Note: I’m writing all of this under the assumption that either the New Orleans Saints or Atlanta Falcons win in the early games on Sunday, which would lock the Chicago Bears into the No. 2 seed and render their game against Green Bay (3:15 p.m. start) irrelevant to them.
The Bears should rest their starters as much as humanly possible on Sunday.
They shouldn’t play Jay Cutler for more than one quarter. Same with Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Matt Forte and Devin Hester. These guys should see as little of the field as possible.
I don’t just say that as a Packers fan hoping upon hope that their road to the playoffs is as easy as possible. It’s the logical reason in every single fathomable way.
In most arguments, I can see a contrarian point. Not this one. Let’s dis-spell a couple of myths on the way to coming to my conclusion.
No. 1 – The Bears will lose momentum going into the playoffs if they rest their starters.
In 2005, the Bears had their playoff position locked in going into week 17 and played Jeff Blake for the majority of a season finale loss to an 8-7 Minnesota Vikings team. The Bears received a first round bye and lost their first playoff game to the Carolina Panthers.
In 2006, the the Bears had their playoff position locked in going into week 17 and played Brian Griese for the majority of a season finale loss to a 7-8 Green Bay Packers team. The Bears won their first two playoff games that year and went to the Super Bowl before losing to the Indianapolis Colts.
What does this mean? It means anything can happen when you rest starters. In 2005, fans and pundits cried out that the Bears were ill-prepared against the Panthers, and some suggested resting the starters in week 17 was the culprit. That logic, of course, is proven to be flawed by the fact that after doing the EXACT SAME THING in week 17 a year later, the Bears were just fine going into the playoffs.
No. 2 – The Bears owe it to the fans who shelled out big money for tickets to play their starters for 60 minutes.
The No. 1 priority for any sports organization is to everything in its power to win a championship. If that means pissing off a few fans along the way, so be it.
First, any ticket buyer assumes the risk of these things happening when purchasing the ticket. They know there’s a possibility for poor weather, a cancellation, a delay, a star being injured, or even a team resting its starters because it believes that’s the best possible route to a championship.
If a fan is going to gripe over missing out at the chance to see Hester return a punt or Peppers sack Aaron Rodgers, it’s silly. You’re a Bears fan. You want your team to win the Super Bowl. Keeping his players healthy is the ONLY priority the Bears have Sunday. Nothing they do on the field will make them any more or less likely to win the Super Bowl. It’s a meaningless game for them. Health is all that matters. If you’re a knowledgeable fan, you understand this.
No. 3 – The Bears need to keep the Packers out of the playoffs because they want to keep their arch rivals out of the playoffs.
So you’re telling me the Bears should go all out because they want to knock the Packers out of the playoffs? But if the scenario meant the Bears were attempting to knock out, say, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Arizona Cardinals out of the playoffs, they shouldn’t go all out?
Fans love the fact that Lovie Smith said at his introductory press conference that his No. 1 priority was to beat the Green Bay Packers. That’s all fine and dandy, but if that logic makes him stubborn enough to risk having Jay Cutler injured and miss the playoffs then he’s just plain stupid.
Remember, Bears fans, Todd Collins is your backup quarterback. As valuable as Julius Peppers or Devin Hester is to your team, Cutler is that tenfold because of the lack of a true backup. The Bears are doomed without him.
No. 4 – The Bears need to keep the Packers out of the playoffs because they don’t want to have to play them again down the road.
While Tampa Bay still has an outside shot at the playoffs, the Bears beating Green Bay would really mean that the New York Giants get the last playoff spot. (Again, I’m assuming New Orleans beats Tampa Bay and the Giants beat Washington on Sunday. None of this is a given, but it’s the most likely scenario).
The Bears would rather have the Giants in the playoffs than the Packers? They would rather have the defense that almost decapitated Jay Cutler and handed them one of the few embarrassing losses of the season as a potential playoff opponent than a team they beat?
That just doesn’t make much sense to me at all.
I understand why you’d think I’m biased. I’m a Packers fan and would LOVE for the Bears to rest Cutler, Peppers, Hester, Urlacher and Briggs. But as a Bears fan, you should want that, too.
The Bears have been unfathomably healthy all season. It’s incredibly rare for a team to go into week 17 without a major injury to an important player. Why risk it now? You’re the No. 2 seed and will be win or lose. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING they can do on the field Sunday will have ANY impact on how they perform in the playoffs other than injuries.
For the sake of the Bears, fans should hope Lovie is smart enough to realize this. As a Packers fan, I hope he is, too.
Week 17 predictions:
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-1.5)
Jets should be resting up with nothing to play for. Bills to win outright.
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-14.5)
Maybe the Panthers can put a little scare in the Falcons’ quest for the No. 1 seed. Falcons to win, Panthers to beat spread.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-10)
The Steelers’ result won’t yet be known when this game is played, so expect the Ravens to go all out. Ravens to win and cover.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5)
The Eagles will be starting backup Kevin Kolb. The Cowboys will be starting third stringer Stephen McGee. Eagles to win and cover.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-5)
The Patriots have nothing to play for and will be resting starters (I think). Dolphins to win outright.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-3)
I think I wrote this last week, but I’m going to again. The Lions are officially the team the ends this season strong, leading to everyone jumping on their bandwagon next season and them crumbling under the expectations. Also, Brett Favre. (I think didn’t think it would right for me to write an entire paragraph about a Vikings game without typing his name). Lions to win and cover.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5)
I could be wrong about this, but I believe the Chiefs are locked into the No. 3 seed regardless of what they do or what the Colts do. So I think they’ll rest players. Raiders to win outright.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-6) at Cleveland Browns
I think the Steelers will have the AFC North to win when this game begins. Steelers to win and cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-8)
The Saints were my NFC Super Bowl participant at the beginning of the season. I’m really liking this pick right now. Saints to win and cover.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-6)
Screw this game. 49ers to win, Cardinals to beat spread.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-10)
I guess Vegas expects the Bears to rest starters, too. Packers to win and cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-3)
The Jags will be going all out in this game because the Colts result won’t be known yet. But Trent Edwards is starting. Texans to win and cover.
New York Giants (-4) at Washington Redskins
The Giants’ collapse continues. Redskins to win outright.
San Diego Chargers (-3.5) at Denver Broncos
All hail the mighty Tebow! Broncos to win outright.
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-9.5)
Peyton Manning doesn’t mess around with a playoff spot on the line. Colts to win and cover.
St. Louis Rams (-3) at Seattle Seahawks
A rookie quarterback in a hostile road environment in what is essentially a playoff game? I still like St. Louis. The NFC West, everyone! Rams to win and cover.
Week 16 – 9-7 (8-8 against spread)
Overall: 143-95 (125-110-3 against spread)