For the second straight season, the Green Bay Packers have set themselves up for a win-and-in Week 18 scenario after a dominant 33-10 win over the rival Minnesota Vikings, moving to 8-8. They now control their own destiny.
The playoffs have essentially been extended for this Green Bay team, as a loss vs the Vikings would have spelled the end of the team’s playoff hopes, and the same is now true for the Week 18 matchup against the Chicago Bears.
This time last season, the 8-8 Packers entered Week 18 with their own win-and-in situation against a Detroit Lions team that had won 7 of their last 9 games after a 1-6 start to their season. The game would prove to be Aaron Rodgers’ last ever start as a Packer as Green Bay lost to miss the playoffs and end their season.
Now, the 2023 Packers face a Bears team that has won 5 of their last 7 games. Chicago sports one of the best defenses in the NFL since Week 6. The Packers dominated their Week 1 matchup, but this is a far different Bears team than the one from September. The Packers’ win over the Vikings last Sunday eliminated the Bears from playoff contention, just as the Lions were last season heading into Week 18 – do not doubt for a second that the Bears will be playing their absolute best to end the Packers’ season.
Chicago sports the 14th ranked defense by DVOA measurements, an impressive stat considering their awful start to the season. The trade acquisition of Montez Sweat greatly improved what once was an abysmal pass rush.
Thankfully, the Packers will enjoy home-field advantage in the final game of the season. However, Green Bay also played at home when they spoiled their season against the Lions in Week 18 last year.
Despite a dominant record against Chicago over the past several decades, this is not a Bears team to take lightly. The Packers must treat this game as the playoff matchup it is, as Chicago is a greater force to be reckoned with than, say, any NFC South team, two of which may very well make the postseason. The Packers went 2-2 against the NFC South this season.
Consider this a pre-Wild Card round matchup for Green Bay. The Bears are not a bad team, and arguably one that is worthy of the postseason in a relatively weak NFC. Expect this game to be closer than most of the previous Bears-Packers matchups.
With the way Jordan Love is playing, anything could happen if the Packers earn their ticket to the playoffs with one more win. It’s crucial that the Packers don’t overlook a legitimate Bears team with a legit defense and an offense with enough weapons to exploit a poor Green Bay defense.
It’s been a long time since a Packers-Bears game with this many implications. This should be a very fun afternoon game to watch this Sunday.——————