Mitchell Trubisky sees a golden opportunity in front of him.
A strong performance on Sunday could wash away much of the doubt and criticism he and his teammates have faced this season.
"It's a huge opportunity," said Trubisky. "When you look across the league and realize that about half of the league is done with their season, now it's a special opportunity for us to be in the playoffs again. The second time in three years for this team."
Trubisky started the team's last playoff game, a 16-15 loss to the Eagles on Wild Card Weekend two years ago.
Trubisky is excited for his return to the playoffs, even if it will take place in a mostly empty stadium. He believes he's in a better position to lead the team to a first-round victory.
"I feel like I am more prepared than I was back then," said Trubisky. "I feel like my game has gotten better. I just feel like I am a better leader and what my team needs at this point."
As the team's quarterback, Trubisky puts the onus on himself to push the team to greater heights.
Trubisky wants his teammates to internalize the specialness of their situation. A playoff afterthought as recently as a month ago, the Bears will now face the favored New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
"We got nothing to lose," said Trubisky. "We know everybody is overlooking us. They have the back half of the season. I think we've been just playing with that edge, that chip on our shoulder. We don't have anything to lose. We should go out there and play free."
Trubisky will face off against future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees.
Brees, along with his then-teammate LaDainian Tomlinson, was one of Trubisky's heroes as a child. Now, the 26-year-old Trubisky will attempt to top the 41-year-old Brees in a game that holds implications for both quarterbacks' futures.
For Trubisky, much of this week's preparation will include studying the Saints defense, preparing for an attack that will look to throw him off his game.
"They play hard-nosed football," said Trubisky. "They're gonna be in your face, and they're gonna try to change it up with a bunch of different blitzes and try to confuse you with different looks. I think when you go against a team that gives you different looks and tries to confuse the quarterback, you just gotta be on point with what plays you have in your gameplan and where you need to go with the football versus whatever look they're showing."
Trubisky believes the team has already moved on from Sunday's 35-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
"We definitely turned the page very quickly," said Trubisky. "I think the guys are eager and excited to get after it this week and really just thankful for another opportunity to play the game and be in the playoffs, and I feel prepared."
The quarterback acknowledged that the offense will need to correct some of the issues that plagued them in Week 17, especially five trips to the red zone resulting in only a single touchdown.
Trubisky believes that the Bears' red zone woes came down to execution and planning. He expects that the team will have several effective short-yardage plays ready for Sunday.
"We've just got to get our playmakers the ball down in the red zone," said Trubisky, "and give them a chance to either make catches or have good run plays down in the red zone where we have the best chance of scoring."
The Bears attempted six fourth-down conversions last week, converting five. Trubisky believes the offense will be more aggressive against a Saints' defense that surrendered 23 points to the Bears earlier in the season.
In being more aggressive, Trubisky will need to avoid some of the ill-advised throws that have plagued his season, such as the second-half interception against the Atlanta Falcons that led to him being benched for seven games.
"In the game of football," said Trubisky, "you are always playing with that line of when to try to make a big play or try not to take a really bad play. It'll be just trusting my eyes."
Trubisky has improved his standing since returning in Week 12, in part due to a more cautious approach with the football.
Trubisky said that his relationship with coach Matt Nagy is in a good place. The two have developed strong communication since the start of the season.
"We have open communication and dialogue about what I think needs to happen within this offense," said Trubisky. "I think he has more respect for my opinion about things that I feel comfortable with that I think will help this offense and help do what fits us and what our guys do best."
Trubisky used his exile from the starting lineup to demonstrate his commitment to his teammates. After several weeks of showing a team-first attitude, he won back the trust of the coaching staff.
"Whatever was going on at the time," said Trubisky, "it didn't matter because I wanted to help the team. I knew I needed to have great relationships and trust and communication between all the players and all the coaches and everything that we had going on offense in order to turn it around and start having more success."