Bettors Picking Da Bears in What Could be Brett Favre's Final NFL Game
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The Green Bay Packers might have more on their minds than the possibility of Brett Favre playing his final NFL game when they visit the Chicago Bears to close the regular season at Soldier Field on Sunday.
The game is essentially meaningless for the Bears (13-2), who have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but the Packers could still be in the hunt for the conference's final wild-card spot come kickoff. The game was moved from the afternoon to Sunday evening as part of the NFL's flexible schedule.
The Packers (7-8) are one of five teams tied for the final playoff spot and could know their fate even before kickoff depending on what happens in games involving the New York Giants on Saturday, and Carolina, Atlanta and St. Louis earlier on Sunday.
With the Giants winning Saturday night, Green Bay is still mathematically alive to win a strength of victory tiebreaker over New York, but the Packers need an elaborate, unlikely combination of results from around the league to make that happen.
``It's a meaningful game regardless,'' Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. ``It's the Green Bay Packers versus the Bears, and that's the way we're viewing it. I'm not naive to the fact that everybody will be playing close attention and it will be public knowledge. Those are things we can't control. We're excited about playing in Chicago, playing against the Bears. It's our archrival, and that's the way we'll approach the football game.''
Though the Packers are looking to win their fourth straight game, they've lost three in a row to the Bears, including a 26-0 defeat at Lambeau Field in the Sept. 10 season opener.
Favre is 21-8 against Chicago in his career. He struggled in the September meeting, however, going 15-for-29 for 170 yards and two interceptions while being sacked three times.
The 37-year-old quarterback remains quiet on his retirement plans, but will need to play better than he has in recent weeks to beat Chicago.
Favre was 26-for-50 for 285 yards but threw two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, in Green Bay's 9-7 win over Minnesota on Dec. 21. He did march the Packers down the field to set up Dave Rayner's game-winning 44-yard field goal with 1:34 to play.
Despite the comeback, Favre has thrown five interceptions and no touchdowns in his last two games.
``I'm hoping he comes back and I get more opportunities (for interceptions),'' said Minnesota defensive back Darren Sharper, a former teammate of Favre in Green Bay. ``Talking to him after the game, he looked like he didn't know either.''
While Favre has struggled, the Green Bay defense has allowed the team to remain competitive in the final month of the season.
Though it's come against weak opponents - San Francisco, Detroit and Minnesota - the Packers have allowed 35 total points in their last three games.
``Anytime you line up, it's legitimate,'' McCarthy said. ``I know you can swing it any way you want with a rookie quarterback or Detroit's situation, too. But it starts up front, and the attitude and the energy that they're playing with, it's exciting to watch.''
Led by defensive end Aaron Kampman, who recorded three sacks to give him a share of the NFL lead with San Diego's Shawne Merriman with 15 1/2, the Packers held Minnesota to 104 total yards of offense. Green Bay held Detroit to 142 yards a week earlier after allowing San Francisco 340 yards on Dec. 10.
On the season, the Packers rank 13th in total defense allowing 321.2 yards per game.
Chicago coach Lovie Smith is unsure how long his starters will play Sunday as the Bears try to win their fifth straight game and go undefeated against the NFC (11-0) for the first time since the 1985 Super Bowl championship team did it.
``You need to win,'' Smith said. ``There's no changes in our starting lineup. We'll continue to play the way we have.''
Smith played all of his healthy starters in last Sunday's 26-21 win at Detroit, including quarterback Rex Grossman, who was 20-for-36 for 197 yards with a touchdown before sitting out much of the fourth quarter.
Grossman's inconsistent season is back on a positive swing, as he's thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games after throwing six interceptions and no TDs in his previous two.
Backup Brian Griese was 6-for-9 for 51 yards and led the team to two fourth-quarter field goals. He is expected to see time again Sunday.
The Bears' only concern might be with their vaunted defense, which is allowing an average of 363.0 yards its last five games, well above its season average of 288.9 allowed per game. Chicago has slipped from having the league's top-ranked defense to fifth in the last four weeks.
The unit could get cornerback Charles Tillman back after missing last week with a back spasms, and will have starting defensive tackle Tank Johnson back in the rotation after being suspended for one game for his recent off-field problems.
``It feels great to be back here,'' Johnson said. ``It feels good to put your hands back in the dirt.''
Chicago's 19-7 victory over Green Bay on Dec. 4, 2005 snapped an 11-game home losing streak to the Packers.
By: Michael Cash - theSpread.com - Email Us
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