Notebook: Bears Choose Rivalry

If Green Bay thought it would get a quasi-bye to get into the playoffs, it was mistaken. Coach Lovie Smith's Bears want to beat their rival and make some history. Plus, an award for Aaron Rodgers, injuries and more from Wednesday.

Rivalries and history trump rest for the Chicago Bears.

"Nothing better than that right now. If we could do that, that would be great," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said of beating the Green Bay Packers and knocking them out of playoff contention in Sunday's regular-season finale at Lambeau Field.

And it sounds like the Bears will be given that chance, and to make some history.

Thanks to the Minnesota Vikings' shocking upset of the host Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday night, the Bears are guaranteed no worse than the No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Nonetheless, even with presumably little at stake (assuming Atlanta earns the No. 1 seed by knocking off lowly Carolina), coach Lovie Smith made it clear that his Bears will come to Green Bay on Sunday with the intention of beating the Packers and ruining their playoff dreams.

"That doesn't affect us," Smith told Packers beat reporters on Wednesday. "We're playing our biggest rival this week. We have an opportunity to do something that's never been done in the NFC North, (and) that's win every game in the division. We want to continue to improve going into the playoffs. We sure know we have a bye but nothing else has changed."

So, it's all hands on deck against a Packers team that needs to win to reach the playoffs?

"You were part of this discussion we just had, right?" quipped Smith.

In 2006, the Bears were 13-2 and had clinched homefield advantage through the NFC playoffs when they hosted the Packers in the season finale. Smith rested some of his key players that night, and while the Packers rolled to a 26-7 win, Chicago won the NFC championship.

These are different times, though. The Bears are incredibly healthy, with just three players on this week's injury report and no starters on injured reserve, and have the first-round bye to cure some bumps and bruises.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy called any thoughts of the Bears' resting key players a "polluted mind-set."

"Leave the pollution outside the doors," he said. "We're focused on beating whoever comes out that gate on Sunday. They are going to have white jerseys on and we're going after them. That's our mindset. We need to get to 10 wins and we've been focused on that for quite some time. We're in position to accomplish our goal of getting into the playoffs and that's what we're focused on."

Winner and a candidate

Rodgers was named the NFC's offensive player of the week for the second time this month and is a candidate for the FedEx Air player of the week.

Rodgers, the winner in Week 13 against San Francisco, threw for a regular-season career-high 404 yards and matched his career high with four touchdown passes against the Giants on Sunday. It was the first 400-yard, four-touchdowns, no-interceptions performance by a Packers quarterback in team history.

Rodgers, Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer are the nominees for the FedEx Award, with fan voting continuing until 11 a.m. on Friday. Click here to vote.

Packers injury report

Out: S Atari Bigby (groin); FB Korey Hall (knee). Did not participate: DE Cullen Jenkins (calf); G/T Marshall Newhouse (back); LB Frank Zombo (knee). Limited participation: T Chad Clifton (knee); S Nick Collins (rib); LB Clay Matthews (shin); CB Sam Shields (knee); C Scott Wells (back). Full participation: DE Ryan Pickett (ankle); LB Erik Walden (quad); CB Charles Woodson (toe).

McCarthy stuck by his comments from Monday when asked about the plan for Jenkins.

"Cullen Jenkins participated down in the rehab segment of practice today and took a couple of snaps on the opponent team," McCarthy said. "To be honest with you, we're going to have to talk about him at the end of the week. I don't have enough information. I really don't have a pulse on where he is right now. We'll take the week to see how Cullen does."

Shields' knee flared up during a workout on Monday; McCarthy wasn't sure if the injury was a concern for this week.

Bears injury report

Did not participate: WR Earl Bennett (ankle); C Olin Kreutz (not injury related); LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee).

Four-point stance

— If the NFC standings stay the same and the Packers make the playoffs, they'd face Philadelphia on wild-card weekend. Reportedly, the Eagles are telling season-ticket holders that the game would be played on Saturday night, Jan. 8. As the No. 6 seed, Green Bay would face the top remaining seed if it advances to the divisional round. So, if the seedings hold, Green Bay would advance to Atlanta for the divisional round.

— Rodgers didn't make the Pro Bowl but Smith and Urlacher said they voted for him, with Urlacher calling Rodgers the "second-best quarterback in the NFL" behind the Patriots' Tom Brady. "I'm going to be biased and other guys think their quarterback is better, but I would ride with mine any day of the week," receiver Greg Jennings said.

— Nose tackle B.J. Raji, on being snubbed from the Pro Bowl despite his strong play in the middle and 6.5 sacks: "Snubbed is a good word. But I'm not the only guy that was snubbed on this team. I feel tramon should've been there, Aaron (Rodgers) should've been there, even Josh (Sitton), he should've been on the team. That's not my call. I'm just happy I'm playing pretty good football at this time, and if I continue to play like this my time will come."

Brett Favre was been fined $50,000 by the NFL for a "failure to cooperate" with its investigation into inappropriate messages and lewd photos he allegedly sent to former Jets employee Jenn Sterger. The league said commissioner Roger Goodell "could not conclude" that Favre violated the league's personal conduct policy based on the evidence available.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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