Zielinski: This time, the Packers will rise to the occasion and advance to the plaoffs


The Packers’ playoff hopes come down to the final game of the regular season for the second consecutive year.

Last year, the Packers failed to defeat the Detroit Lions to secure a playoff spot. A year later, with a new quarterback under center, the Packers must defeat the Chicago Bears to keep their season alive.

The Bears seem determined to spoil the Packers’ season, and lately, they have played well on both sides of the ball to enter this Week 18 matchup as a legitimate threat.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields threw for 268 yards with a passing touchdown pass and a rushing TD in the Bears’ victory over the Atlanta Falcons last week. He has performed well recently, which causes the Bears to wonder if he is their quarterback of the future.

The Bears’ defense is the strength of their team. Over the last five weeks, the Bears have held opposing teams to 20 points or less in each contest. This season, their defense ranks third in the NFL with 27 forced turnovers, including a league-high 22 interceptions.

The Packers can’t rely on their defense to stop Fields. The unit has consistently underperformed against mediocre offenses to believe it can slow down a dual-threat QB like Fields.

This contest will come down to the Packers’ offense. QB Jordan Love is having a terrific season. He has played at a top-10 quarterback level, especially last week when he completed 72.7% of his passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers will need Love to pick apart the Bears’ defense and avoid making costly mistakes to have a chance to win today.

Today’s game will be close. A couple of weeks ago, I anticipated the Packers dropping one of their final two games of the season. While that still is possible, the Packers are clicking, especially on offense, to avoid a poor performance against the Bears.

Prediction: Packers 23, Bears 17