The only thing standing in the way of the Chicago Bears locking down a spot in the postseason is their arch rival, the Green Bay Packers. The 8-7 Bears welcome the 12-3 Packers to Soldier Field to close out the 2020 regular season.
While the Bears don’t necessarily need a victory to clinch a playoff spot if the Arizona Cardinals wind up losing to the Los Angeles Rams, a win would go a long way towards setting this team up for success in the wildcard round.
When the Bears traveled to Green Bay in late November, they were throttled 41-25, seemingly ending any possibilities of playing in the postseason as their losing streak extended to five games. But now winners of three in a row, they’ll look to cap off an improbable run to the playoffs by defeating arguably the best team in the NFC.
This is my most difficult game to predict, as anything can happen at this point. Here are my bold predictions for Sunday’s tilt.
David Montgomery has 25+ carries for over 100 yards
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Though Bears running back David Montgomery has had big moments during his first year and a half in the NFL, his recent emergence all began in Green Bay five weeks ago when he ripped off a 57-yard run on the team's first possession. He only had 10 more carries after that, but it was the beginning of something special. It was also an awakening for the Bears coaching staff as the team finally started relying on their bellcow back. Now facing the Packers yet again with a playoff berth on the line, expect Montgomery to be the focal point for the offense. He's only had one game with 25 or more carries, which happened two weeks ago against the Minnesota Vikings when he had 32, but the Bears will need him to move the ball downfield effectively. He will carry the load and produce yet another 100 yard effort.
Darnell Mooney has a career high in receiving yards
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney has had an impressive rookie season, totaling 538 yards and four touchdowns. He's emerged as the team's WR2 behind Allen Robinson and is one of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's favorite targets. But despite his successful season, he's only topped 50 yards twice, with a season high of 69 yards. Will he save his best for last? Mooney was targeted nine times the last time the Bears played the Packers in Trubisky's first game back as a starter following his benching. Trubisky had an up and down game, missing Mooney many times as he only caught three of those nine passes. But the quarterback has settled down and the receiver has heated up. Mooney has two touchdowns in his last three games and has seen five or more targets in four of his last five games. Robinson will certainly be the focus of the Packers defense, opening up opportunities for Mooney. I think he eclipses 70 receiving yards to have one of his best games of the season.
Bears sack Aaron Rodgers 2+ times
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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers barely broke a sweat when he last played the Bears. The future Hall of Fame quarterback threw four touchdowns and no interceptions, but also wasn't touched as the Bears couldn't muster a sack, let alone a quarterback hit during the game. Sunday's game is setting up to be a different story, however. The Bears will have an easier time getting to Rodgers on Sunday for a few reasons. First, Packers Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari shockingly tore his ACL this week in practice and will miss the rest of the season. The injury is a major blow to a Packers offensive line that, while solid, has allowed Rodgers to get knocked around this season. With Bakhtiari sidelined, the Packers will have to plug a gaping hole on their line, which bodes for the Bears pass rushers. Second is how defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano plans to bring pressure. While blitzing may seem like the obvious answer, sacks against Rodgers happen thanks to good coverage in the secondary. Dropping an extra defender back in coverage may benefit the Bears in the long run. Pagano does this quite a bit already and considering the Carolina Panthers sacked Rodgers five times just two weeks ago while rarely bringing extra pressure, there's reason for optimism. The Bears will get to the quarterback at least two times this weekend.