Chicago Bears (7-7) at Green Bay Packers (13-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 7:20 p.m.
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
SERIES HISTORY: 182nd regular-season meeting. Bears lead series, 91-84-6. The Packers will try to complete a series sweep of their division rivals for the second time in three seasons after beating Chicago 27-17 on the road in Week 3. Green Bay is on a three-game winning streak against the Bears, including a 21-14 victory at Chicago in last season's NFC Championship, and has won five of the last six meetings going back to 2009. The Packers also have won three straight at Lambeau Field after the Bears rattled off four victories in a row in Green Bay from 2004 to 2007
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bears turn to QB Josh McCown in search of better decision-making. Without a strong ground game, McCown will be tasked with navigating his way through the Packers' secondary that gives up yards in chunks but also leads the effort in Green Bay's 27 interceptions. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers shredded Chicago's Cover-Two in a 27-17 win at Chicago in Week 3. He misses WR Greg Jennings, but TE Jermichael Finley (three touchdowns in the first meeting) presents matchup problems that should lead to plenty of room for the wideouts to work downfield.
FAST FACTS: Bears DE Julius Peppers has 99 career sacks. ... Rodgers is the fifth player in NFL history to throw for 40-plus touchdowns in a season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 — 300-yard passing games for Rodgers in eight career starts against the Bears. 33.8 — Combined passer rating of all Bears quarterbacks other than Jay Cutler since Cutler joined the Bears in 2009. Those backups have combined to throw four touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. Three of the interceptions have been pick-sixes. 8 — Number of passes thrown in last three seasons by the new Bears starter, Josh McCown. 2 — Number of passes caught by McCown as an emergency receiver for Detroit in 2006, when the Lions' offensive coordinator is current Bears coordinator Mike Martz. He didn't throw any passes, though.
GAME PLAN: The Packers will know by Saturday night whether something will be riding on Sunday's game. If the San Francisco 49ers lose at the Seattle Seahawks, the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs will be Green Bay's, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy will give consideration to resting key players for part or all of the Christmas contest. Such a tempting decision would be moot, however, if the 49ers win and force the Packers to go all out to beat the Bears to secure home-field advantage in the postseason. Fortunately for Green Bay, it is catching its longtime division rival in free-falling mode with another change at quarterback.
The Bears have lost all four games without injured star Jay Cutler behind center and are all but eliminated from getting back to the playoffs with a 7-7 record. Green Bay's defense will face Josh McCown, who replaces an ineffective Caleb Hanie at quarterback. McCown will have his first meaningful action since he started nine games for the Oakland Raiders in 2007, which included an awful performance (7-of-15, 110 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, 54.2 passer rating) in December at Lambeau Field in a 38-7 Packers victory.
That Chicago also is depleted at running back and receiver should have defensive coordinator Dom Capers feeling better about his 31st-rated unit after more foibles factored into Green Bay's first loss of the season at the Chiefs last Sunday.
The Packers' offense will be without top receiver Greg Jennings (knee) a second straight game and has an offensive line in disarray because of a slew of injuries. Depending on how long quarterback Aaron Rodgers is needed to play, McCarthy may reverse field on his pass-heavy play sheets and see what can come of the team's underwhelming running attack, which will have top rusher James Starks after he missed two games with an ankle injury.
By no means will the Packers look to kick the football to returner extraordinaire Devin Hester, one of the few players on Chicago's undermanned roster that could keep it in the game. Hester is listed as questionable and didn't practice all week, but the Packers expect him to play.
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