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Bears, Packers Prepare For Division Deciding Showdown

The Packers may be without Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers. Can they still beat the Bears in the NFC North title decider at Soldier Field on Sunday?

The Packers may be without Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers. Can they still beat the Bears in the NFC North title decider at Soldier Field on Sunday?

The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers will meet Sunday to decide which team is crowned NFC North champion and advances to the playoffs.

The showdown at Soldier Field, which looked like it might prove to be a meaningless game just two weeks ago, has transformed into a de facto play-in game thanks to a woeful week for the division.

Week 16 saw the Detroit Lions lose for the fifth time in six times, this time blowing a 20-13 fourth quarter lead before succumbing to the New York Giants in overtime. The loss proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the Lions, a team that had been favored to win the division as recently as December 12.

The Packers hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field in a rematch of Super Bowl XLV. Needing a Christmas miracle of their own to make the postseason, the Steelers managed to hang on late and pick up a 38-31 victory that keeps the team’s slim hopes alive. It also cost the Packers a chance to top the division heading into the season finale.

Meanwhile, the Bears found themselves embarrassed on Sunday Night Football, allowing the Philadelphia Eagles to pass the half-century mark on the scoreboard. Up 33-3 midway through the third quarter, the Eagles ran out 54-11 winners in a game the Bears were never in.

The Minnesota Vikings, who have looked sharper in recent weeks, fell to the Cincinnati Bengals in the division’s remaining game, leaving the NFC North 0-4 on the weekend.

The legacy of the division’s abhorrent weekend is that Week 17’s game between the NFL’s oldest rivals will prove to be a division decider, something Roger Goodell and the rest of the league brass are sure to be relishing.

Since first meeting on November 27, 1921, the Bears and Packers have gone on to contest 187 games. Chicago owns a 93-88-6 advantage in the series but the Packers have taken eight of the last 10 meetings, including the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field in January 2010.

It was Chicago that proved victorious when the two sides met earlier this year at Lambeau Field, a victory that snapped the Bears’ six-game losing streak against Green Bay.

It was in that game that Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collar bone, leaving backup Seneca Wallace to become the first of three subsequent quarterbacks to take their turn at steering the Packers ship. Rodgers has yet to return from that injury, and his status for Sunday’s game is in question.

Head coach Mike McCarthy has said that he hopes an announcement regarding Rodgers’ playing status will be made “sooner rather than later.”

Chicago saw Josh McCown start at quarterback in that game against the Packers. McCown has earned his paycheck this season in the absence of Jay Cutler and in the eyes of many should have been starting when the Bears took to the field in Philadelphia on Sunday night. Whether first-year coach Mark Trestman will revert to his backup remains to be seen.

It appears as though the Packers will be without linebacker Clay Mathews also. Matthews, who has recorded 40 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 11 games this season, reinjured his right thumb against the Steelers on Sunday. Following an MRI scan on Monday it looks unlikely he’ll appear in Sunday’s decider, although no official word has been released yet.

With Rodgers’ and Matthews’ health still in doubt, Las Vegas sportsbooks have yet to release a line for this matchup. As soon as that changes, you’ll find Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears odds and trends here on BettingSports.com.

One thing is for sure though: regardless of the personnel taking the field on Sunday, this will be the biggest showdown between Chicago and Green Bay since the Packers defeated the Bears in the NFC Championship Game on the way to a Super Bowl XLV victory.

NFC_standings_wk16For a list of Week 17 NFL odds, click here.

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