The Bears will play their most crucial game of the regular season on Sunday.
The matchup has enormous implications for the playoffs: If the Bears win, they will get to keep playing. Given that the game is against the Green Bay Packers, the game will likely take on greater meaning even if the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals, clinching a spot for the Bears—win or lose.
Bears players walk a mental tightrope of giving the game its appropriate weight without allowing the stakes to overwhelm them.
"We're not trying to make this anything [more] special than what it is," said linebacker Roquan Smith. "We know it's the biggest game because it's the next game, and that's our focus right now, so [we are] just thinking about it from that standpoint."
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has played in important games before, including the 2018 first-round playoff loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. Trubisky believes it's essential for him to keep an even keel going into the game.
"I think in a game specifically like this," said Trubisky, "we want to start fast, but I think to do that, you've got to have all of your emotions in check. You've got to know what your job is and go out there and execute it and trust the guys next to you."
The Bears looked destined to miss the playoffs three weeks ago before three consecutive victories put them in the driver's seat. The team will look to end this roller coaster of a regular season on a positive note.
"We've been saying this for a long time," said safety Eddie Jackson, "the kind of guys we've got in the locker room, nobody will give up. It was frustrating at times. It was hard to see the vision, but remember what you are fighting for. So for us to kind of be here is kind of ... we've seen it coming, but for us to be here, in the circumstances that happened, was kind of a shock."
Jackson has yet to record an interception this season, a disappointment for a player who picked off 10 passes in his first three seasons. The matchup against the Packers could provide an opportunity for several players to end a frustrating regular season on a positive note.
Outside linebacker Robert Quinn will look to add to the two sacks that he has recorded during his first season in Chicago. The former defensive player of the year will look to make his mark in getting the team into the playoffs for only the second time in the last 10 seasons.
"Long story short, we started well, [but we] shot ourselves in the foot," said Quinn, "and now we put ourselves back in a position to give ourselves a chance. So I think guys are really locked in. We don't want to allow ourselves to have an excuse or even put that into thought. I think guys are really just making sure we take care of every little thing we have to, dot every I, cross every T, just doing that. I've been saying it over and over: Sunday is a playoff game because we definitely need to win this one."
Rookie tight end Cole Kmet doesn't have any playoff experience to lean on. However, as a native of the Chicago area, he has paid more attention to the Bears-Packers rivalry than most of his teammates.
"We're obviously really excited that we put ourselves now in this position where we are able to get into the playoffs," said Kmet, "and play against a team like the Packers in a rival game like this. It's pretty cool and pretty special, so I know we're all really excited and can't wait to get out there on Sunday.
Kmet has played in big games before, including the College Football Playoff in 2018. His approach will match that of his quarterback: keeping his emotions in check.
"You just treat it like every other week," said Kmet. "We're not changing anything about our preparation style or anything like that. We're gonna keep doing what we've been doing and stay true to who we are. Just continuing the same type of processes, for now, [from] these past couple weeks. We'll continue to do that, and I think that's what's gonna lead to a victory on Sunday."