Aaron Rodgers has effectively owned the Bears since becoming the Green Bay Packers’ starter: 8-3 in his starts. And members of the Bears were a little too interested last week in whether Rodgers was in fact going to play on Sunday.
That concern became reality when coach Mike McCarthy declared Rodgers the starter on Thursday. The result is the Bears having the chance to win the NFC North division title for the second straight week, an opportunity they fumbled miserably last Sunday in Philadelphia.
[MORE: A closer look at Cutler vs. Green Bay]
Whether it puts more pressure on the moment or not doesn’t matter. Players weren’t minimizing the impact of Bears-Packers and it had to do with a lot more than any rivalry.
“It’s the last one on the schedule right now,” tight end Martellus Bennett said at week’s end. “We don’t want this to be our last Friday together. We don’t want this to be our last game. So it’s extremely important for us to come out there and play this week.
“This one has a little more oomph to it. It’s a big game; it’s a rivalry game; it’s a roadblock in our way to get where we want to go, so it’s a huge weekend.”
The Cutler Component
It’s a huge weekend above all for Jay Cutler, whose failures to reach the playoffs in all but one of his first seven seasons were routinely blamed on a poor defense, not enough “weapons,” coaching issues and so on. The defense is again poor but the weapons-stocked offense managed just 18 points in losing to New Orleans, 19 to Detroit and 20 to Minnesota, the last under Josh McCown. The expectations are higher, and 45 points against Dallas or 41 against Washington don’t absolve the others.
Cutler was acquired to correct the biggest single imbalance between Chicago and Green Bay over the past 20 years: the quarterback position. He hasn’t done that; Josh McCown has a higher passer rating in Packers games than Cutler, and McCown has put more points on the Packers in his two Bears games (21, 27) than Cutler has in any of his eight Bears starts against them. That doesn’t have anything to do with the Bears’ defense.
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The game is a referendum on coach Marc Trestman, whose team was clearly not ready to play against the Eagles. But it is more so for Cutler, whose “leadership” has been praised from GM Phil Emery through the locker room but was not conspicuously absent in Philadelphia.
The Bears were concerned about Rodgers returning as the Green Bay starter. The Packers have too often been pleased that Cutler was the Chicago starter. That is a franchise issue that needs to be changed by late Sunday afternoon.
“View from the Moon,” with great hesitation when it comes to picking against No. 12, but with the Bears playing at home against a Rodgers who hasn’t taken a live snap since Nov. 4, believes it will be:
Bears: 31 Packers: 30
“View from the Moon” 2013 record: 8-7.