5 things to watch in the Chicago Bears’ regular-season finale, including ‘disrespect’ from the Packers and no score updates at Soldier Field on the Rams-Cardinals game

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The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers square off Sunday at Soldier Field with plenty at stake for both teams. The Bears can punch their ticket to the playoffs with an upset, while the Packers are looking to claim the NFC’s top seed and a first-round bye.

As kickoff approaches, here’s a snapshot look at the regular-season finale.

Player in the spotlight

It’s well-established that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing arguably the best football of his career and favored to collect his third league MVP award. But much of Rodgers’ success this season has been sparked by top receiver Davante Adams, who is having a career year himself.

On a snow-covered field last weekend, Adams torched the Tennessee Titans for 11 catches, 142 yards and three touchdowns. He leads the NFL with 17 touchdown receptions and ranks third in catches (109) and yards (1,328) — all despite missing 2 1/4 u00bd games with a hamstring injury.

After last weekend’s explosion — Adams’ seventh 100-yard outing this season — Rodgers offered another heartfelt endorsement, praising Adams for his friendship, dedication and “the way he inspires me and our team.”

“I’ve said for so long that Charles (Woodson) was the best player that I played with,” Rodgers continued. “It’s probably time to start putting Davante in that conversation because he is that type of player.”

The Bears defense knows it too. Any hopes they have of pulling off an upset Sunday will require a dedicated effort to slow Adams, no easy task with as precise and surgical as he is as a route runner.

Bears defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend, who played 13 seasons in the NFL, began rattling off the names of receivers from his career who were as tricky to cover as Adams.

Chad Johnson. Marvin Harrison. Keenan McCardell.

Townsend praised the synergy Rodgers and Adams have developed: “The thing that’s special is when you see that quarterback-receiver combination where they understand how they move and it’s not a part of the route — when they can just slide somewhere else and they both feel the same type of thing in knowing where that guy’s going to be when he slides to that open spot. They have that rapport.”

The Bears defense will have to find ways to disrupt that chemistry.

Pressing question

<mark class="hl_orange">Can the Bears find the right balance between fired up and focused?</mark>

Just in case the Bears don’t have enough motivation this week, they can look at the digital video board hanging in Halas Hall that flashes quotes from opponents and clips from the media to add fuel to the players’ fire.

Bears safety Eddie Jackson said Thursday he especially took note this week of a quote from Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari about wanting to “beat the piss out of the Bears” and an old Aaron Rodgers quote saying “there’s nothing like beating the Bears.” (When asked who was responsible for the content on the board, Bears coach Matt Nagy said it was “someone special behind the scenes.”)

Between the game’s playoff implications, the bad taste of the 41-25 loss to the Packers in Week 12 and the teams’ rivalry, the Bears’ intensity has been high this week. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks described it as “light switch on.”

“Especially what they did to us, it was embarrassing,” Jackson said. “I know guys on the defensive side of the ball, and even guys on the offense — everyone takes heed to that. We take heed to the disrespect that’s been thrown, all the shots we’ve been seeing with them in the media. All of the stuff. … And right now, it’s no more talking. It’s that simple.”

But the Bears, specifically quarterback Mitch Trubisky, also have talked this week about keeping their emotions in check and not letting the moment, and all it means, overwhelm them.

Nagy said he learned a lesson about the proper mindset from the 2019 opener against the Packers, when after months of buildup to the NFL’s 100th season, the Bears flopped.

“Especially right now, we’re in a pretty good place as a team, not just in the three phases but really just the vibe, the energy, the confidence,” Nagy said. “All that’s really good, so why go too crazy in trying to reach too much to make something? We know. … This is what it’s all about, man. You get a little bit fired up, you get going, but like I tell the guys, don’t peak too soon. Let’s just relax right here and then we’ll get ready on game day.”

Keep an eye on ...

The NFL moved the time of the Bears-Packers game from noon to 3:25 p.m. so it would align with the other game that could affect the Bears’ hunt for a playoff berth: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams.

A Cardinals loss also would guarantee the Bears a playoff berth, though that outcome seems less likely with John Wolford starting at quarterback for the Rams rather than Jared Goff, who had thumb surgery this week.

While Bears fans may keep tabs on the score of that game, Nagy said he might ask the Soldier Field staff to refrain from giving score updates on the video board during their game. He doesn’t want to draw focus away from the Bears’ task.

“We’ve got to worry about us and we’ve got to make sure that we do everything we can to win this game,” Nagy said. “We’ll discuss that, go through all that, but if I had to lean one way or the other, I’m sure that most of us would want it that way and I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Odds and ends

The Bears are attempting to become just the second team since 1990 to reach the playoffs after enduring a six-game losing streak. The 2014 Carolina Panthers slid from 3-2-1 to 3-8-1, then won their final four games to win the NFC South.

Since 1990, when the NFL playoff bracket expanded to 12 teams, two other teams — the 1997 Minnesota Vikings and 2015 Kansas City Chiefs — experienced five-game losing streaks and rallied to get into the postseason.

Coincidentally, Nagy was the quarterbacks coach for that Chiefs team, a group that began the year 1-5 yet didn’t lose for the rest of the regular season. Nagy often references that season and was asked this week to compare and contrast that team’s run with his Bears’ late-season surge. They’ve won three in a row to set up Sunday’s high-stakes showdown with the Packers.

Nagy cited similar messaging in the two seasons, with coaches reminding players that a lengthy demoralizing stretch can be cured with just one win.

“When you get one win,” Nagy said, “then it just feels better coming in (to the building). And it’s making sure you remember that this stuff does work and that you are good football players.

“Once you get that first win, then you’ve got to get that second one. Before you know it, you just catch fire.”

The 2015 Chiefs won their final game of October, went unbeaten in November and December and capped the regular season with a defeat of the Raiders on the first Sunday of January.

The following week, they throttled the Texans 30-0 in the AFC wild-card round before losing to the Patriots.

Nagy is hopeful these Bears can continue their late surge and has been proud of the collective belief and resolve that has accompanied it.

“Our guys showed resolve and they kept fighting,” he said. “We finally got that one win, and it’s (led) into two other ones on top of that. So here you are with a big game against a huge opponent. It’s going to be a playoff-type atmosphere and it is a playoff-type game, obviously. You wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Injury update

The biggest injury news of the week came from the Packers, who will be without left tackle David Bakhtiari. The three-time Pro Bowler tore an ACL in practice Thursday.

The Packers also declared defensive end Kingsley Keke out and listed guard Simon Stepaniak as questionable.

The Bears again will be without cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson (shoulder) and Buster Skrine (concussion), who will miss their third and fourth straight games, respectively.

That means rookie Kindle Vildor, who has replaced Johnson, will face the biggest test of his young career against Aaron Rodgers, while Duke Shelley again will replace Skrine.

The Bears listed safeties Tashaun Gipson (neck) and Deon Bush (foot), tight ends Cole Kmet (shoulder) and Demetrius Harris (foot) and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) as questionable.

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