CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears runs onto the field during player introductions before a game against the New York Jets at Soldier Field on December 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Jets 38-34. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Julius Peppers
Now that the Bears have the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye locked up it time to discuss strategy.
Should Lovie Smith tell his starters to head to the beach for a relaxing weekend?
Nope. Though pro football can be grueling and dangerous, Smith would be doing a disservice to his team if he gave the starters the week off. The team still has plenty of reasons to play.
Momentum: The Bears last made the playoffs in 2005 and '06. In both instances, they clinched the berth and the first-week bye before the final game. In '05, they rested the starters and lost in a blow-out to the Vikings, then were knocked out of the playoffs by the Panthers. In '06, they starters played, the Bears lost to the Packers, but went to the Super Bowl.
Momentum matters in the playoffs, and the Bears are 7-1 in their last eight games. Shutting down the starters for two weeks would stymie that momentum.
Record books: Matt Forte is 22 yards away from a 1,000-yard rushing season and 13 yards from a 500-yard receiving season. Johnny Knox is 40 yards away a 1,000-yard receiving season. The Bears are one win away from sweeping the NFC North. Sitting the starters could keep the Bears from taking their rightful place in history.
Health: For the most part, the Bears are (knock on wood throw salt over your shoulder spit twice) healthy, unlike the Eagles, who have a banged-up stars in Michael Vick and Assante Samuel. They don't weeks to heal, and they'll get the bye week off anyway.
C'mon. It's the Packers: When Smith was hired by the Bears, he said that he wanted to beat Green Bay and win the Super Bowl. Even before he sat down in his office at Halas Hall, he recognized how special the rivalry was. It's the oldest rivalry in the NFL. It's Walter Payton and Jim McMahon and Charles Martin and the Instant Replay Game and Brett Favre and George Halas and Vince Lombardi. It's Bears-Packers. That's really all the motivation the Bears need.