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Matt LaFleur: Facing Bears in season finale will be ‘tremendous challenge’ for Packers

The Green Bay Packers know they’ll have to earn a playoff spot the hard way when the vastly improved Chicago Bears arrive at Lambeau Field for the season finale on Sunday afternoon.

A win and the Packers are in. But the Bears — who have won four of the last five games — stand in their way, and as was the case last year, the Packers must take down a red-hot division rival at Lambeau Field to punch their ticket.

“We were in a similar situation a year ago and couldn’t get it done,” LaFleur said after Sunday night’s win in Minneapolis. “So, we know it’s going to be a tremendous challenge. I think Chicago is as improved as any team, when you look at them from Week 1 to where they are now. They’ve done a really, really good the last few weeks.”

The Bears beat the Atlanta Falcons 37-17 on Sunday to improve to 7-9. The Packers blew them out in the season opener, and the Bears were at one point 2-7. But a 5-2 finish has the Bears positioned as a legitimate road block for LaFleur’s team in Week 18.

LaFleur said he’s certain the Bears would “love nothing more” than to knock the Packers out of the postseason. That’s exactly what the Lions did last season by taking down Aaron Rodgers’ team in the season finale with a playoff spot on the line.

Since Week 11, the Bears have forced 16 turnovers and allowed fewer than 20 points four times. The addition of edge rusher Montez Sweat at the trade deadline has turned the Bears defense into a formidable group that can rush the passer and cover.

The Bears offense has also been productive, especially on the ground. In just the last two weeks, Chicago has rushed for 442 yards, including back-to-back 100-yard games from running back Khalil Herbert. Receiver D.J. Moore is coming off a 159-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Falcons and now has 1,300 receiving yards this season.

In Week 1, the Packers raced past the Bears, using a pair of Aaron Jones touchdowns and a late defensive touchdown in the second half to cruise to a 38-20 win. Jordan Love threw a pair touchdown passes to Romeo Doubs, and the Packers defense sacked Justin Fields four times.

But these are two completely different teams four months later.

Like the Bears, the Packers hit a midseason slump and were at one point 2-5. A three-game win streak over the Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs sparked the season back to life, and back-to-back road wins over the Carolina Panthers and Vikings allowed the Packers to control their destiny entering the season finale.

“It means nothing if we don’t take care of business next Sunday,” LaFleur said.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire