Packers can earn playoff spot if they continue recent domination of Bears
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — All that stands between the Green Bay Packers and a playoff berth is an NFC North rival they’ve dominated for the last five seasons.
That’s more than enough incentive for the Chicago Bears.
Although the Bears (7-9) have no shot at making the playoffs and already own the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, they’d love nothing more than to end the Packers’ season Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“I think it would mean a lot to the team, the fans, the city,” Bears quarterback Justin Fields said. “I think it’d be great. We know Green Bay’s playing for a lot, what’s at stake.”
The Packers (8-8) want to avoid a repeat of last season's finale, when they blew a chance to reach the playoffs by losing to the Detroit Lions at home.
Green Bay has beaten the Bears nine straight times, including a 38-20 victory at Chicago in this season’s opener. Green Bay’s Jordan Love threw three touchdown passes without an interception in that game.
Chicago’s defense has come a long way since that game with head coach Matt Eberflus taking over as defensive coordinator and pass rusher Montez Sweat arriving at the trade deadline. The Bears lead the NFL in run defense and have an NFL-leading 22 interceptions.
Now that defense gets another shot at Love, who has thrown 16 touchdown passes with only one interception over his last seven games. Both teams are playing well, as the Packers have won two straight and six of nine while the Bears have won two in a row and five of seven.
“You play for these moments, these opportunities to play in the competitive games,” Love said. “You want to be playing in these games to have a chance to go to the playoffs. That’s exactly where we’re at, and I think everybody’s excited for it. It’s going to be fun.”
Fields heads into the final game with an unclear future.
The Bears own the No. 1 pick in the draft thanks to a trade with league-worst Carolina in which they also received star receiver DJ Moore last March. They could decide to move on from their QB and go with Caleb Williams or Drake Maye.
Fields is coming off one of his most complete performances. The former Ohio State star threw for 268 yards with a touchdown pass and a rushing TD in a 37-17 win over Atlanta and even had fans at Soldier Field chanting his name.
“I’m just doing my job at the end of the day,” Fields said. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. In my eyes, I could’ve played better. Didn’t play good enough, but like I said, good team win and everybody played well on all three phases of the football.”
Green Bay cornerback Jaire Alexander returned to practice this week after the Packers suspended him for one game for conduct detrimental to the team. Alexander had appointed himself a captain for the Packers’ Christmas Eve win at Carolina and botched the handling of the coin toss.
Alexander said this week he needs to do a better job of communicating with team officials. He discussed his hopes for staying in Green Bay beyond this season and what it would mean to reach the playoffs this year.
“It’d be pretty cool, very, very deserving of this season that we’ve had,” Alexander said. “This would put the candle on the cake.”
The Packers may need Alexander as they try to defend Moore, who had nine catches for 159 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons.
Sweat has a chance to close out the year leading two teams in sacks. He's the first player in NFL history to do that at any point in a season.
Sweat is tied for 10th in the NFL with a career-high 12 1/2 sacks, including six in eight games for Chicago. He had 6 1/2 in eight games for Washington before being traded.
Bears cornerback Tyrique Stevenson is finishing his rookie season on a solid note. The second-round draft pick from Miami has four interceptions — all in the past five games.
Stevenson had two picks and four passes defensed in last week’s win over Atlanta, making him the reigning NFC defensive player of the week.
Love is the conference’s offensive player of the week after throwing three touchdown passes in Green Bay’s 33-10 triumph at Minnesota.
ON THE RUN
Both teams have running backs playing their best late in the season.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.
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