight-year veteran, has played in 14 Bears-Packers games and been on the winning side just three times - never at home.

"We're not sick of it, but we're probably embarrassed by it, and we want to end it," Kreutz said. "It's our most important game of the year. It means the most to the fans, so it means the most to us. It means a lot to us to win the game."

The Bears haven't done much to hold up their end of the rivalry in the past 11 years, losing 19 of 22 overall to the Packers. And the guilty parties know who they are.

"We haven't been very good," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "Personally, my record is 2-8 against them, and both wins were up there, so it hasn't been very good."

For all that the Bears have accomplished this season, they have yet to prove they can win at home against the Packers, and the Packers know that they've owned the Bears.

"They're probably thinking that nothing has changed," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. "They're probably thinking, 'We've won 11 straight here, and we're going here to do what we do and beat the Bears like always.' Our job is to come out here and say, 'We're not the same Bears that have been beaten 11 times here.' "

Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye can't be blamed for the Bears' shortcomings against the Packers. He's played in the rivalry just once, and the Bears won that game 21-10 in Week Two of last season. Ogunleye was on injured reserve for last season's finale with the Packers, but he's heard all the talk about the Bears' losing streak at home against the Packers and quarterback Brett Favre's 12-1 career record as a visitor against the Bears.

"I haven't been a part of that, so I could care less about how many he's won," Ogunleye said. "I'm just hoping that he's not going to be able to get this next one."

PLAYER NOTES

  • WLB Lance Brigs had 15 tackles last week to move two past Brian Urlacher for the team lead with 120 tackles.

  • SS Mike Brown has a team-best 116 return yards on his three interceptions, including a 72-yard TD.

  • DE Adewale Ogunleye, who had just five sacks in an injury-marred 2004 season, has five in the past two weeks and nine in 2005. He is tied for second best in the NFC.

  • DT Ian Scott is the most frequently double-teamed member of the defensive line, but he is tied for the team lead with seven tackles for loss.

  • DE Alex Brown has four sacks in the past two games, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and he also forced an intentional grounding penalty last week.

    GREEN BAY PACKERS
    Only twice since 1992, when Brett Favre was handed the quarterback reins in Green Bay, have the Chicago Bears advanced to the postseason.

    In both of those instances, in 1994 and 2001, their NFC North rival – the Packers - joined them in the playoffs.

    Though the division-leading Bears seemingly are on their way back to the postseason, they won't be accompanied by the Packers this time. Green Bay coach Mike Sherman addressed his players Wednesday morning and, with heavy reluctance, raised the proverbial white flag. At 2-9, the Packers are assured of their first losing season in 14 years and won't win a fourth straight NFC North title.

    "In our situation right now, we're not going to be in the playoffs - that's out of the picture," Sherman conceded. "(But) we certainly can revel in being the spoiler."

    That's the uncommon mentality with which the Packers will play on the road Sunday, when they meet the 8-3 Bears for the first time this season. The league's most familiar rivals will reunite Christmas Day in Green Bay.

    The Packers, who last missed the playoffs in 2000, would like nothing more than to throw a wrench in the January plans of the Bears. Chicago has a two-game lead over Minnesota, and those teams will meet in the regular-season finale New Year's Day.

    "In the past, we've been in their seat, and they've been in ours," Sherman said. "So the scenarios are different, but the rivalry's the same. It never changes. I get a lot of letters (from fans) on the Chicago game before we play and, obviously, after we play, based on our success or failure.

    "It's a huge, huge rivalry which means an awful lot to a lot of people."

    Incidentally, the Packers swept the season series against Chicago in the two years in which the Bears broke from their recent losing habit and earned a playoff berth. Green Bay handed the Bears two of their losses in their 13-3, division-winning season of 2001.

    "It's been a rough season for us, but this is an opportunity for us to try to get some of that sting out of our bellies a little bit," said Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman.

    With Favre at quarterback, the Packers have won 11 straight road games against the Bears - and 12 of the last 13 matchups away from Green Bay. Favre is 21-5 overall when facing Chicago.

    He's not as concerned about the opponent this weekend as he is about trying to help an injury-depleted, youthful team experience the thrill of victory for a change.

    "We have five games left. We'd like to win them all. Spoiler or not, we'd like to get a win," Favre said.

    The unfamiliar fate of no postseason - only the fourth time that's happened in the Favre era - has piqued the curiosity of some of the team's other veterans.

    "Now (that) we have nothing to worry about, it's going to be interesting to see how we react," linebacker Na'il Diggs said. "We're not fighting to win so many games anymore. We're not fighting for home-field advantage or a bye week (in the playoffs). Let's see how players react now. This is going to be a true test of a lot of guys' character and how a lot of guys think. It's going to be interesting the next few weeks."

    PLAYER NOTES

  • RB ReShard Lee was placed on injured reserve Thursday because of an undisclosed rib injury that he aggravated on a kickoff return in the 19-14 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday.

    The second-year pro is the fifth Packers running back to go on IR this season, joining Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Walt Williams and Chaz Williams.

    Lee had been signed as a free agent in early October after No. 2 halfback Davenport sustained a broken ankle. Pro Bowler Green subsequently suffered a torn quadriceps tendon that ended his season.

    After third-down back Tony Fisher was promoted to the starting role only to be quickly sidelined by a broken rib, Lee started the Nov. 6 loss to Pittsburgh. However, he fumbled on his second carry of the game and was promptly banished to the sideline, giving way to rookie Samkon Gado.

    Lee had been the team's primary kickoff returner the last six games, but he fumbled on the play on which he reinjured his ribs.

  • Though he didn't practice for the second straight day, TE Bubba Franks isn't giving up on playing Sunday at Chicago.

    Franks said Thursday that he feels fine and isn't plagued by the headaches that set in after he suffered a mild concussion on a hard hit from Eagles safety Brian Dawkins in the last game. The starter remains listed on the injury report as questionable.

    "The doctor has to clear me first. As soon as he does that, I'll be out there. But, until then, it's day to day," Franks said. "I'd hate to miss a Bears game. I really would. So, we'll see on Sunday. It's day to day."

    Franks felt Dawkins' hit was clean. Franks had to be taken off the field on a stretcher and was transported to a Philadelphia hospital, where he was held overnight for precautionary reasons.

  • TE David Martin would get the start in Bubba Franks' place if the injured starter is deactivated Sunday.

  • DT Corey Williams hasn't practiced this week. The backup has been sidelined since sustaining a torn calf Nov. 6. He's questionable for Sunday.

  • OLB Robert Thomas practiced for the second straight day and figures to be cleared to play Sunday for the first time since he suffered a strained quadriceps Nov. 13. Thomas, though, may be activated in a reserve role, with Paris Lenon continuing to take most of the reps at the weakside position.

  • Rookie RB Noah Herron, signed Wednesday to the 53-man roster off Pittsburgh's practice squad, took the majority of reps on kickoff returns Thursday and could figure in the team's plans for Sunday.

    With Lee out, WR Andrae Thurman was elevated to No. 1 on the depth chart for returns and had most of the reps Wednesday. Thurman, though, committed a costly fumble toward the end of the last game.

  • RB Samkon Gado, who has started two of the last three games, was honored Thursday as the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month for November.

    The undrafted free agent gained 283 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns in four games. He's the only Packers back this season with a 100-yard game, doing it twice - 103 yards in his starting debut Nov. 13 at Atlanta and 111 yards in Sunday's game.

  • Gado is the first Packers player to be tabbed offensive rookie of the month since the league instituted the award in 1996.

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