Green Bay Packers (7-7-1 SU, 5-9-1 ATS) vs. Chicago Bears (8-7 SU, 4-10-1 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date and Time: Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 4:25 p.m. EST
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
TV: FOX/DTV 705
by Vesper Abadon, Pro Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB -3/Chi +3
Over/Under Total: 53
Win and youíre in. Thatís the scenario for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears in their Sunday matchup for the NFC North title. One team will make the Playoffs and host a Wildcard game, and the other will be watching from home.
The Packers were a cinch to make the postseason with Aaron Rodgers under center, but then he went down with a collarbone injury on Nov. 4 against the Bears. Since then the Packers have gone 2-5-1 with Matt Flynn filling in the last four games. One of the huge unanswered questions is whether or not Rodgers will be ready to go come Sunday.
"We've done a scan and we're going through the process of evaluation," Rodgers said on his weekly ESPN radio show. "Probably not what everybody wants to hear, but I can say definitively (on) Thursday - one way or another - it will be a definitive conclusion to this week's unknown. We wanted to give everybody a rest for Christmas, be able to enjoy their Christmas."
Obviously the Packers have the best shot of winning with their star quarterback Ė who has thrown for 2,128 yards, 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the eight games he played -- but what if Flynn has to step up once again? Heís 2-2 as the starter, and currently boasts an 86.1 rating from completing 102 of 166 passes for 1,146 yards, seven touchdowns, and four interceptions. Not bad considering he started the season with the Oakland Raiders and was brought in off the streets.
The Rodgers/Flynn combo have the Packers sitting with the eighth-best passing game in the league with an average of 263.7 yards per game (YPG), and surprisingly itís complimented by a solid run game, one that is ranked seventh with 131.7 YPG. Thatís due to the emergence of rookie Eddie Lacy, who has carried 263 times for 1,112 yards (4.2 Avg) and ten touchdowns. Back in Week 9, Lacy rushed for 150 yards on the Bears defense, though the Packers still lost that game 20-27.
Speaking of that Week 9 matchup, Josh McCown was under center in that game where he passed for 272 yards, of which 107 went to Brandon Marshall. However, in Week 17 it will be Jay Cutler getting the start. This year he has gone 209 of 331 for 2,395 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions Ė good enough for an 88.1 rating. Of course a lot of the Bears passing game, which is ranked fifth with an average of 270.5 YPG, is due to their star receivers Ė the aforementioned Marshall and second-year wideout Alshon Jeffery.
Marshall has hauled in 94 receptions for 1,221 yards for 11 touchdowns, while Jeffery has torn it up by catching 86 passes for 1,341 yards and seven scores. Itís a deadly tandem and made even stronger considering running back Matt Forte draws defenders into the box. Forte, who has carried 267 times for 1,229 yards and seven touchdowns, is responsible for the Bearsí 18th-ranked run game with an average of 113.8 YPG.
Defensively both teams are equally bad. The Packers have allowed an average of 395.4 YPG (263.7 passing YPG and 131.7 rushing YPG) while the Bears arenít too far behind at 384.3 YPG (270.5 passing YPG and 113.8 rushing YPG).
Vesperís Pick to Cover the Point Spread: So much hinges on whether or not Rodgers will play; in fact, the betting lines are off until that question is answered. If he does, I think Packers will punch their way to the Playoffs. If not, it could go either way. Going into Soldier Field and walking away with a win is no easy task, and itíd be even more difficult with Flynn calling the shots.
Either way, I look for this to be a high-scoring shootout. Itís going to be wildly entertaining with a lot on the line. Itís my belief that the Packers will win if Rodgers is in, but if not the Bears will squeeze their way into the postseason. UPDATE: Aaron Rodgers has been named the starter. I like the Pack to cover the 3!
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