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NFC North title on line Sunday

Posted Dec 29, 2013

The NFC North title will be on the line in Sunday's season finale when the Bears host the Green Bay Packers in a winner-take-all showdown at Soldier Field.

The NFC North title will be on the line in Sunday's season finale when the Bears host the Green Bay Packers in a winner-take-all showdown at Soldier Field.

The Bears (8-7) enter the contest with a half-game lead over the Packers (7-7-1) and would capture the division championship with a win or tie against their longtime rivals.

Quarterback Jay Cutler will make his third straight start. Cutler has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,395 yards with 17 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and an 88.1 passer rating this season.

Jay Cutler and the Bears need a win or a tie Sunday to capture the NFC North championship.
Cutler is just 1-7 against the Packers as a member of the Bears, including a loss in the 2010 NFC Championship Game, throwing for eight touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

The Bears offense features two 1,000-yard receivers and one 1,000-yard rusher for only the second time in franchise history. Brandon Marshall has 94 receptions for 1,221 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Alshon Jeffery has caught 86 passes for 1,341 yards and seven TDs. They have combined for 2,578 yards, the most by any two teammates in the NFL.

Matt Forte ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing with 1,229 yards and seven touchdowns on 267 carries and is third in the league with 1,776 yards from scrimmage, having caught 70 passes for 547 yards and 2 TDs. The 70 receptions are the most ever by a Bears running back.

The Bears will face a Packers defense minus its best player in Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews, who has been ruled out of the game after breaking his thumb for the second time this season in last Sunday's loss to the Steelers.

The Bears defense will look to rebound after permitting 514 total yards and six touchdowns in last Sunday night's embarrassing loss to the Eagles. The run defense ranks last in the NFL after yielding 289 yards in Philadelphia and is on pace to allow the most yards in franchise history.

Nearly two months after the Bears knocked Aaron Rodgers out of action with a broken collarbone, the Packers quarterback will return to start Sunday's showdown.

Rodgers was injured Nov. 4 on the first series of a Monday night loss to the Bears in Green Bay when he was sacked by defensive end Shea McClellin. The Packers went 2-5-1 without him.

Rodgers is 9-3 all-time against the Bears, including the Week 9 loss. In those 12 starts he has completed 245 of 361 passes for 2,757 yards with 19 TDs, eight interceptions and a 98.8 rating.

This season Rodgers has connected on 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,218 yards with 15 TDs, four interceptions and a 108.0 passer rating that ranks fourth in the NFL. Replacements Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace combined for a 78.0 rating in Rodgers' absence.

Packers receiver Randall Cobb was activated from the injured reserve/designated to return list Saturday and is expected to play Sunday for the first time since breaking his leg Oct. 13 in a win over the Ravens.

Since the NFL realigned into eight four-team divisions in 2002, the Bears and Packers have accounted for nine of the 11 NFC North championships. Chicago has won in 2005, 2006 and 2010, while Green Bay has claimed titles in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011 and 2012.

The Bears will look to sweep the season series from the Packers for the first time since 2007 and just the third time since 1991. This year marks the first time since 1983 that the champion of the Bears' division will not record at least 10 wins.

In total yards, the Bears offense ranks 8th in the NFL (18th rushing and 5th passing), while the Packers defense ranks 26th (26th against the run and 21st versus the pass). The Bears defense is 29th overall (32nd against the run and 14th versus the pass, while the Packers offense is 4th (7th rushing and 8th passing).

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